Physics Honors

Honors Physics

Overview of Course

Physics H – 4410        Full Year – 1 credit

Grades 11, 12

Prerequisites:   Successful completion of Earth Science, Living Environment, & Chemistry.

Honors policy applies.

This course is intended for those students who plan to take an AP science course or intend to study science or engineering in college. It is strongly recommended that students successfully complete Math 3R prior to taking this course. Students may take Physics H concurrently with AP Biology or AP Chemistry. The course is designed for the student with exceptional ability. The Physics Regents syllabus forms the foundation of the course, but the Honors syllabus covers concepts in greater detail with a more rigorous mathematical treatment. The course has alternating lab periods each week (meeting 7 or 8 times each week). Written lab reports are required. The Physics Regents Examination terminates the course.

Instructional Philosophy


This course is designed to not only transfer a vast knowledge of physics but to develop the skills necessary to utilize and apply that knowledge in the appropriate fashion. It is also to teach reasoning skills and encourage independent thought. It will explore and investigate the most fundamental laws of nature and convey the wonder, beauty, elegance, and simplicity of physics. It will arouse the students’ curiosity as to how the world around them works and will challenge them intellectually. It will require the students to actively participate during class lectures, demonstrations, and laboratory experiments in order to gain a thorough understanding and working knowledge of physics.

Knowledge and Skills Objectives


  • students will develop a fundamental understanding of mathematics and its relationship to Physics - including (but not limited to) mathematical approximations, measurements, order of magnitude estimations, mathematical relationships/proportions, and understanding/interpreting graphs.


  • students will develop appropriate laboratory skills including (but not limited to) designing and setting up an experiment, an understanding of errors and methods to minimize them, proper display of data, and the ability to coherently discuss results.


  • students will develop critic thinking skills related to the application of physical laws – i.e., the ability to apply the knowledge of physics to a particular circumstance at hand.


  • students will develop the ability to analyze a physical problem and work towards constructing a solution (often consisting of multiple-steps).

I.       Measurements & Units

a.       SI Units

b.      metric system

c.       estimations

d.      uncertainty in measurements & significant figures

e.       Conversions

f.       Trigonometry

II.        Graphing

a.       axes, labels, units, scales, etc.

b.      types of mathematical relationships/proportionalities

c.       calculation & significance of slope

III.     Kinematics

a.       definition

b.      characteristics of motion

                                i.      position, velocity, acceleration

c.       1-dimensional motion

                                  i.      equations of motion 

                            1.     average velocity

                   2. acceleration

                            3.    derivation of d= vit + 1/2at2

                   4.     derivation of vf2 = vi2 + 2ad

                                     ii.      application of kinematics equations to
                   describe/predict motion of an object in 1-dimension

d.       Vector vs. Scalar

                                        i.      definition & examples

e.      Motion under Influence of Gravity

                                          i.      analysis of up-and-down motion

                    1.      emphasize meaning of negative sign

                    2.      symmetry of up-and-down motion

f.       Concepts of Graphing

                                            i.      compare & contrast d vs. t, v vs. t, and a vs. t

                                            ii.      slopes and area under graphs

                                1.      meanings/physical significance of slopes and
                            areas under graph

IV.           Vectors and Vector Addition

a.       Vector Representation

                                              i.      arrows with length proportional to magnitude

b.      Resultant Vector

                                              i.      definition and representation

c.       Graphical Addition

                                               i.      rules for addition

                     1.      1-dimensional and 2-dimensional

                                                    ii.      rules for subtraction

b.      Algebraic Addition

                                                      i.      use of Pythagorean theorem or Law of Cosines

                                                       ii.      addition of vector components

V.        Projectiles & Kinematics in 2-Dimensions

a.       Independence of Perpendicular Vectors

b.      resolving vectors into components

c.       Adding vectors by adding components

d.      analysis of motion in vertical and horizontal directions

                       i. description/calculation of 2-dimensional motion
horizontally fired projectiles

                                                                2. projectiles fired at an angle (from ground)

                     3. projectiles fired at an angle  (from above
                         ground level) 

VI.           Dynamics & Newton’s Laws

a.       definition

b.      Newton’s 1st Law

                                               i.      definition & examples

                                               ii.      Equilibrium

                    1.      equilibriant

c.      Newton’s 2nd law

                                                i.      derivation via lab

                                                ii.      definition & examples

                                                iii.      weight vs. mass (inertia)

d.       Newton’s 3rd Law

                                               i.      definition & examples

e.       Free-Body Diagrams

f.       Frictional Forces

                                              i.      coefficients of friction

                    1.      static vs. kinetics

g.      Incline Plane

                                               i.      components of weight

h.      Centripetal Forces

                                             i.      definition

                                             ii.      relative direction of velocity, acceleration, & force

                                            iii.      derivation of equation Fc = mv2/r

                                            iv.      examples:

                     1.      horizontal circles

                     2.      banked curves

                            a.       with and w/o friction

                     3. vertical circles

                            a.       minimum velocities

                            b.      apparent weightlessness

                            c.       application to amusement park rides

VII.           Universal Gravitation

a.       Kepler’s Laws

b.       Cavendish experiment

c.      equation

d.       satellites   

                                       i.      geosynchronous satellites

VIII.        Momentum

a.       definition

b.      impulse

c.       conservation of momentum

                                        i.      1-dimensional

             ii. 2-dimensional

IX.     Work & Energy

a.       definition of work & energy

b.      units

c.       power

d.      derivation of kinetic and potential energy equations 

e.       Conservation of Energy

                                      i.      conversion between different forms of energy

                                      ii.      mechanical energy

X.           Springs

a.       Hooke’s Law

                                        i.      derivation of equation

b.      spring potential energy

                                      i.      variable forces

                                      ii.      work done on spring

                                     iii.      derivation of equation

XI.        Electrostatics

a.       atomic structure

b.      electroscopes

c.       elementary charges

                                      i.      Milliken Oil-Drop experiment

d.      Coulomb’s Law

e.       Electric Field

                                         i.      definition

                                         ii.      field lines

f.       Electric Potential (Voltage)

XII.     Current Electricity

a.       electric current

b.      measurement of electric current

c.       Ohm’s Law

                                   i.      resistance

                                    ii.      resistivity

d.      electrical circuits

                                        i.      diagrams

                                       ii.      components

                                        iii.      energy considerations

                                        iv.      power considerations

                                        v.      series vs. parallel circuits

                        1.      current & voltage in each

                                    2.  complex circuits

                                a.       analysis & simplication

XIII.     Magnetism

a.       source of magnetism

b.      magnetic field

                                     i.      north and south poles

                                    ii.      field lines

c.       paramagnetic, ferromagnetic, diamagnetic

d.      Electromagnetism

                                     i.      field around a straight, current-carrying wire

                                     ii.      field around a solenoid

                                     iii.      force on moving charges within magnetic field

                                     iv.    electromagnetic induction

                                        v.  electric motors, generators, transformers

                    vi. Lenz’s Law

XIV.    Waves

a.       definition

b.      mechanic vs. electromagnetic

c.       transverse vs. longitudinal (compression) waves

d.      wave properties

                                 i.      wavelength, frequency, amplitude, period, velocity

e.       waves at boundaries

f.       wave interference

                                   i.      superposition principle

                                   ii.      constructive / destructive interference

                                  iii.      standing wave

                    1.      nodes/antinodes

g.      resonance

h.      beat frequencies


XV.   Light

a.       electromagnetic radiation

                       i.      UV, IR, visible, microwaves, etc.

b.      ray models

c.       reflection

d.      refraction

                          i.      index of refraction

                          ii.      Snell’s Law

e.       total internal reflection

f.       Optics

                          i.      mirrors

                    1.      ray diagrams

                    2.      focal lengths

                    3.      characteristics of images

                              ii.      lenses

                    1.      ray diagrams

                    2.      focal lengths

                    3.      characteristics of images

g.      dispersion

h.      polarization

i.        diffraction & interference

                           i.      single & double slit experiments

II.                Modern Physics

a.       Black-body radiation

b.      photo-electric effect

c.       duality of light

d.      Bohr model

                         i.      electron transitions

e.       Compton effect

f.       deBroglie wavelength

g.      Standard model

Major Resources

(1)   teacher lecture, classroom notes, active participation, and

(2)   assigned homework

(3)   laboratory experiments and reports

(4)   textbook    Physics – 5th Edition, Giancoli,  Prentice Hall

(5)   computer animations and simulations