Laboratory Manual for Liberal Arts Physics (2nd Edition)

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9780131011076: Laboratory Manual for Liberal Arts Physics (2nd Edition)

Designed to accompany Physics, Concepts and Connections, Third Edition or most other physics texts, this manual includes a total of 31 labs—some traditional, some conceptual, some computer based. This manual includes labs on Newton¿s Laws, energy, wave, light, circuits, radioactivity, heat, and more. For those who want labs concerning the major themes of physics.

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This laboratory manual is specifically designed for use in a physics course for non-science students. It is particularly suitable for use with the latest edition of the textbook Physics: Concepts and Connections by Art Hobson published by Prentice Hall in 2002. It is also appropriate for use with other liberal arts physics texts or conceptual physics texts. We have sought to provide a substantial set of laboratory exercises specifically suited in both content and structure to a modern course for non-science students.

In addition to the usual emphases on illustrating physical principles and providing experience with physical phenomena, these lab exercises have been constructed to show some of the ways in which systematic experimental observation can lead to insight and understanding. We have avoided the ingenuous pretense that important physical principles can be "tested" in an elementary course laboratory. In terms of buzzwords that enjoy some currency, we have intentionally attended to process (sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly) in addition to content in these labs. Giving non-science students a clearer picture of "how we know" is a crucial function of any liberal arts physics course.

We have included a large enough number of exercises that professors can select labs to match the emphases of their particular course. Some of the labs focus on physical principles, concepts, or phenomena; others, on issues of energy and environment; still others, on understanding scientific data, experimental errors, and "numeracy." Although most of the labs deal with topics explicitly discussed in Physics: Concepts and Connections, some provide extensions or elaborations. The labs can be assigned in a variety of orders to fit differing course structures, with the exception of the first few labs that help to develop necessary laboratory skills.

Because the physics laboratory provides an excellent opportunity for students to work together, nearly all the exercises are structured so that they can be performed in a group. Several of them expressly require group work, sometimes requiring the pooling of data from the entire laboratory class.

Although this manual can be used effectively without data acquisition computers in the laboratory, many of the exercises in this edition have been structured to take advantage of computers where they are available. In this edition, the possibility of using spreadsheets or graphing calculators has been included wherever it seemed appropriate. Several exercises (#10, #18, #22, #23, and #28) explicitly call for computerized sensors. Several others (#1, #5-9, #11, #30, #31) include provision for using a spreadsheet or graphing calculator.

One laboratory in the previous edition that dealt with air pollution has been eliminated because the use of smoke was in conflict with institutional regulations at almost all U.S. colleges and universities. In this edition, many of the exercises have been modified to provide greater clarity and enhanced intellectual engagement.

The list of BASE CONCEPTS at the beginning of each lab is intended to indicate relevant ideas with which students should have some familiarity. It is not necessary for the primary topic of every lab to be discussed in a classroom lecture before the lab is carried out. It is perfectly reasonable and desirable for students to meet some topics for the first time in the laboratory, though doing this will usually require considerable extra effort and care on the part of the lab instructor.

If any of the BASE CONCEPTS seems unfamiliar to you as a student, you will probably find it useful (and educational) to look it up in a textbook or a reference book. We have quite intentionally not attempted to make this lab manual an encyclopedic document. We hope this will encourage you to refer to other sources—just as a serious investigator in any area of study must.

Questions play a central role in the practice of experimental physics. We have attempted to capture this spirit of questioning by including a variety of questions (sequenced alphabetically with uppercase letters) throughout each lab exercise. In some cases there are INITIAL QUESTIONS that set the stage for the investigation before any discussion. Often there are interpretive and predictive questions embedded in the INTRODUCTION and PROCEDURE sections. We point these out by marking them with a graphic symbol. Finally, there are GLOBAL QUESTIONS at the end of many exercises. These involve broader reflection on the content and results.

All these questions should be answered as they are encountered. They are intended to give you, the student, a sense of the variety of questions a practicing scientist might pose to himself or herself. In actual experimental research, the questions are far more numerous. Some are posed, refined, and addressed in formal written documents (proposals, design reports, memos, etc.). Others are simply part of the experimenter's personal thought processes and notes. All of them play a crucial role in converting observations and facts into insight and knowledge. In this same spirit we urge you not to be satisfied with our questions, pose and answer additional questions of your own as you carry out your experiments. Also in the spirit of experimental physics, have fun and learn—that's one of the best parts of life!

Marie Baehr
Earl C. Swallow

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