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Physics for Liberal Arts

Course Code: PHYS 1234
Faculty: Science & Technology
Department: Physics
Credits: 4.0
Semester: 15 Weeks
Learning Format: Lecture, Lab
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

The course is designed primarily for liberal arts majors. It is a basic introduction to physical science and is intended for students with little or no science background. It will present an integrated approach to topics in physics: the topics themselves, as well as the historical reasons for their acceptance. The topics will include the historical evolution of scientific method, laws of motion, gravitation, matter and energy, heat and temperature, light, atoms and atomic nuclei, special relativity, and elements of astronomy. Laboratory exercises will illustrate the practical applications of the course content.

Course Content

  1. The history and predictive ability of theory
  2. Atomic theory of matter
  3. Motion
  4. Change in motion
  5. Newton's Law of Gravitation
  6. Work-Energy Theorem
  7. Thermodynamics
  8. Light and global warming
  9. Special Relativity
  10. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)
  11. Nuclear physics

 Laboratory Experiments

  1. Investigating the historical roots of science
  2. Graphing lab
  3. Introduction to motion data analysis
  4. Laws of motion 
  5. Gravitation
  6. Work and energy
  7. Heat and temperature
  8. Properties of light
  9. Radioactivity

Methods of Instruction

Classroom time will be divided between the presentation, demonstrations and discussion of concepts and the application of those concepts in problem solving.  The laboratory program will involve weekly sessions during which students will perform a set number of experiments.  Some group work will be required. Some of the work will be done online. 

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College Evaluation policy. The instructor will present a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester.  

Evaluation will be based on the following:

  • final exam/final project     30%-40%
  • term tests (minimum of two tests)    20%-30% 
  • laboratory experiments - minimum of nine labs    20%-30%
  • quizzes and/or assignments (possibly online)    10% - 20%

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the course the student will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the following concepts and procedures through the solution of problems involving a variety of physical quantities.
    • Explain how experimental observations determine the validity of a theory
    • Describe the history of the accepted models of an atom and an atomic nucleus
    • Define and distinguish between speed, velocity and acceleration
    • Apply Newton's laws of motion by specifying the role of inertia in interactions between bodies
    • Apply Newton’s law of universal gravitation
    • Explain the principles behind the use of simple machines
    • Apply the law of conservation of energy and the work-energy theorem
    • Define heat and temperature
    • Explain and apply the laws of thermodynamics
    • Describe light and the electromagnetic spectrum
    • Explain how trace gases interaction with light affects climate
    • State the postulates of Special Relativity 
    • Define mass-energy equivalence
    • Define necessary ingredients for life on the other worlds
    • Define and differentiate between nuclear fission, fusion, radioactivity 
  1. Perform laboratory experiments and analyze the data obtained using appropriate graphing techniques, scientific notation, and significant figures.

course prerequisites

BC Foundations of Math 11 (C or higher) or BC Pre-calculus 11 (C or higher) or Douglas College MATU 0410 (C- or higher)

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.