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University Physics: Integrating It All

Shane Larson Northwestern University
Ron Hellings Montana State University

Forthcoming 2024
This introductory physics textbook provides a fundamental framework of core physics topics in a shorter, more engaging, and less expensive text. It includes hundreds of worked examples and problems, and acts as a primer for students eager to know where their physics career is going.

Print Book ISBN: 978-1-940380-19-3
eBook ISBN: 978-1-940380-20-9

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This refreshing new, calculus-based textbook answers a demand from instructors for comprehensive coverage of introductory physics in a clearer, shorter, more engaging and less expensive text. University Physics provides hundreds of worked examples and chapter-ending problems that cover the fundamentals traditional to this course while developing a clear understanding of how the mathematical frameworks learned in calculus connect to and take on physical meaning in their applications to physics. Optional introductions to topics that students are not often exposed to in introductory courses make this new text a brilliant primer for students who are eager to know where their newly launched physics careers will be going.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

1.1. Measurement
1.2. Working with Numbers
1.3. Arithmetic
1.4. Working with units
1.5. Math Requirements
1.6. Some Mathematical Jargon and Notation in Physics
1.7. Summary

2. Velocity and Acceleration

2.1. Coordinate Systems, Reference Frames, and Positions
2.2. Displacement
2.3. Position and Speed
2.4. Velocity
2.5. Straight-line Acceleration: Speeding Up and Slowing Down
2.6. Graphing the Motion
2.7. Constant-acceleration Motion
2.8. Free Fall
2.9. How to Solve Physics Problems
2.10. Variable Acceleration
2.11. Summary

3. Vectors

3.1. Superposition
3.2. Vector and Scalars
3.3. Vector Addition
3.4. Components and Basis Vectors
3.5. Vector Addition (Revisited)
3.6. Summary

4. Two-Dimensional Kinematics

4.1. Coordinate Systems and Position Vectors
4.2. Coordinate Systems and Position Vectors
4.3. Acceleration in Two Dimensions
4.4. Projectile Motion
4.5. Circular Motion and Centripetal Acceleration
4.6. Relative Velocity
4.7. Summary

5. Newton’s Laws

5.1. Newton’s First Law
5.2. Newton’s Second Law
5.3. Newton’s Third Law
5.4. Forces
5.5. Free-Body Diagrams
5.6. Statics
5.7. Summary

6. Forces

6.1. Gravitational Force: Weight
6.2. Normal Force
6.3. Frictional Forces Kinetic and Static
6.4. Problems on an Inclined Plane
6.5. Tension
6.6. Elastic and Spring Forces
6.7. Refrigerator Magnet Force
6.8. Apparent Weight
6.9. Centripetal Force
6.10. Centrifugal and Other Inertial Forces
6.11. Summary

7. Energy

7.1. The Idea of Energy
7.2. Work and the Change in Mechanical Energy
7.3. Power
7.4. The Dot Product
7.5. Work By A Non-Uniform Force: The Definite Integral
7.6. Path Integrals
7.7. Summary

8. Conservative Forces

8.1. Conservative and Non-Conservative Forces
8.2. Finding the Potential Energy
8.3. The Partial Derivative
8.4. Finding the Potential Energy – Revisited
8.5. Graphing the Potential Energy
8.6. Conservation of Energy
8.7. Summary

9. Momentum

9.1. Momentum and Impulse
9.2. Total Momentum
9.3. Center of Mass
9.4. Collisions
9.5. Collisions in Two Dimensions
9.6. Elastic Collisions
9.7. Summary

10. Rotation About a Fixed Axis

10.1. Rotational Kinematics
10.2. Torque About an Axis
10.3. Statics of Extended Bodies
10.4. Fixed-Axis Rotational Dynamics
10.5. Rotational Inertia of Continuous Bodies
10.6. Summary

11. Rotation in Three Dimensions

11.1. The Cross Product
11.2. Angular Momentum
11.3. Principle Axes
11.4. Precession
11.5. Angular Momentum of a Translating and Rotating Body
11.6. Kinetic Energy of a Translating and Rotating Body
11.7. Single-Axis Versus Three Dimensions
11.8. Summary

12. Simple Harmonic Motion

12.1. The Hooke’s Law Problem
12.2. Differential Equations
12.3. Simple Harmonic Motion
12.4. Energy in Simple Harmonic Motion
12.5. Other Harmonic Oscillators
12.6. Summary

13. Damped Driven Oscillators

13.1. Damping
13.2. Damped Harmonic Oscillators
13.3. Inhomogeneous Linear Differential Equations
13.4. Driven Damped Harmonic Oscillators
13.5. Resonance
13.6. Summary

14. Pressure and Fluids

14.1. Pressure
14.2. Pressure in a Fluid
14.3. Pascal’s Principle
14.4. Archimedes’ Principle
14.5. The Equation of Continuity
14.6. Bernoulli’s Equation
14.7. Viscosity and Poiseuille’s Law
14.8. Summary

15. Waves

15.1. Superposition
15.2. Reflection From the Ends
15.3. The Wave Equation
15.4. The Boundary-Value Problem
15.5. Continuous Waves
15.6. Reflection and Transmission at an Interface
15.7. Summary

16. Sound Waves and Standing Waves

16.1. Sound Waves
16.2. The Doppler Effect
16.3. Interference and Beats
16.4. Standing Waves
16.5. Standing Waves On a String
16.6. Reflection of Sound in an Air Column
16.7. Longitudinal Standing Waves
16.8. Summary

17. Thermal Physics

17.1. Temperature
17.2. Thermal Expansion
17.3. Specific Heat
17.4. Latent Heats
17.5. Energy Transfer
17.6. Heat Conduction
17.7. Summary

18. Thermodynamics

18.1. The Kinetic Theory of Gases
18.2. The Ideal Gas Law
18.3. Molecular Speed Distribution in a Gas
18.4. Energy and the First Law
18.5. Specific Heats of a Gas
18.6. Thermodynamic Processes
18.7. Entropy and the Second law
18.8. Summary

19. Electric Forces and Fields

19.1. Charge
19.2. Coulomb’s Law
19.3. Induction and Polarization
19.4. Electric Fields
19.5. Continuous Distributions of Charge
19.6. Electric Field Lines
19.7. Electric Flux and Gauss’s Law
19.8. Summary

20. Electric Potential

20.1. The Gravitational Potential
20.2. The Electric Potential
20.3. Fields and Potentials
20.4. Uniformly Charged Parallel Plates
20.5. Equipotential Surfaces
20.6. Capacitance
20.7. Polarization and Dielectrics
20.8. Energy in a Capacitor
20.9. Summary

21. Electric Circuits

21.1. Current and Wires
21.2. Batteries
21.3. Resistors and Light Bulbs
21.4. Energy and Power in Circuit Elements
21.5. Circuits
21.6. Equivalent Resistance
21.7. Kirchoff’s Laws
21.8. RC Circuits
21.9. Summary

22. Magnetic Forces and Fields

22.1. Magnetic Fields
22.2. Magnetic Force on a Charged Particle
22.3. Magnetic Force on a Current-Carrying Wire
22.4. Calculating the Magnetic Field
22.5. Magnetic Field Due to a Wire
22.6. Loops and Solenoids
22.7. Ampère’s Law
22.8. Magnetic Properties of Materials
22.9. Summary

23. Light and Electromagnetic Waves

23.1. Electromagnetic Waves
23.2. Electric and Magnetic Fields in a Wave
23.3. The Electromagnetic Spectrum
23.4. Huygens’ Principle and Reflection
23.5. Refraction
23.6. Energy in Electromagnetic Waves
23.7. Summary

24. Geometrical Optics

24.1. Spherical Waves and Curvature
24.2. Thin Lenses
24.3. Ray Tracing and Image Size
24.4. Spherical Mirrors
24.5. Combining Optical Elements
24.6. Optical Instruments
24.7. Summary

25. Wave Optics

25.1. Double-Slit Interference
25.2. Phasors
25.3. Gratings
25.4. Diffraction
25.5. Resolution
25.6. Thin Films
25.7. Polarization
25.8. Circular Polarization
25.9. Summary


A. Algebra Review
B. Trig Review for Physics
C. Calculus for Physics
D. Units and Conversions
E. Physical and Fundamental Constants
F. Answers to Odd-Numbered Problems



“Conversational and friendly while still maintaining an appropriate depth of subject matter and rigor.
There are a lot of textbooks for introductory physics; what makes this one stand out is its
presentation of the material. …this textbook flies against the convention and talks to the student,
not at the student.”

–Ethan Deneault, University of Tampa

Shane Larson

Shane Larson Northwestern University

Shane L. Larson is a Full Research Professor of Physics at Northwestern University, and Associate Director of Northwestern's Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA). He received a Ph.D. in Physics from Montana State University in 1999. He works in gravitational-wave astronomy, particularly on problems related to LISA, a space-based gravitational-wave observatory that will launch in the early 2030s. His teaching life has always revolved around large introductory physics service courses, where he enjoys helping students navigate the misgivings they often have about science. He is an award-winning teacher and a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

In his spare time, Shane enjoys fountain pens, table-top RPGs, LEGO modeling, amateur astronomy, building telescopes, and building guitars. He grew up in the Rocky Mountain west, but currently lives in Illinois with his wife, daughter, and cats. He contributes regularly to a public science blog at Write Science, and tweets with the handle @sciencejedi. If he could have dinner with one famous physicist or astronomer from history, it would be Henrietta Swan Leavitt.

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Ron Hellings

Ron Hellings Montana State University

Ron Hellings is emeritus Professor of Physics at Montana State University.  He completed a BS in Physics at BYU, an MS at UCLA, and a PhD at Montana State University-Bozeman. He has taught Physics at Cal Poly-Pomona, Harvey Mudd College, and Pomona College. Ron spent twenty-five years as a Research Scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory before moving back to Bozeman in 2001 to work as a Research Professor in the Physics Department at Montana State University. For a period of three years during his time at Montana State University, he was on loan to NASA Headquarters in Washington DC to act as Program Scientist for the Astrophysics Theory Program. 

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