This is an online course for the first semester of a three-semester sequence for introductory calculus-based physics at the University of Virginia. The three courses are

PHYS 1425, 3 credit hours. Covers mechanics, forces, energy, rotational motion, fluids, oscillations, and thermodynamics.

PHYS 2415, 3 credit hours. Covers electricity, magnetism, waves, sound, optics.

PHYS 2620, 4 credit hours. Covers relativity, particle and wave properties of matter, atomic structure, quantum theory, physics subfields (atomic, solid state, nuclear, particle), cosmology.


Scientists and engineers take PHYS 1425 and 2415, but 2620 is an elective. These three courses are one option to become a physics major. We expect PHYS 1425 and 2415 to both be taught during the fall, spring, and summer semesters as a lecture course in the future. PHYS 2620 is a required course for physics majors and is often taken as an elective by engineering and science majors. It is taught as a lecture course during the spring semester and as an online course every summer from mid-May to early August.
There is a one credit laboratory course associated with both 1425 (1429) and 2415 (2419) that is not offered online. We expect both these labs to be taught every semester (fall, spring, summer) in the future.



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


We believe that it is important to obtain conceptual understanding of physics and problem solving. We will emphasize both. Besides physics, we will also teach you important skills that will be useful in science, engineering and other walks of life: including abstraction, idealization, approximation, and mathematical/conceptual modeling of simple phenomena. The online course primarily consists of downloadable viewable lectures. There are also downloadable end-of-chapter problem solution videos that should help you solve problems. We use the University of Virginia Internet system Collab for this course. All files are downloadable from this site, which will be available to you at the beginning of the course. Emails to students will be sent from Collab, and a system by which students can ask questions and receive help is also integrated into Collab. This system has been proved effective after several years of offering online physics courses at UVa.


Homework will be done with the Internet system WebAssign. Information is given below concerning WebAssign.
Exams may be offered locally in Charlottesville or perhaps online on WebAssign. This will be decided depending on the student status and location.


Syllabus - click here


Physics for Scientists & Engineers, 4th edition (2008)
by Douglas Giancoli
This textbook comes in several versions:
Chapters 1-37, ISBN 0-13-227559-7. This is the one we recommend. It will be available in the UVa bookstore. This is the hardback version. You may want to purchase a hardback or paperback version elsewhere. Paperback versions come in Vol. I and II. We will cover Chapters 1-14, 17-20 in PHYS 1425 and 15, 16, 21-35 in 2415. We will not cover Chapters 36-44 in these two courses. You probably will want the 4th edition.

We are also arranging the bookstore to purchase copies of the Student Study Guide & Selected Solutions Manual for this textbook. This guide/manual is authored by Frank L.H. Wolfs. The ISBN number for Vol. I for this course is 978-0-13-227324-4. If you expect to have difficulty with this physics course, we recommend you obtain this guide/manual.


Your grade in PHYS 1425 will be determined by (subject to change)

3 midterm exams
Final exam

The grades for this course at the University of Virginia are normally as follows: approximately 25% of the class receives an A (A+, A, A-) and approximately 50% of the class receives a B (B+, B, B-). Students who matriculate at the Univeristy of Virginia are bright; we do not yet know what to expect for this online course, and we make no promise as to course grades. There is no set course grade/numerical scale. In other words, we grade on a curve, but we have considerable experience in knowing the level of A, B, C, etc grades and will keep students apprised.

All exams (midterm and final) will be a mixture of conceptual questions and numerical problems. Some students mayl be required to have a proctor for exams. More information will be given about this later. You will be allowed to bring in one 8 1/2" x 11" size piece of paper for each exam with anything written on it that you choose, both front and back.

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.


You will have homework due weekly. It will be done using the Internet service WebAssign. The homework will normally be due weekly on WebAssign on Friday morning at 5 am. You will both find your homework and submit your homework answers on WebAssign. See the Introduction and General Information for more information.


Office Hours: We will have a TA in room 220 of the physics building on Monday from 5-9 pm and Tuesday from 4-8 pm to help you with homework and to answer physics questions. Professor Thornton also has office hours in his office, room 305, on Tuesday and Thursday from 1:30-2:30 pm.

Note: For now we are going to try office hours in the physics building instead of the method I have described here that uses Collab. Assistance on understanding the course material and help for homework will be available in the Discussion area of Collab. Threads will be set up for every problem in the homework. Students may ask questions about each homework problem or ask general physics questions. Students are encouraged to answer each other's questions. But the course instructors will always read student questions and replies at least every day and post replies as needed at least daily, usually more often depending on how many additional personnel are helping with the class. We have found this to be an effective and useful tool for student assistance. For example, suppose a student is stumped and needs help working out an assigned homework problem. The student finds the appropriate place to answer a question about this problem and asks for help or a hint. Someone, student or instructor, reads the posting and replies. Usually that suffices, but somethings several postings might be needed. It usually turns out that this posting or series of postings is sufficient to help students needing help on the same problem. All postings remain and students can continue to ask questions. If the instructors feel that students are given too much help to other students on Collab, private messages are sent to those students. It works amazingly well!

Link to WebAssign for UVa students and faculty. Look here for homework. Your username and password are the same as your UVa email account.

Student Guide to WebAssign. Look here if you need help in using WebAssign. NOTE: Sections 1, 2, and 3.3 do not apply to UVa students accessing WebAssign via WebAssign for UVa link.  UVa folks use their CMS username and password to log in.

You typically will receive 10 submissions on WebAssign to obtain the correct answer. This means the average homework score in the class will be very high. Many of you will obtain 100%, and the average score is likely to be near 95%. This means your grade will suffer considerably if you do not do the homework. We believe it is essential to success in this class.

We encourage you to try every problem by yourself for the first 3 or so submissions. Then perhaps work with another student, form a study group if possible, or ask a question on Collab. The homework is not pledged, but you serve yourself a great disjustice if you do not do it yourself. Do not be surprised if you sometimes see a question similar to the homework on a midterm or final exam. WebAssign uses random numbers so that each student has different numbers and answers for your homework.

Click on the following for further information:

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