Office hours: MW 2:30 – 3:30, or by appointment (email me with a few times).

For grading questions, see Paudel Purna.

Grading breakdown

MATLAB scripts

with GUIs, for studying concepts without needing to know anything about Matlab (just copy to local Matlab directory and type the script name at the prompt):

  1. -calculate and plot the animated trajectories and positions/velocities vs. time for vacuum, linear, and quadratic drag cases: drag.m

without GUIs, for studying numerical methods as well as concepts (if you’re interested and know a little Matlab):

  1. -calculate and plot range with linear drag using Newton’s method: range.m

  2. -calculate and plot trajectory of an object with quadratic drag using Runge Kutta integration: ballistic.m

  3. -calculate and plot several figures explaining Fourier transforms: fourierdemo.m

  4. -solve and plot solutions for a damped driven harmonic oscillator as the driving frequency (damped_driven_omega.m) and the damping parameter (damped_driven_beta.m) are increased.

  5. -evolve the double cart, triple spring system of coupled oscillators, showing a cartoon, the individual displacements, and the individual and total energies.  Initial conditions (m1, m2, k1, k2, k3) can be easily modified to check different modes from the book: double_cart.m

  6. -evolve the double pendulum and show as a cartoon and in phase space, with two realization using slightly different initial conditions, to show the onset of nonlinearity: double_pendulum_demo.m

Course Information

Name:Theoretical Mechanics I

Number:PHYS 331

Location:G4 White Hall

Schedule:MWF 1:30 – 2:20

Prerequesites:PHYS 111 and 112, MATH 261 (can be concurrent)

Text:J. R. Taylor, Classical Mechanics, University Science Books, Sausalito, CA 2005

Course Elements


There will be three midterm exams and a cumulative final exam.  Midterm exams will be held in class following the completion of Chapters 3, 5, and 8.  The final exam will cover all of the material from Chapters 1 – 8.  Important:  No make-up exams will be given, unless I am provided with documentation in advance of your participation in an authorized university activity.  Make up exams for other reasons must be arranged in advance and are at the discretion of the instructor.

Lowest midterm exam policy:  In calculating your final grade, your lowest MIDTERM exam score will be weighted half as much as the other two exams.

Exams will be closed book (NB: This is a change from past years).  You may prepare a single formula sheet (front and back) for the midterm exams, and up to three sheets for the final exam.  You may bring a scientific, nonprogrammable calculator; simple operations and standard transcendental functions will be needed, but graphing and more complex functionality will not.  If you feel that your exam was graded incorrectly, you may request a review of your exam grade by resubmitting it with a written explanation up to one week after graded exams have been made available.  After this window, your exam grade will not be changed.


Quizzes will be administered periodically, and may be given at the start or at the end of class.  They may cover simple aspects of the reading material that should have been completed prior to the start of class, as well as earlier material.  These quizzes will be unannounced and will not occur on a regular schedule.  The number and frequency of the quizzes will depend on the preparedness of the class throughout the semester.


Homework assignments will be given approximately biweekly.  They will be due at the beginning of class exactly one week later, or the class that occurs soonest thereafter.  No credit will be given for late homework, since we will often review answers in class on the due date.  You should expect homework assignments to be challenging and it is acceptable (even encouraged) that you will collaborate with your classmates.  If you are collaborating effectively, you are seeking to make sense of a problem through dialog, comments, questions, and critiques; you are teaching each other how to approach the problem, and not just sharing your answers.  If, as a group, you are collectively stuck on a specific problem, you are strongly encouraged to come to office hours to discuss the problem with me as a group.

However, you are individually responsible for your own learning and your own understanding.  You need to think through the concepts for yourself in order to understand the material and do well on the exam.  For all assignments, the work that you turn in must be your own.  Copying homework from one another or from the Internet is not collaborating, but cheating, and it will be dealt with as such (see the Academic Integrity Statement below).  If multiple submissions make identical computational errors, for instance, I will consider that an instance of cheating by all of the students who submitted identical work; therefore, it is your responsibility to guard your final solutions. 

Credit will be awarded based on a clear, concise, and complete explanation of the problem leading to a solution.  The point is to make sense of the problem and construct an answer, not to simply write down the answer itself.

Course Policies


You are expected to be present in class, both literally and in the sense of being engaged.  Please turn off cell phones before the beginning of class and place them out of sight (for example, in a backpack or purse) until class has concluded.  No laptops, headphones, or any other potential distraction should be used during class.  If you must enter class late, or must leave early or use the restroom, please do so as discreetly as possible.

Academic Integrity Statement

The integrity of the classes offered by any academic institution solidifies the foundation of its mission and cannot be sacrificed to expediency, ignorance, or blatant fraud. Therefore, I will enforce rigorous standards of academic integrity in all aspects and assignments of this course. For the detailed policy of West Virginia University regarding the definitions of acts considered to fall under academic dishonesty and possible ensuing sanctions, please see the Student Conduct Code at Should you have any questions about possibly improper research citations or references, or any other activity that may be interpreted as an attempt at academic dishonesty, please see me before the assignment is due to discuss the matter.

Social Justice

West Virginia University is committed to social justice.  I expect to maintain a positive learning environment based upon open communication, mutual respect, and non-discrimination.  Our university does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, age, disability, veteran’s status, religion, sexual orientation, color or national origin.  Any suggestions as to how to further such a positive and open environment in this class will be appreciated and given serious consideration.  If you are a person with a disability and anticipate needing any type of accommodation in order to participate in this class, please advise me and make appropriate arrangements with the Office of Disability Services (304-293-6700).