Course Description

Ph1b Analytical
9 units (4-0-5)
Prerequisites: Ph1a
Offered second term W,F 11:00-11:55 East Bridge 201 

Introductory course on special relativity and electromagnetism for freshmen, with emphasis on physical intuition in problem-solving and utilizing vector calculus techniques. No laboratory work is required.


David Hsieh
152 West Bridge, x4758
dhsieh AT caltech.edu

Head TA

Aidan Chatwin-Davies

409 Downs-Lauritsen, x6650, achatwin AT caltech.edu

Course Administrator

Meagan Heirwegh

253 Sloan, heirwegm AT caltech.edu


Web Page

The web site for the course is https://sites.google.com/site/ph1bacaltechwinter2017/
We will begin the term by studying the Special Theory of Relativity for 4 weeks. We will then study electricity and magnetism for the remainder of this term and the 3rd term.

For comments on the web page contact achatwin AT caltech.edu

Section Changes

You are encouraged to find a recitation section that is both enjoyable and beneficial. Section 9 is recommended for students who want more challenging problems and coverage of advanced and supplemental material. All other sections will cover similar material. If you decide to change sections, first get the signature of the instructor of the new section on your yellow card. Then get the course secretary to sign the drop column of the yellow card. Room assignments are sometimes changed by the instructors: the course secretary and the Ph 1b web page should have the most up-to-date information.


There are 2 required textbooks for this course:

  1. Special Relativity, by T.M. Helliwell
  2. Electricity and Magnetism, Berkeley Physics Course, by Edward Purcell and David Morin (3rd edition)
There will be highly recommended supplemental reading in div, grad, curl and all that by Schey. A useful alternative text on special relativity is Special Relativity by French, and supplemental notes written by David Hogg (former Phys1b TA) are posted on line. There are two other texts on electricity and magnetism which you may find useful for supplementary reading: Halliday and Resnick, and Feynman Volume II. Halliday and Resnick is mathematically and conceptually less sophisticated than Purcell. These books are on reserve in the library for your convenience.

Homework Assignments

Homework will be due Wednesdays (see calendars) by 4 PM outside of lecture Hall (201 E. Bridge), sorted by section. You may hand in your homework anytime from the afternoon of the day before it is due until 4 PM on the due date. Each problem should be labeled with the student's name and section number. For prompt and accurate grading, please follow the guidelines for writing your homeworks and quizzes. Graded Homework will be returned on the following Thursday in Recitation. Solutions to the HW will be made available on the course web site.

Late HW will be accepted up to one week late for 1/2 credit. If there are extenuating circumstances (e.g., illness), you can request an extension for full credit from the head TA (Aidan) accompanied by a note from the Dean. If granted, please ask Aidan to write a note on your HW before turning it in. Please turn all late HW directly to the head administrator (Meagan, 110 E. Bridge). Do NOT turn in late HW to the regular boxes.

The HW that you turn in must be your own and not copied from others or from the blackboard in recitation. You are encouraged to work on the problems with others and to seek additional help if you find that useful, but the write-up must be your own. Also you may not consult any prepared solutions to the problems from either this year or previous years. As a guideline for the collaboration policy, you should be able to reproduce any solution you hand in without help from anyone else. It is possible to achieve high scores on the homework and still fail the quizzes and final exams. This indicates poor use of the collaboration policy; the object of the homework problems is to help you learn the material.

There are many problems at the end of the chapters in your texts, of which only a fraction are assigned for homework. You may wish to work additional problems to gain more practice. Your TA can assist you in selecting problems. The Dean's office is also organizing study sessions for Ph1b with physics tutors every Monday evening from 8-11pm on the 9th floor of Millikan. 

Solutions to the homework will be posted in the website (no hard copies will be made available). 


Quizzes will be due on four Mondays throughout the term (Jan 23, Feb 6, Feb 21, Mar 6) by 4pm.  The completed problems should be stapled TOGETHER and turned in at the LOCKBOX outside 201 E. Bridge. The quiz should be labelled with the student's name, UID number, and section number. The quizzes will generally cover the material from the previous two weeks.The quizzes will be distributed on the preceding Wednesday at lecture. The quizzes must be worked without collaboration with others.


There will be a final exam covering the entire term, available for pick up March 10 and due March 15. There will be no midterm exam.


Your grade for the course will be determined by your performance on the final exam (40%), quizzes (40%), and homework (20%). A combined grade of 50% is required to pass the course. Your attendance and performance in recitation class and general level of effort may be used as a basis for extra credit according to the judgment of your instructor.

Ombuds Meeting

February 3  @ 12 pm ;  108 E. Bridge

We would like have one ombudsperson from each House. Please feel free to volunteer yourself. Those chosen should notify the course secretary of their identities and email addresses.

 E-Mail (@caltech.edu)
 Chris Long
 Blacker Camilla Ora
 Dabney Jackie Lodman
 Fleming Grant Messner
 Lloyd Jessica Wang
 Page Alex Wuschner
 Michael Rupprecht
 Ricketts Mackenzie Wooten
 Sammy Piascik
 Ruddock Surya Mathialagan