Physics 3802L:
Physics Intermediate Laboratory

Fall 2010

1. General information:

Horst D. Wahl:  office KEN 512 (phone: office 644-3509, home 386-2239),
    Office hours: Monday and Tuesday 9:00 to 10:00, 512 Keen Bldg. (or anytime you can get a hold of me)

Teaching Assistants:

Class meeting times:

Monday and Wednesday 14:30 to 17:30 (2:30 to 5:30pm) in UPL 211 and adjacent rooms. On Wednesdays, we'll have a half-hour lecture and general question-and-answer session at the beginning of the lab, i.e. from 14:30 to 15:00, in UPL 211. Attendance is required. The rest of the lab-time is unstructured -- you are free to do your measurements, do data analysis, write your reports, discuss with your lab partners, talk to your instructor(s),... but you should use the time to actually work on your lab.

Text (recommended):

The Art of Experimental Physics, by Daryl W. Preston and Eric R. Dietz, John Wiley and Sons (1991)

  Other Useful Books

Experiments in Modern Physics, by A. C. Melissinos, Academic Press (1966).
Statistics for nuclear and particle physicists, by Louis Lyons, Cambridge University Press (1989)
An Introduction to Error Analysis , by John R. Taylor, Oxford University Press (1982).
Introduction to the Theory of Error, by Yardley Beers, Addison-Wesley (1957).
Experimental Physics -- Modern Methods, by R.A. Dunlap, Oxford University Press (1988).

Building Scientific Apparatus, 3d ed.,   by J.H. Moore, C.C.  Davis,   M.A.Coplan, Perseus Books (2003).

Class Website:
The class Website is which has links to relevant Webpages. The Website can be reached via the Physics Department homepage (follow the links Undergraduate ⇒ Physics course web pages ⇒ PHY3802L), or from my homepage ( ) This course also uses the FSU Blackboard utility. To get to the Blackboard pages, go to You will be prompted to enter your ACNS username and password to log in. After having logged in, you will be given a list of all the courses for which you are registered and which use Blackboard. The Blackboard site will be used for submission of lab reports, return of graded reports, announcements and for student discussion. You also have to sign up for equipment use in Blackboard.

2. Course Objectives

3. Course requirements:
3.1 Experiments to be performed:

Students in the Intermediate Laboratory (PHY 3802L) must complete five experiments and write a report about every one of them. Before doing an experiment, you are required to sign up for it with the graduate assistant. This will help in scheduling the experiments if more than one group wishes to do the same experiment.

The experiments in the Intermediate Laboratory have some instructions, but you are strongly encouraged to learn more about the experiments by studying the textbook or by consulting other sources. Normally you will be expected to set up the experiment. The instructor will explain the equipment and any safety precautions of an experiment before you start. This explanation will be given during the regular laboratory hours. You are required to consult the instructor or the graduate assistant before beginning an experiment. The experiment must be completed during the normal class hours.

Do not expect the experiment to work the first time. There will often be a piece of equipment that malfunctions making it necessary to repeat the measurements. Since physics involves solving problems you should try to find out the cause of the malfunction. Sometimes it may be as simple as a blown fuse. Often, a bit of everyday experience and common sense is all you need to solve the problem.

3.2 Reports

Even though you are encouraged to work in small groups (up to three), each report must represent an individual effort. Reports must have all the required ingredients. Reports must be submitted in the form of a computer file, in a standard format (e.g. plain text, MSWord, TeX, pdf, postscript, html). The only accepted method of submitting reports is by dropping into the digital drop box on Blackboard. Paper copies, e-mail, etc. will not be accepted. You must submit your report before you will be permitted to do another experiment, unless permission from the instructor is obtained.

The instructor will go over your reports in detail and explain what was done correctly and things you should have taken into account, and will assign a preliminary grade. You will have the opportunity to correct and resubmit your report by the deadline which will be specified, but note that you cannot gain more than 2 points between first and second (= final) version, so you should not be too sloppy with your first submission.

The first version of reports have to be submitted by the deadlines given below (before 24:00 (midnight) on the date given):

Report # Due date
1 17 Sep.
2  6 Oct.
3 22 Oct.
4  8 Nov.
5 26 Nov.

Note: You have 12 "grace days" (days for submission after deadline) that you may use in any way you desire, except that not more than 5 grace days may be applied to any one experiment and all reports (including all resubmissions) must be turned in by the last day of classes (without grace day!). If you want to profit from the possibility of a resubmission, the first submission of the last lab report must happen on the deadline given in the table above. Grace days already used may be redeemed by turning reports in early.

4. Course Grading:

Every student has to hand in five reports about experiments he/she has performed. If fewer than the minimum number of reports is handed in, a grade of F will be assigned to the course. If a report is more than one week late, a grade of "F" will be assigned for the report. This means that you failed the course.

For each report a numerical grade of a maximum of ten points will be assigned. The course grade will be mainly determined by the grades on the reports, but the instructor may consider other factors such as the student's attitude toward laboratory work, care exercised in handling equipment, leaving the work area clean after use, etc. The reports should represent a consistent effort throughout the semester, and the degree of consistency will also influence your final grade.

Grade Scale:
Total points Letter grade
≥45 A
≥40 B
≥35 C
≥30 D

Plus and minus grades will be assigned near boundaries between letters.

5. ADA statement:

Students with disabilities needing academic accommodations should:
(a) register with, and provide documentation to, the Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC); and
(b) bring me a letter from SDRC indicating your needed academic accommodations. Please do this during the first week of class.
For more information on this see the Resource Center's web site.

6. Academic honor code:

Students are expected to uphold the Academic Honor Code published in The Florida State University Bulletin and in the Student Handbook. The first paragraph is:
The Academic Honor System of Florida State University is based on the premise that each student has the responsibility