PHYSICS 1110 - Energy

Fall 2012


Instructor: Stephen T. Thornton, Professor of Physics
Office in room 305, physics building. Office telephone 434-924-6808. Email:

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday (1:30-2:30 pm) or by appointment. You may come by any time of the day to ask me a short 5 minute question, and if I am in my office, I will try to help you.

Final Exam: Wednesday, December 12, 2012, 1400-1700

Energy has long played a major role in our nation’s national security, economic prosperity, and quality of life.  Political instability in energy-producing regions like the Middle East, rising global demand for energy (especially in developing countries), and a growing awareness of the impact of fossil fuel use on global climate change has created a new urgency for an awareness of energy’s role in ensuring security, well-being, and a healthy environment in the 21st century.  This course might well be entitled “Energy in the 21st Century” and will answer many questions.  How will we change the way we produce, distribute, and consume energy?  How can we replace fossil fuels with safe, inexpensive, renewable energy like solar, wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal, biomass/biofuel, and fuel cells?  How do these renewable sources of energy work and how can we make them cheaper?  How can we burn fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal) cleaner? What about hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”; is it safe?  What are we going to do about climate change?  Can nuclear power be made safer?  Although new technology alone is not going to meet the world’s energy challenges, developments in science and technology will substantially affect our ability to shape future energy options.  This is a science course about Energy for non-science majors.  No physics or math prerequisite courses are required.  Physics will only be taught as a prelude for understanding how the various energy sources operate so we can make informed choices. 

Syllabus - click here


The textbook for this course will be provided to the students electronically for free. Dr. Thornton is writing an Energy textbook and will post the chapters on Collab in pdf format.

Student Response System Transmitters or Clickers

Every student will be required to have an iclicker in class to personally respond to the lecture opening reading quiz and to questions throughout the lecture. We will use them the first day of class, and we will start counting the iclickers on the second lecture. You can use either iclicker 1 (the old one) or iclicker 2 (the new one). A part of your final grade will be derived from the opening multiple choice quiz that will be based on the reading assignment for that lecture and from your satisfactory participation in the lecture questions given each day. The clickers allow you to respond anonymously. It will count 10% towards your final grade .These transmitters are for sale at the Newcomb Hall University Bookstore for about $38. You can also buy a used iclicker from someone, but you should make sure it works. Click here for further important information.


Your grade in PHYS 1110 will be determined by (subject to change):

Clickers (class participation)
3 quizzes
1 midterm exam
Final exam

We will strive to have approximately 25-29% of the class to receive an A (A+, A, A-) and approximately 50% of the class to receive a B (B+, B, B-). We expect the average grade to be about 3.0.

Note: No make-up exams are given! With a valid excuse BEFORE the exam, the remaining elements of the course will be appropriately averaged. Without a valid excuse before the exam, the exam grade will be a zero. We follow official university policy concerning valid excuses (official university travel, religious holidays, personal illness, or death/illness of an immediate family member). For example, if you have instructor approval to miss one of the 3 quizzes due to illness, your grade on that quiz will be the weighted average of your other two quizzes using the class average to weight the grade.

All quizzes and exams (midterm and final) will be a mixture of multiple-choice questions and handwritten answers to posed questions.

You must have a calculator for the exams, but no other electronic devices will be allowed. This includes, but is not limited to, computers, PDAs, cell phones, smart phones, etc. The calculator you use may not be one that is incorporated into one of these latter devices. Any use of these forbidden devices on an exam will be considered an honor offense.

If you miss more than three consecutive lectures due to illness, etc., please contact your professor. Some consideration may be given for your clicker grade.


Homework will be assigned and due approximately every 1-2 weeks.

Click on the following for further information:

Introduction and General Information. It is very important for you to read this.