8.01 is an introductory course in Classical Mechanics. Mechanics means that it deals with the motion of objects, how that motion changes with time, the conditions required to induce certain types of motion, etc. Classical Mechanics restricts us to circumstances where the speeds we encounter are small compared to the speed of light and the objects we deal with are generally of macroscopic size. Fortunately, almost any situation we are likely to meet in everyday life satisfies these restrictions, so the results of classical mechanics have a wide variety of applications in science and engineering. Furthermore, the most important principles of mechanics - the conservation laws for energy and momentum - can be fully explored within classical mechanics.
Why is 8.01 a required course for MIT students? There are three main reasons, one obvious and two more subtle.
The course will have succeeded in its aims if you come away from it with a grasp of the basic principles governing the motion of objects, a feel for the scientific method, and an understanding of the techniques of problem solving.
This course is designed in a way which is rather different from most of
the other high school and MIT courses you will have encountered. The basic idea
is that you are in charge of your own learning, while we provide you with the
help and resources you will need. In this way you have the opportunity to
structure your studies so that you take maximum advantage of what you already
know (from physics and math courses at your high school, for example) and
concentrate your efforts on material that is new and difficult. We monitor your
progress through weekly homework and quizzes which contribute to your final
Your main resource and the starting point for your week's work is the written Study Guide. Each study guide covers one week's work and contains
Furthermore, many study guides include some supplementary notes which discuss some aspects of the material in a wider context, for example how particular points relate to the real world or how they may be developed into more advanced concepts. You don't need to know this material to get a good grade, but it should provide a starting point if you are curious to see how the artificial-seeming problems you may be doing fit into the rest of physics.
The study guide is designed to be used with the course textbook. The textbook provides the detailed derivations and explanations of the results and formulae quoted in the study guide summary, as well as more worked examples and problems, problem-solving hints, etc. You should certainly buy this book as it contains material essential to the course.
Of course, you're not expected to struggle on alone with only the written word to help. Each week begins with an introductory lecture, given by the Course Examiner. This consists of demonstrations showing you real-life illustrations of the physical principles you will be learning that week, together with brief discussions of important aspects of the material. The Course Examiner is responsible for setting the weekly homework, quizzes, review tests and final exam, and for deciding your final grade, so you might view this lecture as a useful guide to the aspects of the material that he considers important!
Your main source of help above and beyond the written material is your class professor. You will be assigned to a class which meets 3 hours a week; two in groups of no more than 22 students and one on Fridays in a larger group. During the latter there will be a 25 minute weekly quiz. The class time will be split between mini-lectures, teaching problem-solving techniques and answering questions, always concentrating on the more difficult aspects of the week's work. The classes are deliberately kept small so that your professor will be able to give each of you individual attention - you shouldn't hesitate to ask him or her about any aspect of the material that troubles you, whether it's a general concept or a specific problem. However, don't expect the class professors to cover every topic in the study guide: their job is to help you with the tough parts while you handle the straightforward things on your own. Your class professor is not responsible for setting the quizzes or for determining your grade (this is the job of the course examiner); he or she is there to be your ally in ensuring that you get as much as possible out of this course.
In addition, advice on how to solve the homework problems will be broadcast on MIT TV.
There may be weeks when despite your best efforts and the help of all these
resources, you still don't feel confident about some part of the work as the
Friday morning quiz draws near. In this case you have a final line of defense:
an optional two-hour tutorial session on Thursday evening. A number of
class professors and graduate teaching assistants will be available to answer
questions and help you with problems.
Every week you will be asked to write up a few of the homework problems and perhaps the results of an experiment demonstrated in the lecture. These will be graded with particular attention paid to clarity and quality of the answers. In addition, your progress will be monitored by weekly quizzes held during the Friday morning class. Mostly, these will last 25 minutes and cover the work done that week. Three times in the semester there will be a 50-minute review quiz which will cover all the material since the last review quiz. The quizzes will account for as much as 55% of your final grade: see the section on Grading for more details.
The key to success in this course is learning to use the study guides effectively. The material in the guides defines the course content from the point of view of the course examiner, so if you understand the contents of the guides you can be confident of a good grade. Furthermore, the structure of the guides is designed to help you organize your study so that you get through the work in as short a time as possible, while still learning the material effectively and thoroughly.
Each study guide consists of two different types of material. One type defines what you ought to know: this includes the overview, the checklists of aims and new ideas, and the summary. The second type applies this knowledge to problem solving: in this category are the questions, problems, hints, and solutions.
The two most important sections of the guide from an organizational point of view are the Aims checklist and the Summary. The Aims tell you what you are expected to know after completing the week's work: as you progress you should return to them at intervals to decide which you have already achieved and which you still need to work on.
The Summary is the heart of the guide and your main tool for organizing your study. Unless you feel you already understand all the concepts listed in the Aims checklist (in which case you can test your feeling by trying the problems), you will usually start your work by going to the Summary. Each paragraph is cross-referenced to problems in the guide related to the physics summarized in that paragraph.
If the Summary is the main tool for organizing your study, the crucial learning tool is the problem set. You haven't really understood a given topic until you can apply it in solving problems; conversely, the step-by-step process of setting up and solving a problem will often be of more help in grasping a complicated idea than reading an abstract theoretical explan-ation. For that reason, problems come in three varieties:
If you really get hung up on some particular point, try to decide exactly what is causing the trouble. If you think you understand the theory, but can't see how to apply it to a particular problem, pay particular attention to the worked examples (S-type problems). There are also examples in the textbook if the ones in the study guide don't seem to be providing much illumination. If, on the other hand, you can apply the equations mechanically to solve problems, but don't understand where they came from, make sure you have read the textbook, as the Summary itself may not provide much detail. In either case, enlist the help of your class professor, and if necessary drop in to the Thursday tutorial session.
Using this strategy (which is summarized in the flowchart on this page), you should be able to learn the material quickly and effectively. Most weeks you probably won't have to do or study the solution to every problem, though it's a good idea to do at least one problem covering a given topic.
In conclusion, the main things to remember about the study guides are that they define the content of the course, so all quizzes and exams are based on them, that you should work your way outwards from the Summary rather than trying to read the whole thing like a textbook, and that they're there to help you, not as an imposition! If they seem to contain a lot of material, it's because we were trying to ensure that you have everything you might need to help you understand and master the content of the course. Each guide has the same format, so as you proceed through the course you will be able to develop the way of using them that suits you best -- if that turns out to be different from the way suggested here, don't worry about it; you're the best judge of what works for you. For instance, if you find it easier to work from the textbook than the material in the Summary, that's just fine (but make sure you read the Aims and New Ideas checklists to confirm that you've covered everything, as the order of topics in the text is sometimes rather different).
One final note--the study guides have been specially written for this course, and are therefore quite new. We have done our best to ensure that they are as clear and accurate as possible. However, if you find any mistakes or have any comments we would greatly appreciate it if you would let us know: send e-mail to email@example.com or written mail to Prof. W. Busza, room 24-510. You can also send anonymous comments and suggestions by using the feedback page.
The course is divided into 13 sections or "units", each representing one week's work. Working on the principle of simplifying and idealizing situations to explore fundamental concepts, we start by dealing with objects considered as simple point particles (units 1-4) before progressing to interactions of two particles (units 5 and 6) and then to various strategies for handling systems consisting of large numbers of particles, such as solid bodies, liquids and gases (units 7-13).
Unit Title Contents 1 Space, Time and Science Physics and the scientific method; properties of space and time; calculation of velocity and acceleration. 2 Mass, Force and Newton's Laws Definitions of mass and force; Newton's laws and applications; practical and fundamental forces. 3 The Motion of a Point Particle Review problems 4 Energy Kinetic and potential energy; work; conservation of energy; force and potential energy. 5 Systems of Particles Momentum; conservation of momentum; Newton's third law; collisions; internal energy and internal forces. 6 Energy and Momentum Review problems 7 Practical Forces Friction and other dissipative forces. 8 Rotation about an Axis Angular velocity and acceleration; rotational kinetic energy; moment of inertia; torque and angular momentum. 9 Rotation in Three Dimensions Equilibrium for a rigid body; statics; torque and angular momentum as vectors; planetary motions; gyroscopes. 10 Motion of a Rigid Body Review problems 11 Kinetic Theory and the Ideal Gas Model of an ideal gas; pressure; temperature, heat and internal energy. 12 Fluid Mechanics Model of an ideal liquid; buoyancy and Archimedes' Principle; equation of continuity and fluid flow; surface tension. 13 Review Course summary and review problems
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Sept 2 Sept 3 Sept 4 First Sept 5 No Sept 6 Labor Day Registration day of classes evening class 1-hr class Day Sept 9 Sept 10 Sept 11 Sept 12 Sept 13 Unit 1 demo Unit 1 hmw due Unit 1 Quiz Sept 16 Sept 17 Sept 18 Sept 19 Sept 20 Unit 2 demo Unit 2 hmw due Unit 2 Quiz Sept 23 Sept 24 Sept 25 Sept 26 Sept 27 Vacation Unit 3 hmw due Review Quiz 1* Sept 30 Oct 1 Oct 2 Oct 3 Oct 4 (add date) Unit 4 demo Unit 4 hmw due Unit 4 Quiz Oct 7 Oct 8 Oct 9 Oct 10 Oct 11 Unit 5 demo Unit 5 hmw due Unit 5 Quiz Oct 14 Oct 15 Oct 16 Oct 17 Oct 18 Columbus Day Vacation -----> Unit 6 hmw due Review Quiz 2* Oct 21 Oct 22 Oct 23 Oct 24 Oct 25 Unit 7 demo Unit 7 hmw due Unit 7 Quiz Oct 28 Oct 29 Oct 30 Oct 31 Nov 1 Unit 8 demo Unit 8 hmw due Unit 8 Quiz Nov 4 Nov 5 Nov 6 Nov 7 Nov 8 Unit 9 demo Unit 9 hmw due Unit 9 Quiz Nov 11 Nov 12 Nov 13 Nov 14 Nov 15 Veterans' Day Unit 10 hmw due Review Quiz 3* Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 20 (drop Nov 21 Nov 22 Unit 11 demo date) Unit 11 hmw due Unit 11 Quiz Nov 25 Nov 26 Nov 27 Nov 28 Nov 29 Unit 12 demo Thanksgiving Vacation --------- Dec 2 Dec 3 Dec 4 Dec 5 Dec 6 Unit 12 demo Unit 12 hmw due Unit 12 Quiz Dec 9 Dec 10 Dec 11 Last Dec 12 No Dec 13 Concluding day of classes evening class lecture
* Review Quiz 1 covers material from Units 1 through 3; Review Quiz 2 covers Units 4 through 6; Review Quiz 3 covers Units 7 through 10. The final exam includes all 13 units.
Your grade is based on a combination of your marks in the written homework, the nine 25-minute quizzes, the three 50 minute review quizzes, and the three-hour final. The grade for the written homework will primarily be determined by the clarity and quality of the answers. Only the best seven of your nine short quizzes will be taken into account, so although you must work steadily there is no need to panic if you have one bad day. There will be no make-up quizzes. A grade of zero will be assigned for unexcused missed review quizzes. Excuses for these must be requested in advance of the quiz (if you are physically able to do so) from the Course Administrator. Acceptable excuses will be rare and will be granted only for verifiable and significant medical reasons. Excuses which are not acceptable include doctor's appointments, malfunctioning alarm clocks, the advent of daylight savings time, oversleeping for any reason, travel delays or travel plans, etc.
The contribution each test component makes to your grade is shown in the table. To ensure uniformity, the review quizzes and the final will be team graded. The 25-minute quizzes and written homework are respectively graded by your class professor and a student grader, but these grades will be normalized using the results of the team-graded exams. The final decision on your grade rests with the Course Examiner.
Test Contribution Written homework 10% 25-minute quizzes 25% Review quizzes 30% Final 35%