The Mechanics Section of PHY138Y - 2006

April 28, 2007: I have recently received a couple of emails from student asking for advice on studying for the Final Exam. I have prepared a small html document summarising the replies I sent those students. You may access that summary here.
November 21, 2006: judging by questions I am still getting, many students have some confusion about energy. I have prepared a small document trying to clear this up for you. It is in pdf format and may be accessed here.

Mechanics is the study of the effects of energy and forces on the motion of physical objects. In PHY138 we will study those areas of mechanics that either have direct applications to the life sciences or that will be needed for subsequent sections of the course.

This document contains the following sections:

You may jump to the link for the most recent class by clicking on the arrow to the right.

This page is the primary reference for the syllabus, textbook references and links to detailed class summaries. The other sections duplicate material that is available elsewhere, and is provided as a convenience.

A Too-Brief Introduction to Classical Mechanics and PHY138Y

The list of topics of this section of PHY138, given in the next section, probably looks a lot like part of your High School Physics class. However, you will discover that we will be studying these topics in considerably more depth than a typical High School course. You may well find yourself surprised at the power and subtlety of the concepts that are the basis of this discussion. For example, when discussing the Newtonian worldview it is common for some students to think: "These ideas are over 300 years old (which is true) and are easy to understand (which they are not)." In fact, some PHY138 staff think that this Mechanics section is the most difficult in the course; I think the third quarter, which deals with Electricity and Magnetism, is probably somewhat more difficult, but ...

You may wish to know that I also think that the content of this section of PHY138 is one of the most beautiful and incredible intellectual structures ever built by humankind. I hope that by the end you will agree, or at least understand why I have that opinion. The "difficulty" of this material, then, is in the concepts, not in the mathematical manipulations.

If you wish to learn more about the context in which these ideas about the mechanical world developed, there is a popular book of "historical fiction" that deals in part with these issues: Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver (Harper, 2003, paperback). The main storyline is more-or-less historically accurate, but it is a work of fiction. I mention this book mainly for your personal interest: the contents are not explicitly examinable. If you wish to learn even more, I can supply you with further references.


The table below lists the syllabus and textbook references for the Mechanics section of PHY138.

Textbook chapters, sections and subsections that are listed below are examinable. Textbooks chapters, sections and subsections that are not listed or are explicitly omitted are not examinable unless otherwise announced.

Topics that either do not appear in the textbook or that we discussed in a significantly different way than the textbook are identified with the icon shown to the right. This material is examinable.

Topics that are in bold-italics are applications to the Life Sciences.This material is examinable.

Sometimes a topic will be discussed in a spiral fashion: something is introduced at one point and later that topic is re-visited in more detail. When a topic will be re-visited it is identified with the icon to the right.

The syllabus may change somewhat as the course proceeds. After the class has been given, the topics and text references will be updated if necessary and a link will appear in the More column to a more detailed summary of the class.

Class Major Topics Textbook Reference More
Mon. Sept. 11
  • Introduction to PHY138: the structure of the course
  • Studying Physics
  • Doing well at University
Wed. Sept. 13
  • Motion Diagrams
    • Example: projectile motion
  • Position, velocity, acceleration
  • Vectors
  • Problem solving
  • Units
  • Significant figures
Chapter 1 - Concepts of Motion
Mon. Sept. 18
  • More about displacement, velocity, speed and acceleration
  • Using derivatives
  • Introducing the integral sign
  • Free fall
  • Motion on an inclined plane
Chapter 2 - Kinematics: The Mathematics of Motion
Omit subsection of §2.4: A Little More Calculus: Integrals
Wed. Sept. 20
  • Vectors and scalars
  • Coordinate systems

  • Newton's 1st and 2nd Laws
  • Inertial reference frames
  • Free body diagrams
Chapter 3 - Vectors and Coordinate Systems

Chapter 4 - Force and Motion
Mon. Sept. 25
  • Equilibrium
  • Using Newton's 2nd Law
  • Mass and weight
Chapter 5 - Dynamics I: Motion Along a Line
Omit §5.4 - Friction
Omit §5.5 - Drag
Wed. Sept. 27
  • Kinematics in Two Dimensions
  • Dynamics in Two Dimensions
  • Projectile motion
  • Data and analysis of jumping frogs.
Chapter 6 - Dynamics II: Motion in a Plane
Omit §6.4 - Relative motion
Mon. Oct. 2
  • Uniform circular motion
  • Circular orbits
Chapter 7 - Dynamics III: Motion in a Circle
§7.1 - §7.4
Wed. Oct. 4
  • Fictitious forces
  • Nonuniform circular motion
  • Action/reaction pairs
  • Ropes and pulleys
  • Ballistocardiogram
§7.5 - §7.6

Chapter 8 - Newton's Third Law

Wed. Oct, 11
  • Impulse
  • Damage caused to people in collisions
  • Physics of a tennis serve
  • Conservation of momentum
  • Inelastic collisions
  • Angular momentum
Chapter 9 - Impulse and Momentum
Mon. Oct. 16
  • Kinetic energy
  • Gravitational potential energy
  • The gravitational field
  • Hooke's Law for springs
  • Elastic collisions
  • Energy diagrams

Chapter 10 - Energy
§10.1 - §10.7
Omit subsection of §10.6: Using Reference Frames

Wed. Oct. 18
  • Work and kinetic energy
  • More about jumping frogs
  • Conservative and non-conservative forces
  • Thermal energy
  • Conservation of energy
  • Power
  • Basal metabolic rate
Chapter 11 - Work
§11.1 - §11.9
Mon. Oct. 23
  • Rotation about the center of mass
  • Torque
  • Forces on the hip and femur

Chapter 13 - Rotation of a Rigid Body
§13.1 - §13.3

Wed. Oct. 25
  • Moment of inertia
  • Conservation of angular momentum
  • Rotational energy
  • Angular momentum of a rigid body

§13.4 - §13.7, §13,10
Omit §13.8 - Rolling Motion
Include the Angular Velocity Vector subsection of §13.9; omit the rest of this section

Mon. Oct. 30
  • Review for the test
All of the above. The link is the pdf of the PowerPoint for this class. It is also linked to from the summary for Class 13
Wed. Nov. 1
  • Error analysis: a laboratory topic
Nothing from the textbook, but we will discuss Significant Figures from Class 2 in a different way.

For your convenience, a pdf version of the classes, topics and textbook references from the above table suitable for printing has been prepared. To access this version click on the button to the right.


Dr. David M. Harrison

Office: MP121B (South-East corner of the 1st floor of the North Wing of McLennan Labs, 60 St. George St.)

Phone: 416 978 2977


Office Hours:

Wednesdays: 2 - 3PM
Fridays: 10 - 11AM

In addition to these hours, you have are invited to call or email for an appointment. You also have a hunting license: any time you find me, if I have time I will be pleased to answer your questions.

Home Page:

Important Dates

As discussed in class, to do well in Physics, more than most courses, requires regular effort. Three hours of study each and every week for 5 weeks is more effective than 15 hours of study in one day. In order to help you keep up, we usually have two assignments that are due every week. They are:

Below the letters MP indicate an assignment delivered with MasteringPhysics software.

What Due
Pre-Class Quiz #1 (MP)
Monday September 18 at 10AM
Problem Set #1 (MP)
Friday September 22 at 11:59PM
Pre-Class Quiz #2 (MP)
Monday September 25 at 10AM
Problem Set #2 (MP)
Friday September 29 at 11:59PM
Pre-Class Quiz #3 (MP)
Monday October 2 at 10AM
Problem Set #3 (MP)
Friday October 6 at 11:59PM
Pre-Class Quiz #4 (MP)
Wednesday October 11 at 10AM
Problem Set #4 (Written)
Friday October 13 at 5PM
Pre-Class Quiz #5 (MP)
Monday October 16 at 10AM
Problem Set #5 (MP)
Friday October 20 at 11:59PM
Pre-Class Quiz #6 (MP)
Monday October 23 at 10AM
Problem Set #6 (MP)
Friday October 27 at 11:59PM
Tuesday October 31 at 6PM

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