Ph3 - Caltech Introductory Physics Laboratory

Course Description

Ph3 is a one-term, introductory-level course in experimental physics. It is offered during Fall, Winter, and Spring terms.

Lab is once per week for three hours. There are three sections available, and each section is divided into four tracks, based on the order in which you will do the experiments. Class times and locations are

OM: 201 East Bridge 1:00pm-2:00pm Monday, Apr. 3 only

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

Lab work is done during class time. There are no lectures.



  1. National Brand 43-648 Lab Notebook (or equivalent)
  2. John R. Taylor, An Introduction to Error Analysis , (2nd edition), University Science Books (1996) ISBN-10: 093570275X

Grades, writeups, and lab notebooks

You must do all the labs and hand in a notebook for each to pass the course.

Grades are based on lab notebooks and homework and are weighted as follows.

Homework 50%
Lab 50%

There are no formal reports. Your writeup is your lab notebook, and you should analyze your data as you do the lab. An example of the initial part of a good lab notebook, see


Do your homeworks on a separate sheet of paper, rather than in your lab notebook, and turn them in at the beginning of class on the day they are due. A designated homework TA will then grade them in class while you work on the lab, so that you can get immediate feedback. If you have any questions you may consult with the homework TA in class. If you want to correct anything you got wrong, you are welcome to do so in class as well. Final deadline for turning in homework is the end of class on the day it is due.


The following schedule applies to all sections and tracks.

Due Dates Reading Taylor Homework Mathematica Homework Lab Notebook Due
Apr. 5-7 Taylor ch. 1-2 Taylor 2.3, 2.19, 2.30 Getting started Lab 1: Session 1
Apr. 12-14 Taylor ch. 3-4 Taylor 3.2, 3.3, 3.26, 3.30, 3.50, 4.13, 4.18 Plotting Lab 1: Session 2 Lab 1
Apr. 19-21 Taylor ch. 5 Taylor 5.4, 5.15, 5.25, 5.28, 5.33, 5.36 Importing Lab 2: Session 1
Apr. 26-28 Taylor ch. 6-7 Taylor 6.3, 6.6, 6.7, 7.4, 7.6 Fitting Lab 2: Session 2 Lab 2
May 3-5 Midterms: Lab Closed Midterms: Lab Closed Midterms: Lab Closed Midterms: Lab Closed Midterms: Lab Closed
May 10-12 Taylor ch. 8 Taylor 8.4, 8.14, 8.23, 8.24 Exporting Lab 3: Session 1
May 17-19 Taylor ch. 9 Taylor 9.7, 9.11, 9.16 Programming Lab 3: Session 2 Lab 3
May 24-26 Taylor ch. 10-11 Taylor 10.10, 10.22, 11.6, 11.9, 11.12 Statistics Lab 4: Session 1
May 31 - Jun. 2 Taylor ch. 12 Taylor 12.2, 12.10, 12.14 Monte-Carlo Methods Lab 4: Session 2 Lab 4

Tracks are arranged according to,

Lab Track 1 Track 2 Track 3
1 Oscilloscope Oscilloscope Oscilloscope
2 Harmonic Oscillator Interferometry Ion Trap
3 Interferometry Ion Trap Harmonic Oscillator
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 March 15, 2017.