PHYS 7221 - Fall 2022

Classical Mechanics Fall 2022

  • Prof. Justin H. Wilson
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  • Pronouns: He/They

Academic Integrity

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Students who are suspected of violating the Code of Conduct will be referred to the office of Student Advocacy & Accountability. For graduate students, a first violation leads to deferred suspension for at least two semesters and a failing grade in the course.

Course description

Classical mechanics sets the groundwork for the study of physics: From particles, to materials, to celestial bodies. The ideas and techniques have resounding implications. For example, the principle of least action we will develop has profound origins within quantum theory and chaotic dynamics is precisely defined (though still being understood). Lastly, we will be building intuition for physical problems as well as mathematical intuition which are applicable outside of the particulars of this course.

Course information

  • Lectures: T/Th 10:30am-11:50am, 106 Nicholson
  • Office Hours: W 10:30am-12:00pm or by appointment

Course outline

  1. Lagrangian Mechanics
  2. Symmetries and Conservation Laws
  3. The central force problem
  4. Oscillations
  5. Hamiltonian Mechanics
  6. Rigid body dynamics
  7. Chaotic dynamics (subject to time availability)


Main course text: Classical Mechanics, 3rd ed. by Goldstein, Poole, and Safko. Corrections at

Supplementary texts:

Exams, homeworks, and grades

The breakdown of grades will be

Midterm - Oct 18 in class

The midterm will cover the content of the first six homeworks (Lagrangian mechanics, constraints, the central force problem, Noether’s theorem, scattering, and small oscillations).


Every homework will have one question taking from the test bank for the qualifier.

You can work on the homework in groups, but everyone needs to write-up their own solutions. When stepping through logic and math, use complete sentences and explain what you are doing.

Homeworks use the class file jhwhw.cls. See this stack exchange post for information on how to use it.

Grading policy

Typical due dates for homeworks will be Tuesday at the beginning of class unless otherwise specified. Late homework will be counted but at most 50% of points can be obtained.

Revisiting homework: To obtain 50% of the points lost in a homework assignment, you may “correct” your homework problems. This should not be done in a group or outside consultation. Example: If you score 72/100 points, you can correct what you got wrong for a maximum of 86/100 points.