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EDS 1021 General Physical Science

Course Description

This course is designed to introduce students to the concepts and practical applications of the physical sciences, so that the student will become an informed citizen in an increasingly science and technology based society. Specific themes focused on will include the scientific method, history of science, thermodynamics, electricity, waves, atomic structure, nuclear energy, relativity and the formation of the earth and universe. There will be several demonstrations and/or student experiments during the semester. Ethical and moral considerations will be discussed where appropriate. This course requires substantial writing and reading.

Course Objectives

The objectives of this course is to instill in the student an appreciation for the physical universe in which they live, and describe the physical universe in a logical and progressive way in order to prepare students for a following course in life sciences. It is the goal of this course to integrate the material in such a way as to demonstrate to the student that all areas of science are interrelated and interdependent, and provide some hands-on experience with the techniques of science, allowing the student first-hand knowledge of how science is done. After the course, a successful student should be able to either discuss, identify or describe some specific topics such as the scientific method of investigation, the history of science, energy and the laws of thermodynamics, the concepts of electricity and magnetism, the properties of waves, the structure of the atom and quantum mechanics, chemical bonding and the properties of materials, the nucleus of the atom, radioactivity, and nuclear energy, elementary particles. The students should also be aware of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, stars, the formation of the universe and our solar system, and continuing changes on the earth (e.g. plate tectonics) and the atmospheric cycles.

Week 1

Lecture: Highlights in Physical Science – Ptolemy to Kepler


  • Define the scientific method and recognize its proper and improper application
  • Differentiate science from non-science
  • Trace the historical development of the description of motion
Lecture: Highlights in Physical Science – Galileo to Einstein


  • Trace the historical development of the description of motion
  • Describe the motion of falling objects
  • Understand the significance of Newton’s Law of Gravity
  • Understand the significance of Newton’s Laws of Motion
  • Describe Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

Week 2

Lecture: Energy


  • Differentiate between work, energy, and power
  • Identify several different kinds of energy
  • Trace the conversion of energy from one form to another for any given process
  • Explain the law of conservation of energy
Lecture: Heat


  • Define heat within the historical context of energy
  • Understand the definition of temperature
  • Know the laws of thermodynamics
  • Understand selected applications of the laws of thermodynamics
  • Know and apply the definition of efficiency

Week 3

Lecture: This Thing Called Charge – Electricity and Magnetism


  • Discuss some historical highlights about electricity
  • Explain the significance of Coulomb’s work
  • Explain the relationship between electricity and magnetism
  • List Maxwell’s Laws
Lecture: Useful Applications


  • Understand and be able to apply Ohm’s Law
  • Distinguish between electrical energy and electrical power
  • Know the difference between AC and DC
  • Understand how electric motors, generators, and transformers work
  • Know some basics about power transmission and electrical wiring in the USA

Week 4

Lecture: Waves — A Different Kind of Motion


  • Define the types of waves and describe their motion
  • Describe behaviors which are common to wave and particle motion
  • Describe unique behaviors of waves
  • Understand sound and light as waves
  • Describe some common technologies based on the properties of waves
Lecture: All Things Are Made of Atoms


  • Describe historical evidence for the existence of atoms
  • Differentiate between atoms, molecules, and elements

Week 5

Lecture: Structure of the Atom


  • Describe the historical development of atomic models
  • Compare and contrast Rutherford’s model of the atom with Bohr’s
  • Explain the limitations of atomic models
Lecture: Look What We Can Do!


  • Explain properties of the periodic table based on atomic structure
  • Explain problems and applications in spectroscopy
  • Explain how and why atoms form chemical bonds

Week 6

Lecture: Answering Some Deceptively Simple Questions


  • Identify the four different forces between molecules
  • Explain why water is a liquid at room temperature, while oxygen is a gas
  • Explain how soap works
  • Define hydrocarbons and polymers and explain why they are important
Lecture: The Nucleus – Radioactivity and Radiation


  • Describe the structure of the nucleus
  • Describe the three nuclear processes that produce radiation
  • Describe properties of the three kinds of radiation

Week 7

Lecture: Half-lives and Radiometric Dating


  • Explain the concept of a half-life
  • Describe the process of radiometric dating
  • Compare and contrast carbon 14 dating to other forms of radiometric dating
Lecture: E = mc2 – Fission and Fusion


  • Describe the processes of fission and fusion
  • Discuss the concepts of critical mass and chain reaction
  • Describe the basics of nuclear power generation

Week 8

Lecture: Structure of the Earth and Atmosphere


  • Name the layers of the Earth’s interior
  • Explain the idea of plate tectonics
  • Discuss evidence supporting the idea of plate tectonics
  • Describe the rock cycle
  • Describe the water cycle
Lecture: The Atmosphere, Ozone Holes, and Global Warming


  • Know the basic structure and composition of the Earth’s atmosphere
  • Understand the problem with ozone holes and its current status
  • Understand the greenhouse effect and its relation to potential global warming

The course description, objectives and learning outcomes are subject to change without notice based on enhancements made to the course. November 2011