cod. 1000976

Academic year 2019/20
1° year of course - Annual
- Massimo SOLZI
Academic discipline
Fisica sperimentale (FIS/01)
Discipline fisiche
Type of training activity
104 hours
of face-to-face activities
12 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

At the end of the course, the student is expected to be able to:

[Knowledge and understanding]

- know the fundamental laws of classical Mechanics of material point and of Thermodynamics, with particular focus on kinematics, Newton’s laws and conservation principles;
- know the main aspects of the dynamics of systems of material points and of rigid bodies, gravitation, oscillatory and wave phenomena and of the Theory of Special Relativity;
- explain the origin of the depicted phenomena on the basis of experimental findings and of mathematical methods, on the basis of the outlined physical models;

[Applying knowledge and understanding]

- assess similarities and differences between physical systems, methodologies to be applied, approximations and mathematical methods to be used;
- apply knowledge and understanding by demonstrating ability to solve exercises and problems of classical mechanics and thermodynamics;

[Learning skills]

- interpret and understand the content of basic texts on topics of classical mechanics and thermodynamics;
- utilize the methodological approach of the Newtonian formulation of Mechanics as a conceptual basis for the formalization of topics in Physics addressed in more advanced courses;

[Making judgments]

- recognize and draw connections not only between different parts of the course but also with the basic concepts acquired in other courses (for example maths and chemistry) for developing an ability for autonomous judgment based on an enlarged knowledge of the various aspects of the problem under consideration;
- evaluate critically the validity limits of the developed models;

[Ability to communicate]

- communicate the product of this study in a clear, synthetic and effective manner, using the correct jargon of Physics, in order to translate correctly even complex concepts in understandable language.


• Working knowledge of high school level algebra and trigonometry;
• Working knowledge of differential and integral calculus;
• Principles of analytical geometry and of elementary vector analysis.

Course unit content

Part I

1. Mechanics: introduction and vector calculus
2. Kinematics of material point: one-dimension
3. Kinematics of material point: two- and three-dimension
4. Dynamics of material point: force and Newton’s laws
5. Applications of Newton’s laws
6. Relative motion
7. Work and mechanical energy

Part II

8. Dynamics of the systems of material points I
9. Dynamics of the systems of material points II
10. Dynamics of the rigid body I
11. Dynamics of the rigid body II: statics and rolling motion
12. Dynamics of the rigid body III: angular momentum conservation
13. Energy conservation
14. Collisions

Part III

15. Gravitation I: phenomenology and Newton’s law
16. Gravitation II: notes on the formal treatment
17. Oscillatory phenomena
18. Essentials on the mechanical properties of solids
19. Statics and dynamics of ideal fluids
20. Essentials on the mechanical properties of real fluids
21. Wave phenomena
22. Elastic waves

Part IV (only for students of the Degree in Physics)

23. Thermology and ideal gases
24. Heat and first law of thermodynamics
25. Applications of the first law of thermodynamics
26. Second law of thermodynamics
27. Entropy
28. Essentials on the Special Relativity theory I: kinematics
29. Essentials on the Special Relativity theory II: linear momentum, energy

Full programme

Part I [3 CFU]

1. Introduction and recalls of vector analysis
Classical Mechanics and Thermodynamics; Physics and measurements; physical quantities and units. Basic vector operations: general properties of vectors; unit vectors; vector components; dot product and cross product; rectangular coordinates in 2-D and 3-D; vector derivatives.
2. Kinematics of Material Point: one-dimension
Material Point scheme. Position, velocity, acceleration vectors: constant-velocity and constant-acceleration motion. Free body fall. Harmonic motion.
3. Kinematics of Material Point: two- and three-dimension
Cartesian and polar coordinates representation, intrinsic representation of trajectory, position, velocity and acceleration. Planar motions: projectile motion; circular motion; centripetal acceleration; angular Kinematics.
4. Dynamics of material point: Force and Newton’s laws
Interactions, the conception of force; Newton’s laws; inertial reference systems; mass and weight; linear momentum and its conservation, general form of the Newton’s 2nd law, impulse and impulse theorem, angular momentum and its conservation, theorem of angular momentum.
5. Applications of Newton’s laws
Contact forces: tension, normal force; forces of static and dynamic friction; elastic force and Hooke’s law. Dynamics of the uniform circular motion: centripetal force. Simple pendulum and conical pendulum.
6. Relative motion
Inertial frames of reference: Galilean relativity. Non-inertial frames of reference, fictitious forces. Rotating frames of reference: Coriolis’ force. The earth frame of reference. Roto-translational motion.
7. Work and mechanical Energy
Work of a constant and of a variable force; work-energy theorem for a particle. Power. Conservative and non-conservative forces; potential energy: elastic, gravitational; mechanical energy and its conservation in isolated conservative systems.

Part II [3 CFU]

8. Dynamics of the systems of material points I
System of material points, centre of mass and its motion; theorem of centre of mass motion; linear momentum and its conservation; centre of mass reference system. Two-bodies system: relative velocity and acceleration; momentum and energy; motion equation. Variable-mass systems; rocket equation.
9. Dynamics of the systems of material points II: angular momentum, work and energy
Angular momentum of a system of particles; theorem of angular momentum; angular momentum and frames of reference. Dynamics fundamental equations and Newton’s third law. Work and work-energy theorem. Koenig theorem for kinetic energy; kinetic energy and reference frames.
10. Dynamics of the rigid body I
Discrete and continuous system; rigid body scheme, density, centre of mass; translation, rotation and roto-translation: kinematics of rigid bodies; moment of inertia; Huygens-Steiner’s theorem; axial angular momentum, precession of angular momentum; law of motion for rigid rotation around a fixed axis.
11. Dynamics of the rigid body II: statics and rolling motion
System of parallel forces and centre of gravity. Static equilibrium of a rigid body. Rolling motion of rigid bodies. Work and kinetic energy in the rotational and roto-translational motions.
12. Dynamics of the rigid body III: angular momentum conservation
Components of the axial angular momentum, precession; rotational equilibrium. Angular momentum conservation. Koenig theorem for the angular momentum. Short account on precessional motion of rigid bodies: gyroscopes, spinning top; nutation.
13. Energy conservation
Generalization of the principle of conservation of mechanical energy; work of external forces; internal energy for a system of particles; energy conservation for a system of particles; energy associated to the centre of mass.
14. Collisions
Definition of collision; impact forces; impulse and impulse theorem; conservation principles in collisions; one-dimensional elastic collisions; inelastic collisions; angular impulse, moment of body impulse; collisions between particles and rigid bodies.

Part III [3 CFU]

15. Gravitation I: phenomenology and Newton’s law
Motion of planets and satellites: Kepler laws; Newton’s gravitation law; measurement of constant G; inertial and gravitational mass; gravity near the Earth surface. Spherical distribution of mass (shells theorems). Gravitational potential energy, escape velocity: motion of artificial satellites. Central forces.
16. Gravitation II: notes on the formal treatment
Orbits and Kepler’s laws; energy and orbits. Short account on gravitational field and potential, Gauss’s theorem and its application to the problem of spherical mass distribution.
17. Essentials on the mechanical properties of solids
Compression and tension, generalized Hooke’s law; Poisson law, volume deformation; shear deformation; torsion and torsion balance; uniform compression, pressure.
18. Statics and dynamics of ideal fluids
Static equilibrium of a fluid; Stevin and Pascal laws; atmospheric pressure: barometric equation; Archimedean principle and buoyancy. Motion of an ideal fluid, flux lines and flux tubes, continuity equation, Bernoulli’s theorem.
19. Essentials on the mechanical properties of real fluids
Surface tension; Laplace formula; capillary phenomena; Jurin’s law. Laminar flow; viscosity; Hagen-Poiseuille law; turbulent flow, Reynolds number; motion of a body immersed in a fluid; mean resistance.
20. Oscillatory phenomena
One-dimensional oscillating systems; simple harmonic motion; energy in the simple harmonic motion; connection with the uniform circular motion; applications: simple, physical and torsion pendulums; damped free oscillations; forced oscillations and resonance.
21. Wave phenomena
Wave and wave function; phase and phase velocity; harmonic waves, plane waves; D’Alembert equation and its solutions; superposition principle; interference of harmonic waves; standing waves; beats.
22. Elastic waves
Propagation of a transverse wave on a string; standing waves on a string, harmonic series. Propagation of a pressure longitudinal wave in a gas; sound speed; sound wave intensity; standing longitudinal waves.

Part IV [3 CFU] (only for students of the Degree in Physics)

23. Thermology and gases
Thermodynamic system and coordinates; equations of state; thermodynamic processes. Zero-th law of thermodynamics, thermal equilibrium. Temperature: scales and methods of measurements. Thermal expansion of solids. Macroscopic properties of gases. Kelvin temperature scale. Equation of state of an ideal gas. Constant-volume gas thermometer. Kinetic theory of gases: pressure and temperature of ideal gases. Mean free path of molecules and molecular speed distribution.
24. Heat and first law of thermodynamics
Joule experiments; mechanical equivalent of heat. Reversible and irreversible processes. Heat; specific, molar and latent heat. Phase transitions. Calorimetry. Heat propagation. Work in thermodynamic processes. First law of thermodynamics.
25. Application of first law of thermodynamics
Examples: thermodynamic processes and cycles. Internal energy of an ideal gas. Molar heat of ideal gases. Molecular degrees of freedom and theorem of energy equipartition. Mayer relation. Isothermal, isobaric, isochoric and adiabatic process of an ideal gas.
26. Second law of thermodynamics
Heat engines and heat pumps. Thermal efficiency. Kelvin-Planck and Clausius enunciations of second law. Reversible Carnot cycle. Thermal efficiency of the Carnot cycle. Carnot’s theorem. Absolute temperature scale. Clausius’ theorem.
27. Entropy
Definition of entropy. Entropy and second law: the entropy-increase principle. Examples of determination of entropy variation for reversible and irreversible processes. Third law of thermodynamics. Short account on the statistical interpretation of entropy.
28. Essentials on the Special relativity theory I: kinematics
Problems of classical physics: time, length, speed, energy, light; postulates of special relativity; consequences of the postulates: relativity of time and length; relativistic velocity addition. Lorentz transformations; Measurement of the space-time coordinates of an event; relativistic velocity transformation; relativity of simultaneity.
29. Essentials on the Special relativity theory II: linear momentum, energy
Short account on space-time diagrams, four-vectors and Lorentz matrices; Newton’s second law; relativistic collisions: relativistic linear momentum and kinetic energy; relativistic total energy, mass and rest energy, conservation of energy and linear momentum.


Suggested textbooks

• Fisica Generale. Meccanica – Termodinamica
P. Zotto, S. Lo Russo, P. Sartori
I edizione
Edizioni La Dotta, Casalecchio di Reno (Bologna), 2016
ISBN 978-88-98648-37-5

• Fisica Generale: Meccanica e Termodinamica
S. Focardi, I. Massa, A. Uguzzoni e M. Villa
II edizione
Casa Editrice Ambrosiana (CEA), Milano, 2014
ISBN 978-8808-18215-9

• Elementi di Fisica – Meccanica - Termodinamica
P. Mazzoldi, M. Nigro e C. Voci
II edizione
Edizioni Scientifiche ed Universitarie (EdiSES), Napoli, 2008
ISBN: 9788879594189

Meccanica - Acustica - Termodinamica
R. Resnick, D. Halliday, K. S. Krane
V edizione
Casa Editrice Ambrosiana (CEA), Milano, 2003
ISBN 978-8808-08611-2

Note on textbook choice

The textbooks are obviously alternative, although in part complementary. The students must make the choice based on personal preferences and previous preparation. Resnick’s textbook is less formal and with a ”tutorial" style, with many exercises and examples; Focardi’s and Zotto’s textbooks are most formally accurate, with some examples and a few or nothing exercises; Mazzoldi’s textbook, while presenting examples and exercises, is rather synthetic though preserving a formal exactness.

Teaching methods

The teaching methodology will be based primarily on frontal lecturing, with help of audio-visual multimedia instruments. The slides used to support lessons will be uploaded weekly on the Elly platform (Department of Mathematical, Physical and Computer Sciences: To download slides, you need to enrol in the online course.
The second part of the lesson will normally be devoted to the solution of problems and exercises, under the supervision of the teacher. A selection of exercises and problems for each topic will be uploaded weekly on the Elly platform.

Assessment methods and criteria

Evaluation methods:

The assessment of the acquisition of learning outcomes will take place through mid-term exams in written form and a final exam in oral and (if necessary) written form. A provisional grade will be proposed to the students if the comprehensive grade of the mid-term exams is above a specific threshold (average grade equal to or higher than 18/30). In order to sustain the oral exam, which will aim to assign the final grade, students must enrol for it (registration to the oral exam on the ESSE3 web platform). The exemption from the written test examination and the assigned provisional grade will retain their validity for all the exams of the 2019/20 academic year (from June 2020 to February 2021).

If a student wishing to participate in the medium-term exams is unable to sustain one of them for demonstrable reasons (illness, work, or other impediments), he has the possibility to recover the lost exam during the oral exam, provided that: (1) he forewarned the teacher of the impossibility to participate in one of the medium-term examinations; (2) he has obtained an average evaluation of the remaining medium-term exams equal to or higher than 18/30.

The final exam, in written and oral form, is mandatory for the students having an insufficient grade of mid-term exams or do not giving the intermediate exams. In such a case, the students have to register to the written exam on the ESSE3 web platform and they will be considered eligible for the oral exam if they reach an assessment equal to or greater than 18/30.
During each of the written mid-term exams, the student will be asked to:
- demonstrate the knowledge and understanding of specific course topics, through open questions (typically 4-5), which will require the use of the technical correct jargon of Physics and synthesis skills (total weight 15 points);
- demonstrate the ability to apply knowledge and understanding by solving some problems (typically 2-3) related to specific course topics (total weight 15 points).
The written mid-term exams will be evaluated in 30-point scale. Each written exam will last 2.5 hours and will have to be done without the help of notes or books. The results of written exams will be notified by posting them on the ESSE3 web platform.
The written final exam will have a similar structure but problems and questions will cover all the topics of the course program and will last 3 hours.
During the oral exam, the student will be asked to:
- demonstrate the development of an autonomous judgment based on the knowledge and understanding of the fundamental laws of classical mechanics and of thermodynamics, by discussing the carried out written exams (final or mid-term) and deepening of theoretical arguments, drawing connections between the various parts and with basic concepts acquired in other courses;
- be able to use the correct technical-specialist language of Physics so that complex concepts can be translate correctly into an understandable language.
The oral exam will be evaluated in 30-point scale. The final grade will result from the arithmetic mean of the grades of written final exam (or the comprehensive grade of the mid-term written exams) and oral exam.

Other information

Office hours: Wednesday, 12.30-13.30 or upon appointment