Energy (PHYS*3080)

Code and section: PHYS*3080*DE

Term: Winter 2017

Instructor: Ralf Gellert


Course Information

Pre-Requisites: 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)
Co-Requisites: None
Restriction(s): None
Credits: 0.50
Course Website (If applicable): CourseLink
Method of Delivery: Distance Education, Fully Online


Instructor Office Phone Email
Ralf Gellert MACN 450 (519) 824-4120 Ext. 53992

Office Hours

To facilitate equal opportunities for all students (on and off campus) in person office hours cannot be offered. There will be a discussion forum on the courselink site where general or specific questions can be posted. The instructor will monitor and response to these discussion in a timely matter.

Final Exam: The finals are scheduled for April 22, 2017, 19:00-21:00.

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.

Course Description

Energy resources, energy use, and the resulting health and environmental impacts are hotly debated, and deservedly so. But too much of what is said and written, by politicians, by the media, and by advocates of a wide range of alternatives is devoid of any scientific basis, and far too frequently devoid of useful numbers. This reflects a distressingly widespread lack of basic scientific knowledge. This course will build on what you have already learned in first-year university math, physics, and chemistry to develop an understanding of energy basics. The authors hope that the course will enable you to examine critically what you read and hear in the media, to distinguish facts from myths, and to argue intelligently about these incredibly important issues on which society needs to act soon and decisively.

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 radioactive waste is produced by a nuclear reactor? What land area needs to be given up to solar collectors to supply Nevada’s electricity?

The course teaches you to answer such questions and provide numbers.

Some students believe that all physics problems are solved by applying standard recipes. This is not true. Mindless substitution in recipes and formulas is not what we are about here.

Admittedly, there can be types of problem where standard procedures are appropriate. But the whole point about Energy is that the issues we face are not standard issues -- they are new issues that demand new thinking. And so our text book presents you with problems that are not of the recipe book type -- problems that do not always involve plugging numbers mindlessly into some formula. In these cases, you have to analyze the situation carefully before you start the solution:

  • ask yourself what concepts must be invoked,
  • what bits of physics must be brought together (perhaps from different sections of the book),
  • what is a logical way to think through the challenge in front of you,
  • and what “tools” are at your disposal?

Of course, all this is exactly what happens in real life! Finally, ask if the answer you eventually obtain is reasonable? If you calculate that the amount of coal required to feed a power station for a year is 4 times the mass of the Moon, then you know something is wrong. As we work through the units, we will stress the different tools that they provide for problem-solving

In the classroom version of this course, students can get together to argue about the problems and how to solve them. This is an effective means of learning, and so we try to facilitate something similar here by having a discussion area called “Coffee Shop” where you may chat among yourselves. The instructor will not eavesdrop on these discussions. If a discussion leads you to have somebody seek help from the instructor, the instructor may respond by providing advice to the entire class via the Main Class discussion area.

Help in Problem-solving

In several of the units, you will find solved problems of two types:

  • Socratic problem solutions (SPS) offer you the chance to solve the problem, giving you guidance and re-directing you when you go wrong.
  • Voice-over solutions show you printed solutions, with the instructor describing how each line of the solution is derived. In both approaches, you can stop to think, and the problem will wait for you. You can also work through the problems as many times as you need, always at your own speed.

Course Structure

The course has 13 units, whose subject matter is as follows:

Unit 01 – Elementary physics, units, energy consumption, fossil fuels and resource modeling

  • Forms of energy and energy units
  • Sources of energy
  • Energy consumption
  • Modeling fossil fuel resources and consumption

Unit 02 – Heat and Thermodynamics

  • Temperature, thermal energy, specific and latent heat
  • Laws of thermodynamics
  • Heat engines (refrigerators, heat pumps, air conditioners)

Unit 03 – Health and environmental impacts of fossil fuels

  • Extraction, transport and refining
  • Thermal pollution
  • Air pollution and human health

Unit 04 – Electromagnetic radiation and the greenhouse effect

  • Electromagnetic waves, the electromagnetic spectrum, black-body radiation
  • Solar radiation and energy balance in Earth’s atmosphere
  • The Greenhouse Effect and human-induced change

Unit 05 – Electricity I

  • Charge, current and potential (revision)
  • Resistance, resistivity and DC circuits
  • Electric power
  • Batteries and fuel cells

Unit 06 – Electricity II

  • Natural magnetism, electromagnetism, induction
  • Generation and transmission of AC power
  • Meeting electrical demand
  • Transmission technologies
  • Health effects of electromagnetic fields
  • Hydroelectricity and the environment

Unit 07 - Nuclear physics

  • Structure and stability of atomic nuclei
  • Radioactivity
  • Nuclear reactions
  • Binding energy of nuclei
  • Nuclear fission

Unit 08 – Nuclear energy I

  • Nuclear power reactors in the 20th century
  • Reactor control and safety issues
  • The nuclear fuel cycle and uranium resources

Unit 09 – Nuclear energy II

  • Health effects of radiation
  • Environmental impacts of nuclear power
  • Reactor accidents
  • Innovative 21st century reactor designs

Unit 10 - Renewable energy I

  • Wind energy
  • Tidal energy
  • Wave energy
  • Geothermal energy

Unit 11 - Renewable energy II

  • Solar energy, small-scale and large-scale
  • Biomass energy

Unit 12 – Energy use and new technologies

  • Energy transfer and building insulation
  • Improved efficiency in the residential and commercial sectors
  • Conservation in industry and co-generation
  • Energy storage issues
  • The hydrogen economy
  • Carbon dioxide sequestration

Unit 13 – The automobile

  • Thermodynamics and efficiency of the conventional auto engine
  • Electric automobile, batteries and fuel cells
  • Hybrids

Learning Resources

Required Textbook(s)

Title: Energy, Physics and the Environment
Author(s): E.L. McFarland, J. L. Hunt & J.L. Campbell
Edition / Year: 3rd Edition
Publisher: Nelson Education; Toronto
ISBN: 9781426624339
You may purchase the textbook(s) at the University of Guelph Bookstore or the Guelph Campus Co-op Bookstore.

Course Evaluation

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

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

In order to pass this course, you must have a passing mark on both the overall grade and the final exam. If you score over 50% on the total but receive less than 25 marks on the 50-mark exam, you will be awarded a final grade of 45%.

Course Policies

Assignment Submission

All assignments are to be submitted as PDF files using the electronic Dropbox in the course website. A free tool will be provided to convert scanned images or pictures with your smartphone of your assignment papers to one PDF file. You will be able to access the graded and annotated pdf assignments through courselink.

Technical Requirements

Students are responsible for ensuring that their computer system meets the necessary specific technical requirements of their program.

Technical Support

If you need any assistance with the software tools or the website, contact the Open Learning and Educational Support (OpenEd) Help Desk.

Open Learning and Educational Support

University of Guelph
Day Hall, Room 211

Tel: 519-824-4120 ext. 56939
Toll-Free (CAN/USA): 1-866-275-1478

Hours of Operation (Eastern Time):
Monday - Friday: 8:30am – 8:30pm
Saturday: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Sunday: 12:00pm – 6:00pm

Policies and Procedures

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

University of Guelph Degree Students

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.

Open Learning Program Students

Check your email account (the account you provided upon registration) regularly for important communications, as this is the primary conduit by which the Open Learning and Educational Support will notify you of events, deadlines, announcements or any other official information.

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

The last date to drop one-semester courses, without academic penalty, is indicated in the Schedule section of this course website. See 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 the Student Accessibility Services as soon as possible.

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

Acceptable Use

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

Copyright Notice

All 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, see Fair Dealing Guidance for Students.


The assignment of grades at the University of Guelph is based on clearly defined standards, which are published in the Undergraduate Calendar for the benefit of faculty and students.

Grading System

In courses, which comprise a part of the student's program, standings will be reported according to the following schedule of grades:

Letter Grade Percentage
A+ 90-100
A 85-89
A- 80-84
B+ 77-79
B 73-76
B- 70-72
C+ 67-69
C 64-66
C- 60-62
D+ 57-59
D 53-56
D- 50-52
F 0-49

Statement of Students’ Academic Responsibilities

Your success as a student depends above all on your own response to the opportunities and responsibilities that the university environment provides. The University of Guelph is committed to supporting you in your intellectual development and responding to your individual needs. To this end, a broad network of advising, counselling, and support services is provided to assist you in meeting your personal and academic goals.

For more information on your responsibilities as a student, see Statement of Students’ Academic Responsibilities.

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.

Religious Holidays

Should a student need to miss scheduled tests, mid-term examinations, final examinations, or requirements to attend classes and participate in laboratories for religious reasons, please advise the instructor within two weeks of the distribution of this course outline so that alternate arrangements can be made.