Physics Big and Small

I. Course description

Physics Big and Small is an introductory course in physics. The emphasis is on laboratory activities and a variety of relevant topics are covered. The course is a blend of demonstrations, lecture/discussion and lab investigations. The intent of the course is to provide the scholars an overview of the science that is physics.

II. Instructor:  Mike O’Brien

BS, University of Texas at El Paso, 1987.   Master of Educational Administration, Lindenwood University, 1999.

Current employer: The Fort Zumwalt School District, Fort Zumwalt South High School, 8050 Mexico Road, St. Peters, Mo. 63376


III. Rationale for inclusion in a program for gifted students:

Physics is a challenging science which most Missouri Scholars will eventually pursue in their home high schools. Physics Big and Small gives these talented students an opportunity to engage in physics activities in a college setting. These scholars will be better prepared for successful entrance into high school physics and it will assist them if they choose to pursue a degree in the discipline.

IV. Major topics covered:
  • History of Physics
  • Mechanics
  • Waves
  • Sound
  • Light
  • Relativity
  • Electricity
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Heat
  • Matter
  • Astrophysics
  • Energy
V. Prerequisite knowledge:

The scholars are in no need of any training in physics but it is expected that they be proficient in algebra.

VI. Learning objectives:

The scholars should gain a solid foundation in, and be able to handle problems, both mathematical and practical in the following;

  • Forces
  • Motion
  • Newtonian Dynamics
  • Energy
  • Linear Momentum
  • Angular Momentum
  • Ballistics
  • Circular Motion
  • Inertia
  • Gravity
  • Waves
  • Sound
  • Light
  • Electromagnetism
  • Thermodynamics
  • Special Relativity
  • General Relativity
  • Astrophysics

It is further necessary that scholars become proficient with the equipment needed to carry out lab investigations involving these concepts.

VII. Primary source material:
  • MU Physics Demo Book-Lee Carlson, University of Missouri Press, 1996
  • College and University Physics Lab Manual-C.W. Tompson and H.W. White, University of Missouri Press, 1995
  • Fundamentals of Physics-David Halliday and Robert Resnick,  John Wiley and Sons, 1988
  • Conceptual Physics-Paul Hewitt, Addison Wesley, 1992
VIII. Supplementary source material
  • Journey Through the Universe-Jay Pasachoff, Saunders College Publishing, 1992
  • Physics: Principles and Problems-Paul Zitzewitz and Robert F. Neff, Glencoe/McGraw Hill, 1990
  • Universe-William F. Kaufmann III, W.H. Freeman and Company, 1999