Atoms to Galaxies (updated 6 January 2021)

Physics 102

Spring 2021


Dr. Brian Clark, contact me through Reggienet

Office Hours:

As an online course, there are no set office hours. If we need to discuss course related material or general administrative questions, please pose a question on the discussion forum site. If you need to speak about your grade or other private administrative issues, please contact me directly through Reggienet and include a phone number. Do not link a course material related question to an administrative or grade question. All electronic communication must go through Reggienet.

Class Meetings:

Everything is online this semester. Please access the course through Reggienet. I do plan to hold a zoom session once a week if it is useful for students. The lab TA (Ms. Hannah Alperstein) will also be available by zoom three hours each week. She may also help with content questions beyond the lab.

Audio Link:


Online Course: This course is offered in a online, asynchronous format. The normal classroom and lab instruction is offered in a purely online format. That means there are no in person office hours and no in person meetings with the instructor. I do plan on being available by zoom once a week. We will start with Mondays at 5:00 pm. The lab TA will also be available three hours each week. Plans may change through the semester. This section is ideal for individuals who like to work on their own schedule, prefer to listen to recorded instructional content at their leisure, and are comfortable exchanging ideas in an online discussion forum.

The asynchronous format for this section was selected long before the current pandemic altered the way courses are presented. It was intended for students who just could not fit a face-to-face scheduled course in their schedules. Most of the face-to-face sections will be offered online in a synchronous format that may appeal to you as an individual. Please think about whether the asynchronous format of this section is suitable for your needs.

Any content or concept questions can also be asked in the discussion forum or a zoom session. Schedule and administrative questions that do not involve individual grade issues or other private course related issues should also be posed in the discussion forum or a zoom session. Everyone must have the opportunity to see the question and response. You won't always get a direct answer. The goal is for you to learn not memorize. Posing questions in the forum or zoom session is the best way for me to help everyone when a concept or content question arises. It is also the quickest way for me to respond to non-confidential questions.

The only questions that should be sent to me directly via Reggienet are specific questions that should remain confidential according to university policies. Please send these question to me in a private message through Reggienet. Do not send communications any other way. All messages must go through Reggienet so that they are logged. Messages sent directly to email are easily lost.

Do not send a message that links your grade with a content question. As an example consider the question: I am getting a C in the course and want to do better. Can you explain how energy depends on ….. Please notice that the leading sentence is not relevant to the content question. If you want an message exchange about your grade then limit your message to that topic. I tend to not respond directly to messages that don't follow these guidelines, but wait until I send out a weekly course message. Any response that I can send to the whole class without violating any appropriate confidentiality will be sent to the whole class, usually weekly. If I send out too many messages, then they just get ignored. I try to respond to questions posted in the discussion forum in a timely manner.

Do not attempt to communicate via WebAssign. I do not look at communications via WebAssign. All communications must go through Reggienet. Translation: any requests coming through WebAssign are not received.

As you read this syllabus, please note that assignments are best completed earlier in the week to allow for unexpected events including accidents, illnesses, and personal emergencies. There are almost no accidents, illnesses, or personal emergencies that will allow you to drop or make up regular work. If you choose to put off work for any reason, then you accept responsibility for events that might prevent you from completing the work before it is due. As an example: You like to do your work on Thursday afternoon and evening, but you get sick on Thursday with the flu that lasts for a couple of days and are unable to complete all of the assigned work. My response is that you should have completed your work earlier in the week. This is an online course, so you can work a bit ahead and be ready to participate in the discussion forum and answer homework questions as soon as they are posted. There is a little room for making up a missed test, but only if missing the test can be justified to my satisfaction.

Text: You will need the online version of An Introduction to Physical Science (15 th edition by Shipman, Wilson, Higgins and Lou). Please look at the online WebAssign site after January 1st before you make a monetary commitment to the course materials. The online site gives you about one week of free trial access, in my experience. That means you won’t want to sign up in WebAssign until January 10. The online version includes access to the online tests and homework that we will use. You can obtain the material directly through the WebAssign site (this path seems to work well for many students), or find access cards at the local bookstores. Click here to get to WebAssign, the class key for the spring semester is ilstu 1426 5700. The link will take you to a screen where you want to click on the Class Key link in the upper right corner of the window (at least that is where it was on my computer). If you already have experience with WebAssign then you don't really need this help. I have selected an online textbook and WebAssign's testing package as the default. The one term package will be the most cost effective route for most people. I will assume that you have ready access and have read the appropriate material throughout the semester. If you want or need a hardcopy of the book, that is up to you. You will regularly access online presentations and discussion forums through Reggienet. Most of the online notes have links to short lectures (most are between 10 and 20 minutes in duration) that I have recorded. You are also responsible for checking your email and the course Reggienet site regularly since the course is delivered in an online format. I suggest at least twice a day.

Course Objective: The objective of this course is to help you achieve a reasonable level of scientific literacy. We achieve this by doing a survey of mostly conceptual physics topics with some numerical applications. We also discuss the interaction of science, technology, pseudoscience, and their impact on society.

Grading: Your grade is determined by a combination of tests, homework, and hands-on activities (also called labs). All work is completed online for this semester. There will be four tests throughout the semester, a homework approximately every week, and ten hands-on activities. There will be an online discussion forum available that does not contribute to your grade. It is provided to allow you to ask questions and get responses from classmates or the instructor. Additionally, we will try zoom sessions on a weekly basis. They will continue as long as there is reasonable participation. You are expected to complete all of the assigned work. In general, there are no make-up times for any of the assigned work. If a test is missed then your right to a make-up is determined on a case by case basis. It is better to let the instructor know in advance if you will miss a test. Since you will have multiple days or hours to complete every task, there are very few reasons why the work cannot otherwise be completed. Each test has a twenty-four hour window for full credit.




400 pts (4 x 100 pts)

Weekly Homework

140 pts (14 x 10 pts)

Hands-On Activities

100 pts (10 x 10 pts)


The final grade for the course is determined based on total earned points out of a possible 640 points.

Final Grade

Total Required Points (~%)


576 (90)


512 (80)


448 (70)


384 (60)

Homework: As you can see on the tentative schedule, most weeks will consist of an online homework through WebAssign and a hands-on activity. A good way to study is to work together. That is one purpose of the online discussion forums. That does not mean post solutions to weekly homework questions. But you can provide guidance on how to approach a question for all to see. If you post a solution to a homework problem while the homework is active, you receive no credit for that week's homework. You cannot expect to do well on the four tests if you cannot work the homework questions leading up to the tests. Anticipate homework being activated on Sunday night or Monday morning and active through 11:59 pm Saturday. Consider homework due at 8:00 pm on Thursday. The time after 8:00 pm Thursday is an automatic grace period to allow for technical difficulties (server crashes, etc) and illnesses. I expect to leave the discussion forum(s) active throughout the semester so that discussion on old topics or homework can continue and you can refer back to them as you study. It will be disabled during tests. Do not discuss content actual test questions on the discussion forum. Once the grace period has expired on homework, anyone can post homework solutions without penalty. This in one reason why late homework cannot be accepted.

Hands-on-activities:  Hands-on-activities will be provided in a weekly course message for the week they are assigned. You will complete them and submit them by placing them in a drop box on Reggienet. You will also forward a copy to the TA (Ms. Hannah Alperstein) via Reggienet. You can send her a message with the lab attached by selecting her from the list of possible message recipients. The activities are normally due by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, but they will be accepted as late as Friday at 4:00 p.m. There are no make-up times for activities. Late labs receive no credit. Do not procrastinate!

Tests: This information is valid at the current time. We may alter the test procedure if a better test solution becomes available. In particular, test proctoring may be available by mid-term. Tests will be timed. You are on your honor not to have anyone helping you, or use the internet, book or any other source as a test aid, without my permission. You will be allowed one equation sheet that I will provide as a pdf file that you can print and take with you to the test. Make sure that it prints properly before you go into the test. Tests are planned to be available for a 24 hour period, beginning on Mondays at 6:00 pm. Tests will continue to be available but with a 33 point penalty for the next 24 hours (starting at 6:00 am on Tuesdays). Given the pandemic, the potential for extreme weather, and unanticipated issues, the tests days may have to be adjusted by a day or two. With a 24 hour test window for full credit, I am very suspicious of the validity of excuses that prevent students from completing the tests as assigned. Check with other teachers and employers now. Don't wait for the last minute and create a problem that will cause you to get a zero on the test. If for some reason there are technical difficulties on the part of the physics department or WebAssign that prevents the test from being completed on the scheduled day, the test will be automatically scheduled for the next day. That situation has never arisen. Please note that test 4 is not comprehensive and will occur during the last week of classes. As an asynchronous course without a specific final time it does not have a time earmarked for the last test during finals week. This course qualifies as an exception to the normal rules of Success Week.

Participation: Your participation is expected and required.  I will assume that you have read all discussion forum posts. I will hold you responsible for any information that appears in a discussion post or course communication. 

Course Outline: The following is a tentative list of material to be covered, homework problems, and Hands-om Activities. The date for each Monday is provided. Go to Webassign to access tests and homework. Go to Reggienet to access discussion forums.





Hands-On Activities




Introduction and Measurement

2. 1/18



3. 1/25


Force and Motion

Graphical Analysis

4. 2/1


Work and Energy


5. 2/8


Test 1

Work and Energy

Free Fall

6. 2/15


Temperature and Heat

7. 2/22


Waves and Sound

Projectile Motion

8. 3/1


Test 2

Optics and Wave Effects

Newton’s Second Law

9. 3/8


Electricity and Magnestism

10. 3/15


Atomic Physics

Conservation of Energy

11. 3/22


Nuclear Physics

Coulomb’s Law

12. 3/29


Test 3

Nuclear Physics

13. 4/5


Place and Time

Electricity and Ohm’s Law

14. 4/12


The Solar System

Wave Interference

15. 4/19


The Universe

Light From Atoms

16. 4/26

Test 4

Note the exception to Success Week for Test 4. 4/26 reflects the planned start of test 4.

Frequently Asked Questions: Here are answers for several common questions or situations that come up each semester.

Something isn't correct about by lab (hands-on-activity) score. What is the next step? First contact your teaching assistant (TA) (Ms. Hanna Alprestein) via Reggienet and ask your question. If you cannot resolve the issue with the TA, then contact me via Reggienet. If you ask me about it without first contacting your TA, I will likely not respond very quickly. Do copy me on any communication that you send your TA.

What is my current grade? To get an estimate of your grade, sum your points on Reggienet and WebAssign and divide by the total possible points on those assignments. The percent estimates for grades are provided above. If I have already reported your total points in one of the columns in Reggienet, which I do several times through the semester, don't add it to your total. I expect to include part of your WebAssign score in a column in Reggienet for calculating mid-term grades.

I am one point short of the next letter grade. Will the grades be curved? No. Individual test scores will be adjusted if there is a problem on a test. At the end of the semester, grades are based on the advertised grade boundaries. I have already made the decision that if you don't reach the minimum points for a higher grade, then you have not earned the higher grade.

Can I make up past work if my computer was broke or my internet connection was broken or …. there was not any internet connectivity where I went for a couple of days? No. It is an online class. Make sure you have internet access when needed.

Is there any extra credit? No. It is disrespectful to and devalues the accomplishments of every student who conscientiously does their work at the appropriate time

What is the best way to study for the tests? Is there a study guide? The best study guide for each chapter is the review material starting with the Key Terms. All of the questions at the end of each chapter included in the sections that we cover, in whatever form, are the study guide. The tests are derived from those questions so you should do your best if you can answer the questions in the review section at the end of each chapter. Any review or guide that I put together would be an abbreviated form and eliminate important material.

What material is on the test? Look at the syllabus and course messages.

Can I use the calculator mode on my phone for the test? No. You are not allowed any electronic devices that would connect you with the outside world. Your cell phone is just a small computer designed specifically to connect to the outside world. Use a regular calculator. I would even be happy if you wanted to use a mechanical slide rule.

Dr. Clark hasn't responded to a question sent by email. Send your message via Reggienet.

Dr. Clark hasn't responded to a question sent by Reggienet. Why? Perhaps you sent a question that has been answered elsewhere and I am waiting to send the reply until the weekly course message to everybody. If there is any way that I can send the reply to everybody, I will. If I receive a question that links personal questions with questions that could be asked on the discussion forum in front of the whole class (as discussed above), don't expect a speedy reply. I am not trying to be a jerk. I am requiring you to follow the rules that make an online course work. This is one online course with multiple students, not an interface for multiple students doing an independent study course.

How do I get tutoring for this course? Make sure you are making use of the existing zoom meetings with both the TA and instructor. While there is no official tutoring for this course, there are two places where you can seek tutoring help. University College offers tutoring at the Julia N. Visor Academic Center.

How do I find out what I missed if I added the class late? Read all of the past course messages (the Message tab) on Reggienet, read the syllabus and listen to the associated mp3 file, and work through the online presentations up to this point. You cannot make up assignments that were due before you added the course.

When do I know that I am correctly registered for the class? When you can see the course in Reggienet you are correctly registered. Until then, I have no way of knowing if you are a student and will act as though you are not, according to university policy.

What are the online presentations? They are recorded lectures that you can work through at your leisure. They mostly follow along with the material in the textbook. I try to provide an alternate presentation to the book. I expect you to read the textbook and work through the pdf slide presentations.

What assignments/tests are timed? All assignments have due dates and times. At this point only the tests have a time limitation from the point when you start the test. Webassign homework is set to allow multiple attempts to provide the correct answer for credit, however the credit is reduced each time you submit an incorrect answer. Once you have submitted a correct answer, you can continue to work Webassign homework as many times as you like and incorrect answers do not reduce your score. That is, once you receive credit for a correct answer on a problem, your score for that problem won't be reduced if you enter an incorrect response at a later time.

Final Note: You are responsible for all material covered in the course, regardless of your level of participation. Only your own work will contribute toward your grade. You are obligated to follow the Illinois State University Code of Student Conduct. Failure to do so may result in failure of this course.

Any student needing to arrange a reasonable accommodation for a documented disability and/or medical/mental health condition should contact Student Access and Accommodation Services at 350 Fell Hall, (309) 438-5853, or visit the website at