Earthrise from Apollo 8

PSC 111: Physical Science Laboratory, Spring 2018 Section 8354

Grossmont College, Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Physical Science

Instructor: Dr. Philip Blanco. Phone: (619) 644-7312.

Meetings in Laboratory 34-130, Fridays 2:10-5:05pm.

Course webpage:

Office hours: Wednesday 2pm-4:30pm, Thursday 2:30-5pm, or by appointment. Please let me know when you intend to arrive, to avoid conflicts with other students. Tutoring in Physics Computer Room 34-108: - a schedule will be posted on the door.


2018 May 19: Week 16 lab and quiz: Kepler's laws of planetary motion. For the quiz also read: Kepler's laws summary.

2018 May 11 lab and quiz: Scale of the solar system. (Instructions and background start on page 3 of the lab description.). For the quiz, also watch Powers of 10 - Cosmic Voyage (6 min) and (optional) To scale: the solar system (8 min).

2018 May 4: Week 14 lab and quiz: Spectra. Also for the QUIZ, read Introduction to the Electromagnetic Spectrum. Bring a Datalink 26760 and your lab notebook. Also read

2018 Apr 27: Week 13 lab and quiz: Lens optics and the telescope. For the quiz, read Optics for kids: lenses.. (Note that we shall only use converging (convex) lenses in our lab activity.)

2018 Apr 20: Week 12 lab (no quiz): Latent Heat of Ice. Exam 2 on: Simple Harmonic Motion, Waves, Earthquakes, Electric circuits. Bring: Datalink 26760, scientific calculator, graded labs, lab notebook.

2018 Apr 13: Week 11 lab and quiz: Electric Circuits. Also read What is a circuit?.

Our 2nd exam will be on 2018 Apr 20 on: Simple Harmonic Motion, Waves, Earthquakes, Electric circuits.

2018 Apr 6 - LAB CANCELLED. Alternative reading assignment will be posted here. Next lab meeting will be April 13, next exam will be April 20

2018 Mar 18: Week 8 lab (Mar 23): (Virtual) Earthquakes. Also for the quiz, read this summary of Seismic waves and the Richter scale.

2018 Mar 11: Week 7 lab (Mar 16): Mechanical Waves. Bring a Datalink 26760 for the quiz, and also read Transverse, Longitudinal, and Standing Waves.

2018 Mar 2: Week 6 lab (Mar 9): EXAM 1, ~ 20 multiple-choice questions on the previous 4 labs (measurements, density, gravity, air drag). You can bring your graded labs to refer to. You also need a Datalink 26760 form, pencil and calculator.
Laboratory after exam: Simple harmonic motion (no quiz but please read this procedure anyway.) Also read this article on oscillations.

2018 Feb 23: Week 5 lab (Mar 2): Air resistance and terminal speed. Also read The Physics of Skydiving for the quiz (Datalink 26760).

2018 Feb 17: Week 4 lab (Feb 23): Acceleration due to gravity.

2018 Feb 3: Lab next week (Feb 9): Density of Earth's materials. Make sure to bring: scientfic lab notebook, scientific calculator, Datalink 26760 for the pre-lab quiz!

2018 Feb 1: Room and Time change! Room 34-130 (access from indoor hallway), new start time 2:10pm.
Our first lab in week 1 is Measurements, units, significant figures. The printed lab description will be provided in class.

Also please follow the lab safety policies you signed (provided below) - closed-toed shoes and hair off the face!

Quick Links:


A "C" or "CR" grade or higher, or concurrent enrollment in, Physical Science 110 or equivalent.


Physical Science 111 satisfies the General Education Science Laboratory requirement of most colleges by covering a range of experimental topics in physics, chemistry, geology, and astronomy for non-science majors.

To learn science is to do science, and this course will show you how. By performing straightforward experiments (usually on everyday activities such as dropping things, connecting a battery or mixing ice and water), you will learn that the "scientific method" - a systematic way of examining the natural world - is something we can all learn from, and is not just for "scientists"!

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Students will employ laboratory equipment to obtain measurements
  2. Students will interpret data obtained in an experimental setting
  3. Students will communicate experimental results in a coherent manner


The (coming soon). Draft lab and quiz schedule is viewable on the course web page and will be updated with any changes. In addition please note these important dates:

In addition, note these important dates:

Fri Feb 16: Presidents' Day Holiday
Fri Mar 2: EXAM 1. Pass / No Pass option deadline
Fri Mar 30: No lab - Spring Recess
Fri Apr 13: EXAM 2
Fri Apr 27: Last day to withdraw from the course (a letter grade must be recorded after this date)
Fri May 18: EXAM 3
Fri Jun 1: FINAL EXAM 2:00-3:30pm

Exam dates may change with sufficient notice. Note though that there are no make-ups allowed for any reason. Instead, your lowest scoring exam, reading quiz, and lowest scoring lab report will be dropped from your overall grade calculation. Please inform the instructor of any conflicting final examinations as soon as possible.

Required Course Materials:

Course Assignments and Grading Policy

The approximate grading scale for this class is:
> 85% ≈ A
70 - 85% ≈ B
55 - 70% ≈ C
< 55% ≈ D or F
Plus and minus grades will be used to differentiate the upper and lower parts of each range. Actual grade boundaries may change slightly, and depend on the difficulty of quizzes and the final exam - NOT on class performance (i.e. there is no "curve" or set quota for each grade). This means that:
  1. Everyone in the class can get an "A".
  2. You are not in competition with your fellow students. In fact, working together in class will be actively encouraged! However, all work submiited for grading must be your own.

Laboratory Reports (60% of final grade)

There will be a laboratory each week. Most lab reports consist of worksheets that can be completed and handed in at the end of the lab period. A few labs will require some extra work at home - these will be due at the start of the following week's lab period. Reports can be typed, or written in black or blue pen (no pencil, except for diagrams).

There are no make-ups for missed lab periods. Instead, your lowest scoring lab report will be dropped from your overall grade calculation.

Note that while you complete the lab experiments in a group, the report handed in for grading must be entirely your own work.

Exams (15% of total grade):

There will be 3 or 4 short multiple-choice exams during the semester, to be held at the start of the lab period. Exact dates will be announced well in advance and posted on the course web page. Exams will be on the basic concepts which have already covered during the laboratory periods. Note that there are no make-ups for missed exams. Instead, your lowest score will be dropped from your overall grade calculation. To help you in each exam, and the final, you may refer to your graded laboratory reports from prior weeks - this is an additional "reward" of writing complete, neat and useful reports!

Reading Quizzes (15% of total grade):

Most labs will begin with a short multiple-choice reading quiz consisting of pre-lab questions - the assignment will be announced the previous week and posted on this web page under News. Note that there are no make-ups for missed quizzes. Instead, your lowest quiz scores will be dropped from your overall grade calculation.

Final Exam (10% of total grade): Fri June 1, 2:00-3:30pm

The final exam will be a short but comprehensive review of all material covered in laboratory, and will consist of multiple-choice, short answer, or diagram questions. You may bring:
  • Your graded labs, with any additional notes you have made on them.
  • Scientific Calculator, pens (2 colors, not red), small ruler.
  • Datalink 26760
  • Student ID.
  • All cellphones must be "off" for tests.

    Academic Integrity

    Collaboration in the laboratory setting is an important part of the learning process, and you are encouraged to help your fellow students in class. Note, however, that the lab report submitted for grading must be all your own work. If you have doubts about the allowed level of collaboration, please ask the instructor.

    Mid-terms and the final exam are be designed to test understanding, not memory, so cheating by plagiarism or smuggling outside material will not help you - and you will probably be caught! Academic dishonesty is a serious action and will not be tolerated, since it compromise the integrity of scholarship and the value of hard-earned grades for all students at Grossmont. It includes, but is not limited to, copying another's work, allowing someone to copy your work, talking during an exam or quiz, giving information to another student during an exam or quiz, using unauthorized notes on an exam or quiz, or having another person take a test for you.

    Grossmont's policy will be strictly enforced. Cheating and plagiarism (using as one's own ideas writings, materials, or images of someone else without acknowledgement or permission) can result in any one of a variety of sanctions. Such penalties may range from an adjusted grade on the particular exam, paper, project, or assignment (all of which may lead to a failing grade in the course) to, under certain conditions, suspension or expulsion from a class, program or the college. For further clarification and information on these issues, please consult with your instructor or contact the office of the Associate Dean of Student Affairs.

    Classroom Conduct

    "Be excellent to each other!" - Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

    All students should be familiar with the Student Code of Conduct, which will be strictly enforced. The Code of Conduct may be found in the course catalog.

    In addition, you will be asked to read and sign a short Lab Agreement which outlines some additional safety requirements.

    Arriving at class:

    Attendance can be taken at any class meeting. Please arrive "ready to learn", i.e. with your belongings in order, no food or drink, and no need to use the restroom during lecture (see below). If you are more than 20 minutes late to class, this will count as an unexcused absence. Furthermore, you will probably not have enough time to complete the lab (or quiz, if one is scheduled for that day) and so you may be asked to leave. Note that after 3 consecutive absences, Grossmont's policy allows the instructor to drop a student from class, but do not assume this will happen automatically if you simply fail to show up.

    Leaving class:

    If you have a good reason to leave early, please notify the instructor.

    In the Laboratory:

    Safety should be a priority for all students. A separate document outlines the laboratory safety guidelines and policies, and copies of this are posted on the walls of the lab.

    You must wear closed-toed shoes in the laboratory, and keep long hair and jewelry secured out of the way of equipment and open flames. No food of any kind is allowed in the lab, nor are beverages other than a bottle of water which can be closed. You will be asked to keep your bottle of water on the side benches next to the wall, out of the way.

    Productive, respectful and safe interaction with classmates and instructor is encouraged, while any behavior which disrupts the learning environment, damages equipment, or compromises safety will not be tolerated.

    Disruptive behavior includes talking while the instructor is talking, chewing, gesturing, passing notes, sleeping, reading anything unrelated to that day's class.

    Possible sanctions include ejection from the laboratory, a 2-laboratory suspension, and disciplinary action by the college.

    Electronic Devices:

    During the laboratory period, either silence your cellphone or place it where you can cancel the ring-tone within 2 seconds. You should bring a non-programmable scientific calculator to each lab period. Other devices - including laptop computers, MP3/iPods, radios, and electronic dictionaries are not allowed. (Printed foreign language dictionaries are permitted, subject to instructor's approval). For safety, any earphones or Bluetooth headsets must be removed. During exams, all electronic devices must be switched off and put away.

    To protect the privacy rights of your fellow students, and the integrity and academic freedom of our learning environment, no recording of audio, images, or video is permitted in this class. Use of recording devices is considered disruptive behavior even if done in a clandestine manner.

    Help is available!

    In addition to office hours, please feel free to contact me via email if you are "stuck". The Physics/Astronomy Tutoring Center in Room 34-108 is typically open Monday-Thursday 8am-4pm. You are welcome to study here and use the books and computers that can be used to access the textbook or the PSC111 website. Also, Grossmont offers some great resources to help you do well:

    Philip Blanco, Physical Science Laboratory, Grossmont College