An Introduction to Computing in Physics

Physics 246 (298 owl), Spring 2019

Loomis 276, Thursday afternoons, 4 pm - 5:50 pm

2 credit hours

Course policies


You are required to attend each and every one of the course meetings, arriving on time with your laptop computer and charger. Plesae bring your hardcopy of the course packet too. Excused absences will be granted and documented in accordance with University policy as described in Article 1, Part 5 Class Attendance, of the Student Code.

You must file your documentation concerning an excused absence on the Physics Department's Excused absences portal within two weeks of your absence.

Excused absences fall into the following categories as defined by the code:

  • • illness
  • • emergency beyond the student's control (e.g. an auto accident or death in the family)
  • • required attendance at a University event (e.g. varsity athletics)
  • • serving as a volunteer emergency worker
  • • religious observance or practice: this requires you to file a "request for accommodation for religious observances form." The form must be uploaded to the Excused Absences portal no later than two weeks after the first day of class.
I will reduce your final grade by half a letter grade per unexcused absence. If you have an unavoidable interview for an internship, discuss it with me in advance as well as filing your documentation here.

Late homework

Homework assignments are due at the start of the weekly class meeting. Assignments that are up to one week late will receive at most 50% of full credit. We will not grade assignments that are more than one week late.


If you show up to class, do a pretty good job on all of your homework, and a decent job on the exams, you will receive at least an A- for the course. If you do a really good job on your homework and write good exams you'll get an A. If you stumble onto something that really blows me away, I'll give you an A+ and brag about you in the letters of recommendation I will write on your behalf.

Calculators, smart phones, and network access to irrelevant content

You will be using your laptops in class. That's the only kind of networked device I will permit: cellphones, calculators, and smart watches are not to be in evidence in class, or during exams. Period.

During class you are not to access anything that is not directly relevant to the work at hand: no visits to social media sites, or logins to your email accounts. During exams I may insist that you turn off your laptop's wireless networking hardware.

About using code you find on the web

The quickest way to deal with the arcana of programing is to ask Google for examples of what you are seeking to accomplish. But you will need to use your judgment in doing this: the Google search “how do I use color maps in spyder python?” is fine, while “show me a script that calculates pi” is not. And you should always credit the original source of code that you paste into your own programs in a comment that includes the URL for the original code. If an author says that his/her code is not to be copied or incorporated into your programs, then DON’T.

I have two principal goals in this course. I want all of you to become fearless coders with the confidence to walk up to baffling problems and pound them into submission. And I want you to develop numerical descriptions of cool systems normally thought to be too difficult for students at your level, whose analytic descriptions might obscure the underlying physics. For this to work, you’ll need to write your own code.

Academic integrity

You must never submit the work of someone else as your own. We understand that many of you will find it helpful to work with other students to master Physics 298 owl. But when you collaborate with your study group on homework assignments, you must be a full, active participant in developing the solutions that you submit for credit.

It is cheating to receive answers from another student and then use them as your own. It is cheating to submit as your own work solutions that you find by searching on the worldwide web (though see "About using code you find on the web"), or by subscribing to an online service that suborns cheating. It is cheating—and a violation of U.S. copyright law—to give (or sell) course material to someone else who intends to redistribute and/or sell it.

Cheating will be penalized harshly: I will award zero credit for any assignment in which a student is found to have cheated. I will also probably reduce your course grade by two letter grades (so that an A becomes a C), though I reserve the right to issue an F for the entire course to any student who is found to have cheated. In previous semesters there have always been one or two students in Physics 225 who sold course material to a cheating site, then purchased solutions to homework problems from that site. I dragged these students through the university’s academic integrity violation process and then reduced their grades, sometimes retroactively, if necessary.

All activities in this course, including documentation submitted for petition for an excused absence, are subject to the Academic Integrity rules as described in Article 1, Part 4, Academic Integrity, of the Student Code.

The owl of Athena