28626 - General Physics T-A

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Civil Engineering (cod. 8888)

Learning outcomes

After passing the final test, the student knows the general methodological aspects of physics (the important role of the experiments and the organization of the results in the framework of physics laws) and the fundamental concepts of the mechanics of the mass particle and of the systems of mass particles. Moreover the student is able to apply these basic concepts to solve problems and examples.

Course contents


n order to favour a fruitful attendance of the course, the students MUST be familiar with:

  • algebra
  • trigonometry
  • real functions
  • differential and integral calculus.

This course DOES NOT foresee lectures on these subjects. Each student must remedy possible shortcomings with personal study.

Fluent spoken and written Italian is a necessary pre-requisite: all lectures and tutorials, and all study material will be in Italian.

Course Contents

Introduction: Physics and the experimental method. The physical quantities and their measure process. Units of measurement in physics. Systems of measurement, dimensions of a physical quantity, fundamental and derived physical quantities, the International System of Units (SI). Definition of reference frame.

Introduction to the vector calculus: Vector and scalar physical quantities. Vector definition and properties. Versor. Vector operations. Cartesian versors. Orthogonal Cartesian coordinate frame. Cartesian description of vectors. Vector operations in a Cartesian description. Polar coordinates in 2 and 3 dimensions (spherical and cylindrical). Versor derivative (Poisson formulae). Vector derivative. Partial derivatives. Nabla vector operator, gradient, divergence and curl in Cartesian coordinates. Definition of bound vector. Moment of a bound vector.

Kinematics (point mass): Definition of point mass, vector description of motion, “intrinsic” description of motion. Kinematics variables: position, velocity and acceleration vectors and their units. Motion classification. Uniform and uniformly accelerated linear motion. Motion of a falling body. Uniform and uniformly accelerated circular motion. Vector description of the circular motion and definition of the most relevant vector quantities. Angular velocity and acceleration. Connection between simple harmonic motion and uniform circular motion. Equation of the harmonic motion. Relative motion. Change of the reference frame. Transformation equations for position, velocity and acceleration. Galilean transformations.

Dynamics (point mass): Introduction. Force definition and units. Newton dynamics laws. Inertial reference frames. Momentum. Impuls of a force. Constraint forces. Weight. Dry friction, static and kinetic. Motion of a point mass on an inclined plane, with and without friction. Centripetal force: motion on a flat turn, on a banked turn with and without friction. Elastic force. Simple gravity pendulum. Conical pendulum with and without conical surface. Fluid friction. Work. Kinetic energy and theorem of the kinetic energy. Power. Work for weight, elastic force and friction. Potential energy. Potential energy, definition and evaluation for some forces. Conservative forces and properties. Force as gradient of the potential energy. Motion in a non-inertial reference frame. Fictitious forces. Definition of angular momentum and of torque. Theorem of the angular momentum. Central forces. Mechanical energy and angular momentum conservation in case of central forces.

Mechanics of point-mass systems: Definition of point-mass systems. Centre of mass and centre of gravity. Kinematical and dynamical variables for point-mass systems. Centre-of-mass theorems. Angular momentum theorem for a point-mass system. Dynamics equations for point-mass systems. Konig theorems: angular momentum and kinetic energy. Motion of the centre-of-mass and motion relative to the centre-of-mass. Centre-of-mass reference frame. Work for a point-mass system. Collisions and conservation laws of momentum, angular momentum, energy. Elastic and inelastic collisions.

Rigid body mechanics: Definition of rigid body. Fundamental equation of rigid body kinematics. Translation motion. Fixed axis rotation. Moment of inertia. Huygens–Steiner theorem. Rolling motion without slipping. Ballistic pendulum. Compound pendulum. Collision between a mass point and a rigid body and conservation laws. Fundamentals about static equilibrium for a rigid body.

Gravitation: Kepler's laws and universal gravitation law. Inertial and gravitational mass. Analogy between Moon and a falling body. Theorems of the shell (statement only). Motion of a mass point through an Earth tunnel. Gravitational constant G. Cavendish experiment an the measurement of the Earth mass. Gravitational potential energy and potential energy at the Earth surface. Escape velocity. Gravity close to the Earth surface: dependence of on the latitude and on the geoid.


Personal study and meditation with the help of a university-level book is MANDATORY to reach a good comprehension of the arguments foreseen in the program.

One of these books is suggested:

  • S. Focardi, I. Massa, A. Uguzzoni, M. Villa: Fisica Generale - Meccanica e Termodinamica, Casa Editrice Ambrosiana.
  • P. Mazzoldi, M. Nigro, C. Voci: Fisica Vol.1 Meccanica - Termodinamica, EdiSES

To practice on exercises, in addition to the examples presented and solved under the guidance of the teacher and to the exercises of the previous exams, students can look for tests and problems on the web. They can also consider one of the following exercise book:

  • M. Villa, A. Uguzzoni: Esercizi di fisica - Meccanica, Come risolvere i problemi, Casa Editrice Ambrosiana.
  • C. Mencuccini, V. Silvestrini: Esercizi di Fisica - Meccanica e Termodinamica, Zanichelli.
  • G. Guidorzi, A. Zanzi: PROBLEMI DI FISICA GENERALE I Meccanica, Onde, Fluidodinamica, Termodinamica, Casa Editrice Ambrosiana.
  • Any other exercise-book available on the web or in a library.


On the web site https://virtuale.unibo.it/ students can find:

  • the slides and the links to movies and images shown by the teacher during courses. In order to prepare the exam these tools are not sufficient. They are very useful to students that do not attend lectures to understand how the arguments are handled. They are very useful to attending students to keep memory of the lectures. Usually, slides are provided in advance in order to allow students to print and use them for their own remarks during lectures.
  • the text of previous written exams, with a proposed solution. Students can have an idea of the difficulties to face during the final evaluation.

Teaching methods

Traditional lectures, structured in theoretical parts, examples and exercises. Changes of the standard teaching organization are enivsaged as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participation and contributions of the students to lectures is strongly encouraged, through questions, suggestions for discussion and for exercises' resolution.

Attending the courses is very useful, though it is not mandatory.

Periodic checks of the level of comprehension can be arranged without score, mainly finalized to student self-evaluation.

The teacher uses the https://virtuale.unibo.it/ platform to directly communicate with students via the Forum, where students can ask questions, propose solutions and discuss with each other and with the teacher.

The teacher encourages the request of personal or group appointments, to be fixed by e-mail, in case of difficulties with the study of this course.

Assessment methods

Achievements will be assessed by means of a final exam. This is based on an analytical assessment of the "expected learning outcomes" described above.

The final exam consists of a written test and an oral examination. Changes of the standard exam rules are enivsaged as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Details will be distributed in due time.

The written test has a duration of 90 minutes, during which students are required to solve 3 to 5 exercises, without books, notes and any external help. Only pocket calculator is allowed. Students that are caught cheating during the exam are immediately excluded from the test and the result of the exam registered as RITIRATO (withdrawn).

Leaving the room is allowed only after the delivery of the paper. Withdrawing is allowed at any moment during the exam.

More trials may be done within the same exam period. The last result is considered valid, no matter if better or worse than the previous one.

The minimum grade to pass the written test and be eligible to take the oral exam is 18/30. The score of each exercise is specified on the text.

Students passing the written exam (score >17/30) are admitted to the oral exam, to be passed within the same session of the written test.

The oral test must be passed within the same session of the written test. It consists of a revision of the written test during which possible errors are discussed. Usually it lasts about 15-20 minutes. The student is required to answer two-three simple questions showing good knowledge of the course contents, understanding of the links between the different parts of the program and a proper scientific language.

In order to get the Laude the students must have reached at least 29/30 in the written exam and pass the oral exam with an excellent result.

A successfull result in the written test does not guarantee passing the exam. The final score is the average of the written and oral tests, assuming they are both successfully passed.

To obtain a passing grade, students are required to demonstrate a knowledge of the key concepts of the subject, some ability for critical application, and a comprehensible use of technical language.

A higher grade is given to the students showing a full understanding of the course contents and advanced skills in solving complex problems.

Details on the rules of the exam and on the behaviour during the written test can be found on the official teacher's website.

A failing can be due to lack of knowledge or of understanding of the key concepts, to an insufficient thinking about these items and consequently to poor ability of problem solving.

Teaching tools

Lectures will be given at the blackboard. Slides, drawings and short movies can be used to facilitate the understanding of some concepts and made available on the IOL website. Attending the courses is very useful, though it is not mandatory. Changes of the standard teaching organization are enivsaged as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Information and details will be provided in due time.

Students with disabilities are invited to contact the teacher in order to provide them with any kind of support useful to fully exploit the courses and to guarantee a proper access to the exams. No need to say that any private information will be treated as confidential.

Office hours

See the website of Annarita Margiotta


Quality education Gender equality

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.