PHYS*1080 Physics for Life Sciences

Semester(s) Offered:

Semester Instructor(s) Course Outline(s) Course Website
Fall 2018
Winter 2019

Calendar Description

This course discusses aspects of classical physics with particular emphasis on topics of importance in the biological and environmental sciences. Topics include mechanics and applications to anatomical problems, fluid statics and dynamics, molecular motion, diffusion, osmosis, and heat.

Planning Your Program

Course Prerequisites

(1 of 4U Physics, Grade 12 Physics, PHYS*1020, PHYS*1300), one 4U or Grade 12 Mathematics course


IPS*1500, PHYS*1000

Course Content


The primary objective is the presentation of selected principles and topics in physics with applications to living organisms. A second objective is the enhancement of skills in quantitative analysis and problem solving. Further, the method of presentation (modules, study guide) develops skills in time management, self-study and self motivation. At the conclusion of the course the student will have increased awareness that the principles and methods of physics are applicable to living systems. The University's Learning Objectives best served by this course are Numeracy, Depth and Breadth of Understanding, Understanding Forms of Inquiry, Literacy and hopefully Love of Learning. The specific topics chosen for PHYS*1080 (mechanics with an emphasis on fluid mechanics) make it particularly suited for students in the biological sciences or environmental science.

Material Covered

A Series of Lectures: Vectors, Kinematics (projectile motion) Newton's Laws, friction, linear momentum Systems in equilibrium; torque Elastic properties of solids Some aspects of scaling Work and Energy Rotation: Kinematics, energy, angular momentum. Fluid Statics: pressure, surface tension, buoyancy (Archimede's Principle). Fluids in Motion: Continuity, Bernoulli's Equation, viscosity, Poiseuille's Law,Streamline and Turbulent Flow, Reynold's Number; applications to blood circulation, aneurysms. Sedimentation on fluids; the centrifuge. Diffusion in fluids. Pressure and particle density in an isothermal atmosphere; related systems (eg Perrin's experiment). Osmotic pressure; isotonic, hypertonic and hypotonic solutions. Some aspects of Heat: specific heat, latent heats, heat transport by conduction, convection and radiation.

Experiments are performed on the following topics:

  • Static Equilibrium (translation and rotation).
  • Elasticity (Young's modulus, shear modulus).
  • Viscosity of liquids using Poiseuille's Law and Terminal Velocity.
  • Density and Surface Tension of Liquids.
  • Diffusion and calculation of molar mass (done as a computer-simulation).

Recommended Readings

  • Physics for the Biological Sciences, 5th Edition, Hallett, Hunt, McFarland, Renninger, Stinson, Sullivan.
  • Current Study Guide/Lab Manual for PHYS*1080



Fall 2018 Course Outline

Previous Course Outlines