66993 - Physics (M-Z)

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

The main aim of the course is to introduce the basic principles of classical physics and give examples of their application. The conceptual and methodological tools of physics will be emphasized. Students will acquire basic elements of classical physics which are required to successfully follow courses in chemistry and biology. They will acquire the ability to solve simple exercises and problems related to the subjects handled, as well as to acquire experimental data in simple laboratory experiences and elaborate the results obtained.

Course contents

Physics and its relation to Biology. Units, standards and the SI System. Dimensional analysis. Measurement and uncertainty; significant figures.

Kinematics. Reference frame and displacement. Average and instantaneous velocity. Acceleration. Motion at constant acceleration. Falling objects. Vectors and scalars. Projectile motion. Uniform circular motion.

Relative motion. Inertial frames. Principles of dynamics. Gravity and Newton's law of universal gravitation. Friction.

Work, kinetic energy and the work-energy principle. Conservative and nonconservative forces. Potential energy. Gravitational potential energy. Elastic force. Mechanical energy and its conservation. Momentum and its conservation. Elastic and inelastic collisions.

Center of mass. Angular variables. Rotational kinetic energy. Moment of inertia. Torque. Angular momentum and its conservation.

Fluids. Pressure and density. Pascal's principle. Archimedes' principle. Fluids in motion; flow rate and the equation of continuity. Bernoulli's theorem.

Thermodynamic systems. Thermodynamic state and variables. Temperature and heat. Thermometric scales. Absolute temperature. The ideal gas law. Kinetic theory and molecular interpretation of temperature.

The first law of thermodynamics. Heat engines. The second law of thermodynamics. Entropy and its statistical interpretation.

Simple harmonic motion. The simple pendulum. Wave motion. Transverse and longitudinal waves. Interference. Standing waves. Huygens' principle and diffraction. The wave nature of light. Young's double-slit experiment. Reflection. Refraction. Snell' law. The visible spectrum and dispersion.

Electric charge and its conservation. Insulators and conductors. Coulomb's law. The electric field. Field lines. Electric fields and conductors. Electric potential energy and potential difference. Relation between electric potential and electric field. Electric potential due to point charges. Potential due to electric dipole; dipole moment. Capacitance. Dielectrics. Storage of electric energy.

Electric current. Ohm's law: resistance and resistors. Resistivity. Electric power. DC circuits. Resistors in series and in parallel. Kirchhoff's rules. Circuits containing capacitors in series and in parallel. RC circuits. .

Magnets and magnetic fields. Electric currents produce magnetic fields. Lorentz's force. Magnetic moment. Magnetic field due to a long straight wire. Force between two parallel wires.

Electromagnetic induction. Faraday's law of induction. Lenz's law. Maxwell's equations. Electromagnetic waves. The electromagnetic spectrum.


Douglas C. Giancoli, Physics: Principles with Applications , 6th edition, Pearson Education, Inc. (2005).

Teaching methods

The course is formed by three didactic units. The first unit (7 CFU) consists of theoretical lectures accompanied by the discussion and resolution of several exercises and problems, to reinforce the learning of general principles. The second and third unit have an experimental character and consists of laboratory (1 CFU) and data analysis (1 CFU) activities. The three laboratory experiences concern mechanics, thermology and optics, respectively.

Assessment methods

The assessment includes written and oral examinations. During the two-hour written exam the candidate is asked to solve simple problems related to subjects handled during the lectures.

The use of textbooks, notes and pocket calculators is allowed. In order to be admitted to the oral exam it is necessary to have passed the written exam and to have attended all the laboratory and data analysis sessions. The validity of the written exam extends only over the academic year during which the written exam has been passed. The oral examination consists in the presentation and discussion of subjects treated during the lectures and may include questions about the laboratory activities.

Teaching tools

Blackboard, video projector, online broadcas,  slides containing theory and exercises

Office hours

See the website of Sylvie Braibant

See the website of Enrico Gianfranco Campari

See the website of Cristina Pallanca