Energy (PHYS*3080)

Code and section: PHYS*3080*01

Term: Winter 2010

Instructor: Iain Campbell


Course Information


Students taking this course must have one 0.5 credit course in Physics at the 100 level (excluding PHYS*1020, PHYS*1600, PHYS*1800, PHYS*1810), and one 0.5 credit Mathematics course at the 100 level (excluding MATH*1040 and MATH*1050). Any student who has somehow enrolled without having these prerequisites must immediately consult the instructor.


Lecturer Email
Dr. J.L. Campbell

Course Materials


Energy, Physics and the Environment; by McFarland, Hunt and Campbell (new 3rd edition - Thomson Publishing 2006). NOT any previous edition.


The lectures are in Powerpoint format and are made available in pdf format on the course website.

Course Objectives

While this course shares in the University’s set of broad course objectives laid out in the Undergraduate Calendar, it has the following two specific objectives:

  1. To assist students to assess critically the important current debates on energy and the environmental impacts of its generation and use. This will be done by conveying information, indicating web and other data sources, developing models, and performing calculations on resources, various energy types, and their impacts on environment. Relevant basic Physics will be discussed but not in great depth or mathematical detail. Students will obtain a broad understanding of current resources, technologies and their limitations, and a realistic appreciation of what may be feasible in the future.
  2. To develop students’ proficiency in carrying out simple calculations on energy issues. The prescribed text offers a large number of numerical problems at the end of each chapter, and it is important that students attempt a significant number of these. Such problems will constitute the major portion of the mid-term and the final examinations.

Course Content

The lectures (and Powerpoint files) will follow the textbook closely, but topical material will be added to keep the course as up-to-date as possible. Text material will be supplemented by material from various websites. Some portions of the text will not be covered in the lectures: the instructor will indicate during class those portions that students are expected to cover on their own and which may be included in examinations. All other material in the text and the lectures may be drawn upon in examinations. From time to time the lecturer will solve example problems from the text, and will indicate media articles pertinent to the material being covered.

For full detail re content, see the textbook. Broad topics, in sequence, are: Energy types, units, sources, consumption, resources, resource modelling; Energy conversion and thermodynamics, efficiency; Fossil fuels and the environment, air pollution; Electromagnetic radiation, greenhouse effect; Electricity, magnetism, power generation and transmission, health effects; Atomic nucleus and radioactivity, nuclear energy, fission, reactors, safety and health effects, fusion; Renewable energies – solar, wind, wave, tidal, biomass; Energy use in residential, commercial, industrial sectors; Transportation and the automobile; New technologies, hydrogen currency; energy storage; carbon sequestration. Realistic appraisal of what happens when oil and gas run out.

Course websites

Follow the links from the university website to Physics 3080 for administrative details, Powerpoint lectures in pdf format, and useful links to other websites.

Also gives access to:

  • various applets for demonstrating concepts, eg generation of AC electricity, the Otto cycle in car engines, etc;
  • remedial tutorials on prerequisite material that you may not have studied recently.


Assessment Weight Notes
Problem assignments (A) 20% 4 problem sets
Mid-term exam (MT) 35% Part 1 in lecture on Wed. 10 Feb,
Part 2 in lecture on Friday 12 Feb
duration 1.5 hours total.
Final examination (F) 45% This will cover the entire course: duration 2 hours.

To pass the course, a student must achieve a passing grade on the MT+F component (80%); thus a student’s final grade will be the sum of their MT+F+A marks EXCEPT in the case where they fail on MT+F (<40/80) but achieve enough assignment marks to take the total mark to >50. In this special case a final grade of 1.25 x (MT+F) mark will be awarded. In other words, a student cannot pass the course by virtue of assignments if they have failed the remainder of the course.
The midterm and the final exam will each contain two sections: (i) short questions that probe understanding of concepts; (ii) substantial numerical problems: in part (ii) students may use the textbook, but not in part (i). Marks will be deducted for errors in spelling, grammar, etc. Many of the problems in the text are drawn from previous examinations, and students are very strongly recommended to practice with these problems.

Course Policies


Students are strongly recommended to attend classes; the lectures will contain additional material beyond the text book on topical and current energy issues. All material delivered in lectures can be the basis for exam and mid-term questions. Students who have another course scheduled simultaneously with PHYS*3080 will only be admitted under specific conditions that must be negotiated with the instructor.

Ensure NOW that you do not have mid-term or final exam conflicts. It will not be possible to schedule additional exams to cover such conflicts.
Illness, Absence etc: Please consult the Undergraduate Calendar section on Undergraduate Degree Regulations and Procedures. If you miss a problem assignment due date or the mid-term examination because of illness or compassionate reasons, contact the lecturer promptly for possible academic consideration.

Plagiarism and academic misconduct

Although students are encouraged to debate and share ideas, all material submitted for grading must be each student’s own work. Suspected academic misconduct will be dealt with as per the University Undergraduate Calendar.