Energy (PHYS*3080)

Code and section: PHYS*3080*DE

Term: Winter 2021

Instructor: Ralf Gellert


Course Details

Section: DE
Credit Weight: 0.50

Calendar Description

This course covers energy resources and the production, transmission, interconversion, consumption and waste of energy in the industrial society. Emphasis is placed on environmental impact and human safety. Topics include fossil fuels, nuclear fission and fusion, wind and solar power, the hydrogen economy, and conservation strategies.


IPS*1500 or [(PHYS*1000 or PHYS*1080), (1 of MATH*1000, MATH*1080, MATH*1200)], (1 of IPS*1510, PHYS*1010, PHYS*1070, PHYS*1130)





Method of Delivery


Final Exam

Date: Monday, April 26
Time: 11:30 am ET to 1:30 pm ET

Note: Please read the important information about exam timing in the Assessment Description section under Final Exam in this Outline.
Location: Online via the Quizzes tool in CourseLink using Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor

Instructional Support

Instructor: Ralf Gellert
Telephone: (519) 824-4120 Ext. 53992, during covid, not monitored regularly
Office: MacNaughton Room 450

I am an experimental Physicist and faculty member in the department of Physics since 2005. I received my MSc and PhD in Physics from the Technical University in Darmstadt, Germany, working in the field of Moessbauer-spectroscopy.

Over the last ~20 years I’ve been working on developing, building and operating scientific instruments that use nuclear physics methods to explore the surface of Mars. I’ve been involved in the chemical analysis instrument called APXS and the Moessbauer spectrometer on the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity that landed in 2004 on Mars. In 2012 the new and improved Canadian APXS landed successfully on Mars, which was developed and built in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency and the industrial partner MDA.

Together with my group of post-docs and students here in Guelph I support the daily operations of the APXS in collaboration with the NASA team that runs the Curiosity rover. We investigate further improvements of the instrument for future missions and collaborate with geologists to interpret the APXS results of 3 landing sites on Mars

Teaching Assistant(s)

Name: TBA
Email: TBA

Learning Resources

Required Textbook

Title: Energy, Physics and the Environment
Author(s): E. L. McFarland, J. L. Hunt and J. L. Campbell
Edition / Year: 3rd Edition / 2007
Publisher: Cengage
ISBN: 9781426624339

You may purchase the textbook at the Guelph Campus Co-op Bookstore or the University of Guelph Bookstore. Please note that DE textbooks are located in the Distance Education section of the University of Guelph Bookstore.

Course Website

CourseLink (powered by D2L’s Brightspace) is the course website and will act as your classroom. It is recommended that you log in to your course website every day to check for announcements, access course materials, and follow the weekly schedule and assignment requirements.


For this course, you will be required to access course reserve materials through the University of Guelph McLaughlin Library. To access these items, select Ares on the navbar in CourseLink. Note that you will need your Central Login ID and password in order to access items on reserve.
For further instructions on accessing reserve resources, visit How to Get Course Reserve Materials.

If at any point during the course you have difficulty accessing reserve materials, please contact the e-Learning Operations and Reserve Services staff at:
Tel: 519-824-4120 ext. 53621
Location: McLaughlin Library, First Floor, University of Guelph

Learning Outcomes

Course Learning Outcomes

Energy resources, energy use, and the resulting local and global environmental and health impacts are of enormous importance in today’s world. Very often, the discussion in the public lacks recognition of the underlying scientific basis, and is frequently devoid of useful numbers.

This course will build on what you have already learned in first-year university math, physics, and chemistry to develop a solid understanding of energy basics that can be applied to your personal as well as global energy consumption.

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  1. Describe common energy resources, electrical power generation and its distribution;
  2. Analyze the issues related to each energy source regarding environmental andhealth impact;
  3. Describe the underlying physics of the discussions about global warming, nuclearpower, renewable energy resources, energy transformation, storage andconservation; and
  4. Solve numerical problems related to all the discussed issues.

Teaching and Learning Activities

Method of Learning

Physics is about the solving of problems. You learn the concepts and then you use these concepts to solve problems. Being quantitative is paramount, especially in this course. One cannot have a useful discussion of the huge energy problems that challenge humankind without invoking numbers; How much oil is left? How much and what radioactive waste is produced by a nuclear reactor? What land area needs to be given up to solar collectors or wind turbines to replace conventional power plants? This course teaches you to answer such questions and provide numbers.

Course Structure

The course is divided into 13 units, which are aligned with the 12 semester weeks: The units typically comprise a chapter in the textbook, with introduction, concepts, worked through examples and problems.

What to Expect for Each Unit

Each unit starts with a brief introduction, followed by a list of learning objectives. “What Do You Think?” is a set of questions to ascertain if any possible misconceptions need to be addressed before you move into studying the material. You can check your knowledge at the end of the unit with the same questions in “What Do You Think Now?”. The main body of the unit will guide you working through sections of the textbook. After describing the fundamentals, several in detail worked through examples will show how to apply the learned skills for given problems. Each section contains additional problems that you should work on to solidify the understanding, plus possible additional reading material. Additional information and updates to the unit materials may be posted in the announcement section of the CourseLink webpage.


It is strongly recommended that you follow the detailed course schedule given on CourseLink. Select Content in the navbar and then Outline from the Table of Contents. The schedule outlines what you should be working on each week of the course and lists the important due dates for the assessments. By following the  schedule, you will be better prepared to complete the assessments and succeed in this course.

The course is divided into 13 units, which are aligned with the 12 semester weeks: An assignment will be handed out every two weeks, beginning the first Wednesday. You will have two weeks to work and submit your work.

  • Unit 01: Elementary physics, units, energy consumption, fossil fuels and resource modeling
  • Unit 02: Heat and Thermodynamics
  • Unit 03: Health and environmental impacts of fossil fuels
  • Unit 04: Electromagnetic radiation and the greenhouse effect
  • Unit 05: Electricity I
  • Winter Break: Monday, February 15 to Sunday, February 21
  • Unit 06: Electricity II
  • Unit 07: Nuclear physics
  • Unit 08: Nuclear energy I
  • Unit 09: Nuclear energy II
  • Unit 10: Renewable energy I
  • Unit 11: Renewable energy II
  • Unit 12: Energy use and new technologies
  • Unit 13: The automobile


The grade determination for this course is indicated in the following table.

Table 1: Course Assessments

Assessment Item Weight
Written Problem Assignments (5 x 10%) 50%
Final Examination 50%
Total 100%

Note: In order to pass this course, you must have a passing mark on both the overall grade and the final exam. If you score less than 50% in the final, you will be awarded a maximal final grade of 45%, even if your total score is above 50%.

Assessment Descriptions

Written Problem Assignments

There will be five assignments during the semester. The instructor will post the problems online in the Announcements section. You are expected to submit your solutions as an electronic PDF file before the deadline using the Dropbox (found under the Tools dropdown menu in the course navbar). Procedures to produce PDFs of your handwritten papers will be provided. Some problems from the textbook may be assigned, and others will be at similar levels of difficulty.

Online Final Exam with Respondus Lockdown Browser

This course requires the use of Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor (webcam) to proctor your online final exam within CourseLink. Use of Lockdown Browser with a webcam has been implemented to maintain the academic integrity of the final exam. You must download and install LockDown Browser and Monitor to complete the practice test and final exam. While writing the practice test and final exam, you must show your university issued identification card during the Respondus Startup Sequence.

The final exam will have two sections:

  • Part A (weight 40%): 6 questions that ask you to explain concepts in your own words. You can choose 4 of the 6 questions.
  • Part B (weight 60%): 4 problems similar to the ones in assignments, which require analytical and/or mathematical reasoning. You can choose 3 to work on.

The finals will be closed book, but you are allowed to prepare and use two letter sized pieces of paper with your notes for the final.

The final exam will be delivered online via the Quizzes tool. The exam is 2 hours in length and will be held on Monday, April 26. To accommodate students who may be located in various time zones, the exam will be available beginning at 11:30 am to 12:30 pm Eastern Time (ET). You can enter the exam at any point during this window of time but will only have 2 hours to complete it from when you start writing. For example, if you start writing the exam by 12:00 pm, you will have until 2:00 pm to complete it. After 12:30 pm ET you will no longer be able to enter the exam environment.

Similar to a sit-down exam where you must arrive prior to the start of the exam, it is highly recommended that you enter the online exam environment in Respondus at least 20-30 minutes before the end of the available window to allow enough time for you to complete the Respondus Startup Sequence and ensure that you have the full two hours for the exam.

Please be sure to review the Using Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor instructions by selecting Content on the navbar to locate Assessments in the table of contents panel.

Important Note: There is a mandatory practice test that you are required to take before the online exam. The purpose of the practice test is to ensure that Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor is set up properly and that you are comfortable using the software.

If you have any questions regarding the use of Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor or if you encounter any technical issues during the practice test or final exam, please contact CourseLink Support at or 519-824-4120 ext. 56939.

University of Guelph degree and associate diploma students must check WebAdvisor for their examination schedule. Open Learning program students must check the Open Learning Program Final Examination Schedule for their examination schedule.

Course Technologies and Technical Support

CourseLink System Requirements

You are responsible for ensuring that your computer system meets the necessary system requirements. Use the browser check tool to ensure your browser settings are compatible and up to date. (Results will be displayed in a new browser window).

Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor Requirements

Respondus LockDown Browser is a locked browser for taking quizzes in CourseLink. It prevents you from printing and copying; using other operating software; using search engines (e.g., going to another URL); communicating via instant messaging; and it blocks non-web-related software (e.g., Adobe PDF, Microsoft Word).

Respondus Monitor is a companion application for LockDown Browser that uses webcam and video technology to ensure academic integrity during online exams. The software captures video during the exam and allows the instructor to review the video once the exam is completed.

In order to use Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor, you must meet the following technical requirements so that you can take the practice test and final exam:

  1. Operating Systems: Windows 10, 8, 7; Mac OS X 10.10 or higher.
  2. Memory: Windows 2 GB RAM; Mac 512 MB RAM.
  3. For Mac users: Safari must function properly on the computer.
  4. Mac users must have Adobe Flash Player installed to Safari, even if a different browser is normally used.
  5. Functioning webcam and microphone. The webcam and microphone can be built into your computer or can be the type that plugs in with a USB cable. (You will be required to do an environment scan of your room, so please ensure you can move your computer, laptop or webcam for this scan.)
  6. A broadband Internet connection. It is recommended that you access the Internet via a wired connection.

If you have any concerns about meeting system requirements, contact CourseLink Support. They will work with you to find alternative solutions or make alternative arrangements.

Zoom System Requirements

This course uses Zoom as a video communication tool. A Webcam, a microphone to record video, and headphones/speakers to play back the recording are also needed. In order to use Zoom, you must meet the following technical requirements:

  1. An internet connection – broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE)
  2. Speakers and a microphone – built-in or USB plug-in or wireless Bluetooth
  3. A webcam or HD webcam - built-in or USB plug-in

Technical Skills

As part of your online experience, you are expected to use a variety of technology as part of your learning:

  • Manage files and folders on your computer (e.g., save, name, copy, backup, rename, delete, and check properties);
  • Install software, security, and virus protection;
  • Use office applications (e.g., Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or similar) to create documents;
  • Produce PDF files to upload assignments to Dropbox;
  • Be comfortable uploading and downloading saved files;
  • Communicate using email (e.g., create, receive, reply, print, send, download, and open attachments);
  • Navigate the CourseLink learning environment and use the essential tools, such as Dropbox, Quizzes, Discussions, and Grades (the instructions for this are given in your course);
  • Access, navigate, and search the Internet using a web browser (e.g., Firefox, Internet Explorer); and
  • Perform online research using various search engines (e.g., Google) and library databases.

Technical Support

If you need any assistance with the software tools or the CourseLink website, contact CourseLink Support.

CourseLink Support

University of Guelph
Day Hall, Room 211
Tel: 519-824-4120 ext. 56939
Toll-Free (CAN/USA): 1-866-275-1478

Walk-In Hours (Eastern Time):

Monday thru Friday: 8:30 am–4:30 pm

Phone/Email Hours (Eastern Time):

Monday thru Friday: 8:30 am–8:30 pm
Saturday: 10:00 am–4:00 pm Sunday: 12:00 pm–6:00 pm

Course Specific Standard Statements

Acceptable Use

The University of Guelph has an Acceptable Use Policy, which you are expected to adhere to.

Communicating with Your Instructor

During the course, your instructor will interact with you on various course matters on the course website using the following ways of communication:

  • Announcements: The instructor will use Announcements on the Course Home page to provide you with course reminders and updates. Please check this section frequently for course updates from your instructor.
  • Ask Your Instructor Discussion: Use this discussion forum to ask questions of your instructor about content or course-related issues with which you are unfamiliar. If you encounter difficulties, the instructor is here to help you. Please post general course-related questions to the discussion forum so that all students have an opportunity to review the response. To access this discussion forum, select Discussions from the Tools dropdown menu.
  • Zoom office hours. There will be 2 separate office hours through zoom per week.
  • Email: If you have a conflict that prevents you from completing course requirements, or have a question concerning a personal matter, you can send your instructor a private message by email. The instructor will respond to your email within 48 to 72 hours.

Netiquette Expectations

For distance education courses, the course website is considered the classroom and the same protections, expectations, guidelines, and regulations used in face-to-face settings apply, plus other policies and considerations that come into play specifically because these courses are online.

Inappropriate online behaviour will not be tolerated. Examples of inappropriate online behaviour include:

  • Posting inflammatory messages about your instructor or fellow students;
  • Using obscene or offensive language online;
  • Copying or presenting someone else's work as your own;
  • Adapting information from the Internet without using proper citations or references;
  • Buying or selling term papers or assignments;
  • Posting or selling course materials to course notes websites;
  • Having someone else complete your quiz or completing a quiz for/with another student;
  • Stating false claims about lost quiz answers or other assignment submissions;
  • Threatening or harassing a student or instructor online;
  • Discriminating against fellow students, instructors, and/or TAs;
  • Using the course website to promote profit-driven products or services;
  • Attempting to compromise the security or functionality of the learning management system;
  • Sharing your username and password; and
  • Recording lectures without the permission of the instructor.

Submission of Assignments to Dropbox

All assignments for this course are to be submitted electronically via the online Dropbox tool. When submitting your assignments using the Dropbox tool, do not leave the page until your assignment has successfully uploaded. To verify that your submission was complete, you can view the submission history immediately after the upload to see which files uploaded successfully. The system will also email you a receipt. Save this email receipt as proof of submission.

Be sure to keep a back-up copy of all of your assignments in the event that they are lost in transition. In order to avoid any last-minute computer problems, it is strongly recommended that you save your assignments to a cloud-based file storage (e.g., Google Docs), or send to your email account, so that should something happen to your computer, the assignment could still be submitted on time or re-submitted.
It is your responsibility to submit your assignments on time as specified on the Schedule. Be sure to check the technical requirements and make sure you have the proper computer, that you have a supported browser, and that you have reliable Internet access. Remember that technical difficulty is not an excuse not to turn in your assignment on time. Don’t wait until the last minute as you may get behind in your work.

If, for some reason, you have a technical difficulty when submitting your assignment electronically, please contact your instructor or CourseLink Support.

Collaboration versus Copying

Working together on the course material and textbook and discussing with classmates is good scientific praxis. However, the submitted assignments and the finals must be all your work. It must contain all the steps to get to the results, including rough work and assumptions you made. The assignments are an important piece of your learning experience. Working through the numerical calculations and applying the concepts you have read through will reveal if you fully understood the material and will train your problem-solving skills and prepare you for the finals.

Late Policy

If you choose to submit your individual assignments to the Dropbox tool late, the full allocated mark will be reduced by 10% per begun day after the deadline for the submission of the assignment. Access to the Dropbox folder will be closed typically 2 days after the deadline when the solution of the assignment is posted.

Extensions will be considered for medical reasons or other extenuating circumstances. If you require an extension, discuss this with the instructor as soon as possible and well before the due date. Barring exceptional circumstances, extensions will not be granted once the due date has passed. These rules are not designed to be arbitrary, nor are they inflexible. They are designed to keep you organized, to ensure that all students have the same amount of time to work on assignments, and to help to return marked materials to you in the shortest possible time.

Obtaining Grades and Feedback

Unofficial assessment marks will be available in the Grades tool of the course website.

Your instructor will have grades posted online within 2 weeks of the submission deadline, if the assignment was submitted on time. Once your assignments are marked you can view your grades on the course website by selecting Grades from the Tools dropdown menu on the navbar. Your course will remain open to you for seven days following the last day of the final exam period.

University of Guelph degree students can access their final grade by logging into WebAdvisor (using your U of G central ID). Open Learning program students should log in to the OpenEd Student Portal to view their final grade (using the same username and password you have been using for your courses).

Rights and Responsibilities When Learning Online

For distance education (DE) courses, the course website is considered the classroom and the same protections, expectations, guidelines, and regulations used in face-to-face settings apply, plus other policies and considerations that come into play specifically because these courses are online.

For more information on your rights and responsibilities when learning in the online environment, visit Rights and Responsibilities.

University Standard Statements

University of Guelph: Undergraduate Policies

As a student of the University of Guelph, it is important for you to understand your rights and responsibilities and the academic rules and regulations that you must abide by.

If you are a registered University of Guelph Degree Student, consult the Undergraduate Calendar for the rules, regulations, curricula, programs and fees for current and previous academic years.

If you are an Open Learning Program Student, consult the Open Learning Program Calendar for information about University of Guelph administrative policies, procedures and services.

Email Communication

As per university regulations, all students are required to check their e-mail account regularly: e-mail is the official route of communication between the University and its students.

When You Cannot Meet Course Requirements

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement due to illness or compassionate reasons, please advise your course instructor in writing, with your name, ID number and email contact.

University of Guelph Degree Students

Consult the Undergraduate Calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration.

Open Learning Program Students

Please refer to the Open Learning Program Calendar for information on regulations and procedures for requesting Academic Consideration.

Drop Date

University of Guelph Degree Students

Students will have until the last day of classes to drop courses without academic penalty. Review the Undergraduate Calendar for regulations and procedures for Dropping Courses.

Open Learning Program Students

Please refer to the Open Learning Program Calendar.

Copies of Assignments

Keep paper and/or other reliable back-up copies of all assignments: you may be asked to resubmit work at any time.


The University of Guelph is committed to creating a barrier-free environment. Providing services for students is a shared responsibility among students, faculty and administrators. This relationship is based on respect of individual rights, the dignity of the individual and the University community's shared commitment to an open and supportive learning environment.

University of Guelph Degree Students

Students requiring service or accommodation, whether due to an identified, ongoing disability or a short-term disability should contact Accessibility Services as soon as possible.

For more information, contact Accessibility Services at 519-824-4120 ext. 56208, email Accessibility Services or visit the Accessibility Services website.

Open Learning Program Students

If you are an Open Learning program student who requires academic accommodation, please contact the Academic Assistant to the Director. Please ensure that you contact us before the end of the first week of your course (every semester) in order to avoid any delays in support. Documentation from a health professional is required for all academic accommodations. Please note that all information provided will be held in confidence.

If you require textbooks produced in an alternate format (e.g., DAISY, Braille, large print or eText), please contact the Academic Assistant to the Director at least two months prior to the course start date. If contact is not made within the suggested time frame, support may be delayed. It is recommended that you refer to the course outline before beginning your course in order to determine the required readings.

The provision of academic accommodation is a shared responsibility between OpenEd and the student requesting accommodation. It is recognized that academic accommodations are intended to “level the playing field” for students with disabilities.

Academic Misconduct

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community – faculty, staff, and students – to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring. University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection.

Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Copyright Notice

Content within this course is copyright protected. Third party copyrighted materials (such as book chapters and articles) have either been licensed for use in this course, or have been copied under an exception or limitation in Canadian Copyright law.

The fair dealing exemption in Canada's Copyright Act permits students to reproduce short excerpts from copyright-protected materials for purposes such as research, education, private study, criticism and review, with proper attribution. Any other copying, communicating, or distribution of any content provided in this course, except as permitted by law, may be an infringement of copyright if done without proper license or the consent of the copyright owner. Examples of infringing uses of copyrighted works would include uploading materials to a commercial third-party web site, or making paper or electronic reproductions of all, or a substantial part, of works such as textbooks for commercial purposes.

Students who upload to CourseLink copyrighted materials such as book chapters, journal articles, or materials taken from the Internet, must ensure that they comply with Canadian Copyright law or with the terms of the University’s electronic resource licenses.

For more information about students’ rights and obligations with respect to copyrighted works, review Fair Dealing Guidance for Students.

Plagiarism Detection Software

Students should be aware that faculty have the right to use software to aid in the detection of plagiarism or copying and to examine students orally on submitted work. For students found guilty of academic misconduct, serious penalties, up to and including suspension or expulsion from the University can be imposed.

Recording of Materials

Presentations which are made in relation to course work—including lectures—cannot be recorded or copied without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a classmate or guest lecturer. Material recorded with permission is restricted to use for that course unless further permission is granted.


Please note that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may necessitate a revision of the format of course offerings and academic schedules. Any such changes will be announced via CourseLink and/or class email. All University-wide decisions will be posted on the COVID-19 website and circulated by email.


The University will not normally require verification of illness (doctor's notes) for Fall 2020 or Winter 2021 semester courses. However, requests for Academic Consideration may still require medical documentation as appropriate.