Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 3 sessions / week, 1 hour / session

Recitations: 2 sessions / week, 1 hour / session


Direct student experience with physics as an experimental science is rare in introductory college courses. The accompanying labs are often peripheral to the course (little credit, little involvement); and have set-piece experiments, sometimes with computers, that give students very little more feeling of how things really work than lecture demos or homework problems (valuable as these are).

At MIT, starting in 1988, John King, Phylis and Philip Morrison, Tony French, and Peter Dourmashkin developed and taught two courses, Mechanics (8.01X) and Electricity & Magnetism (8.02X), in which experiments were central. For a 12-week course there are 8 to 10 experiments that are issued in kit form to student partnerships of two, along with instruments, all in two “Red Boxes” (small plastic toolboxes). Each student purchases (at cost) a tool kit with soldering iron, pliers, wire cutters and strippers, screw drivers, etc.

The partners meet to assemble and run the experiments in their living quarters, take and analyze data, and turn in their notebooks for comment; thus the experiments are part of homework, which also has a reduced number of conventional problems.

These experiments were made central to the course:

  • By connecting them closely to the theoretical presentations in lectures and text.
  • By taking 25 minutes out of the weekly 150 to discuss the experiment of the week, how to assemble the apparatus, how to troubleshoot, how to take, analyze and present data.
  • By having homework and test problems related to the experiments.

Note that the mechanics experiments involve electrical construction and measuring techniques, no more mysterious than a stopwatch or PC. But here a digital multi-meter is taken as an instrument to use; in the E&M experiments analog meters are not only used but also understood-students learn all about how they work.

Courses similar to these have been presented at Caltech, Harvard, and Ecole des Mines.

All necessary materials can be acquired from an online electronics supply source.

Besides the course syllabi and notes, and instructions for 12 basic constructions and experiments (Dourmashkin and King), there is a complete collection of 50 experiments (King, J. G., and A. P. French. Physics 8.01X and 8.02X Experiment Instructions. MIT Physics Department, 1998) that have been used at various times. Finally, there was a published book, ZAP!, designed to be used in conjunction with a version of these introductory physics courses taught at Caltech: Morrison, Philip, Phylis Morrison, and John King. Zap!: A Hands-on Introduction to Electricity & Magnetism. 1991. Preliminary ed. ISBN: 9780892784141.

Physics I, 8.01X, covers the classical Newtonian mechanics syllabus of all the MIT first term physics subjects along with a set of take-home experiments. Topics covered include estimation, kinematics, force, Newton’s Laws, energy, work, heat, momentum, collisions, torque, angular momentum, properties of materials, kinetic theory, introduction to the atom, and special relativity.


Young, H. D., and R. A. Freedman. University Physics. 10th ed. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1999. ISBN: 9780201603224.


This course will include three in-class quizzes and one final exam.

Problem Sets

There will be a weekly problem set that consists of two parts: hand-written problems to be handed in, and Mastering Physics (not available to OCW users) problems to be answered online.


Experimental work, based primarily on take-home kits, will be a major feature of this course. Experiment instructions will be handed out in class each week. There will be a few short questions regarding the analysis of the experiment that will in general be due at the next lecture.


3 Quizzes 45%
Final Exam 25%
Mastering Physics 10%
Hand-written Problem Sets 10%
Experiment Problems 10%


The calendar below provides information on the course’s Lecture (L) and Exams (E) sessions.

L1 Introduction to 8.01X, Measurement Standards Estimating a second experiment questions out
L2 Mechanics Baseline Test I Problem set 1 out

Red boxes out

L3 Units, Dimensions, Fermi Problems, Estimating a Second Experiment Questions  
L4 Kinematics: 1D Motion, Displacement and Velocity Low voltage power supply experiment questions out
L5 1D Motion, Velocity and Acceleration

Mechanics Baseline Test II

Problem set 2 out

Estimating a second experiment questions due

Problem set 1 due

L6 Vectors, Newton’s Laws of Motion, Force, Mass and Acceleration  
L7 Newton’s Laws of Motion, Force, Mass and Acceleration (cont.) Falling object experiment questions out
L8 Newton’s Laws, Gravitation and Weight, Projectiles Low voltage power supply experiment questions due

Problem set 2 due

Problem set 3 out

L9 Newton’s Laws (cont.), Normal Forces and Friction Force between magnets experiment questions out
L10 Review, Applications of Newton’s Laws Falling object experiment questions due

Problem set 3 due

Problem set 4 out

E1 Quiz 1
Covers: Fundamental Concepts, Fermi Problems, 1D Kinematics, Estimating a Second Experiment Questions, Falling Object Experiment Questions, Projectile Motion, Newton’s Laws
L11 Newton’s Laws (cont.), Spring Forces, Tension Centripetal force experiment questions out
L12 Uniform Circular Motion Problem set 4 due

Problem set 5 out

L13 Universal Law of Gravitation, Planetary Orbits  
L14 Levers, Statics and Torque  
L15 Statics and Torque Problem set 5 due

Force between magnets experiment questions due

Problem set 6 out

L16 Work, Kinetic Energy  
L17 Conservation Laws, Potential Energy Problem set 6 due

Centripetal force experiment questions due

Problem set 7 out

L18 Conservation of Mechanical Energy Energy Transformations Experiment Questions out
E2 Quiz 2
Covers: Newton’s Laws, Circular Motion, Static Equilibrium
L19 Energy: Universal Gravitation and Planetary Orbits Problem set 7 due

Problem set 8 out

L20 Energy Transformations, Heat  
L21 Restoring Forces and Harmonic Motion, Pendulum  
L22 Linear Momentum, Impulse, Newton’s 2nd Law Energy transformations experiment questions due

Problem set 8 due

Problem set 9 out

L23 Momentum, Center of Mass  
L24 Momentum (cont.), Collisions Vibrating systems experiment Questions out
L25 Collisions, Kinetic Theory Problem set 9 due

Problem set 10 out

L26 Angular Kinematics, Torque, Rigid Bodies, Moment of Inertia Angular momentum experiment questions out
L27 Moment of Inertia (cont.), Angular Momentum Problem set 10 due

Vibrating systems experiment questions due

Problem set 11 out

E3 Quiz 3
Covers: Energy, Momentum, Conservation Laws, Collisions
L28 Rotational Dynamics  
L29 Angular Dynamics, Translation and Rotation Angular momentum experiment questions due

Problem set 11 due

L30 Properties of Materials: Solids  
L31 Properties of Materials: Fluids Problem set 12 out

Flow experiment questions out

L32 Conservation of Flow, Buoyancy  
L33 Viscosity  
L34 Properties of Materials: Atomic Hypothesis Problem set 12 due

Flow experiment questions due

L35 Special Relativity, Inertial Frames  
L36 Final Review  
E4 Final Exam  

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2002
Learning Resource Types
Exams with Solutions