1;95;0c Ph3

Ph3 - Caltech Introductory Physics Laboratory

Special notice for Spring 2020 term

Ph3 is a one-term, introductory-level course in experimental physics. It is normally offered as a hands-on lab course during Fall, Winter, and Spring terms. Due to the present unique circumstances, during Spring Term of 2020 the course will be offered with online demonstrations replacing the usual lab work. Data-analysis and programming components of the course will remain unchanged. Arguably the most important skill you will learn from this course is how to draw valid conclusions from quantitative data, and that you can still learn remotely.

OM: Streamed remotely via Zoom 2:00pm-2:55pm Monday, March 30 only

Wednesday Section: Streamed remotely from 308 East Bridge 1:00pm-4:00pm
Thursday Section: Streamed remotely from 308 East Bridge 1:00pm-4:00pm
Friday Section: Streamed remotely from 308 East Bridge 1:00pm-4:00pm

Required course materials

  1. John R. Taylor, An Introduction to Error Analysis, (2nd edition), University Science Books (1996) ISBN-10: 093570275X ( Amazon link or eBook )
  2. Computer with internet access and Zoom.
  3. Mathematica, available to Caltech students from IMSS

Grades, writeups, and lab notebooks

You must do all the labs and submit a report for each to pass the course.

Lab Reports 50%
Taylor Homework 40%
Mathematica Homework 10%

Lab report weights increase as the term progresses. The first report is 5% of your total grade, the second 10%, the third 15%, and the fourth 20%.


Submit all homeworks as electronic files to the ph3 Moodle page by the start of class, 1:00pm, on the day of your section. Be sure to include your name and section on each! Your TA will then grade your homework and contact you via email with the result. If you missed anything you will have twenty-four hours to correct and resubmit, and your final grade on that assignment will be based on your corrected version. If you have any questions (and you probably will), feel free to contact your TA by email (see below) or Piazza .

Collaboration policy: You may collaborate with anyone you like on your homeworks. Just be sure to give them credit by listing their names at the top of your sheet. If you work in a big group and don't remember everybody's name, list as many as you do remember, and then put "and others."


The following schedule applies to all sections.

Due Dates Reading Taylor Homework Mathematica Homework Lab Report Due
Apr. 8-10 Taylor ch. 1-2 Taylor 2.3, 2.19, 2.27, 2.31 Getting started Lab 1: Session 1 Report 1a
Apr. 15-17 Taylor ch. 3-4 Taylor 3.2, 3.3, 3.26, 3.30, 3.50, 4.13, 4.18 Plotting Lab 1: Session 2 Report 1b
Apr. 22-24 Taylor ch. 5 Taylor 5.4, 5.15, 5.25, 5.28, 5.33, 5.36 Importing Lab 2: Session 1 Report 2a
Apr. 29-May 1 Taylor ch. 6-7 Taylor 6.3, 6.6, 6.7, 7.4, 7.6 Fitting Lab 2: Session 2 Report 2b
May 6-8 Taylor ch. 8 Taylor 8.4, 8.14, 8.23, 8.24 Exporting Lab 3: Session 1 Report 3a
May 13-15 Taylor ch. 9 Taylor 9.7, 9.11, 9.16 Programming Lab 3: Session 2 Report 3b
May 20-22 Taylor ch. 10-11 Taylor 10.10, 10.22, 11.6, 11.9, 11.12 Statistics Lab 4: Session 1 Report 4a
May 27-29 Taylor ch. 12 Taylor 12.2, 12.10, 12.14 Monte-Carlo Methods Lab 4: Session 2 Report 4b

Labs will be done in different order over the term depending on your section, according to the following schedule.

Lab Wednesday Thursday Friday
1 Test Equipment and Data Acquisition Test Equipment and Data Acquisition Test Equipment and Data Acquisition
2 Interferometry Ion Trap Harmonic Oscillator
3 Harmonic Oscillator Interferometry Ion Trap
4 Ion Trap Harmonic Oscillator Interferometry

Lab handouts


Contact Information

PMA - Caltech Department of Physics, Math, and Astronomy.

Other physics courses at Caltech.


Last updated April 10, 2020.