The Waves Section of PHY138Y – 2004/05

Waves are the results of oscillations which convey energy to their surroundings.  Some examples include water surface waves, waves on a string, sound and light.  In this section we will study areas of wave mechanics, sound and optics that have applications or relevance to the life sciences.

Solutions for Waves Quarter Test in PDF Format:

Version 1                     Version 2


The table below lists the curriculum and textbook references for the Waves section of PHY138Y. The textbook is “Principles of Physics, A Calculus-Based Text, Third Edition” by R.A. Serway and J.W. Jewett, Copyright 2002 by Brooks/Cole and Thomson Learning.  Topics that are in bold-italics are applications to the Life Sciences. Textbook sections that are listed below are examinable; those that are not listed below are not examinable unless otherwise announced. We will also discuss some Supplementary Material which does not appear in the textbook: these topics are also examinable.

It is likely that the listing will change somewhat as the course proceeds. After the class has been given, the topics and text references will be updated if necessary and a link will appear in the More column to a more detailed summary of the class.


Major Topics

Textbook Reference


Mon. Nov. 8

  • Hooke’s Law
  • Motion of a mass on a spring
  • Simple Harmonic Motion

Chapter 12 – Oscillatory Motion

§12.1 -12.3


Wed. Nov. 10

  • Energy in S.H.M.
  • The Simple Pendulum
  • Resonance
  • Propagation of a disturbance
  • Transverse and Longitudinal Waves
  • Sinusoidal Wave Model


Chapter 13 – Mechanical Waves



Mon. Nov. 15

  • Mathematical Description of a Wave
  • Speed of waves on a string
  • Reflection and transmission of waves
  • Ultrasound Imaging

§13.3 -13.5


Wed. Nov. 17

  • Pressure Waves: Sound
  • The Doppler Effect
  • The Principle of Superposition
  • Constructive and Destructive Interference


Chapter 14 – Superposition and Standing Waves
§14.1, 14.2


Mon. Nov. 22

  • Standing Waves
  • Harmonics
  • Beats

§14.3 -14.6


Wed. Nov. 25

  • Lasers
  • Waves in the Electric and Magnetic Fields
  • Radio, Microwave, Infrared, Visible, Ultraviolet, X-rays and Gamma rays (all the same thing!)
  • Properties of Laser light

Chapter 24 – Electromagnetic Waves
Context 7 (pages 896-7)

§24.3*, 24.7, 24.9


Mon. Nov. 29

  • The wave and particle nature of light
  • Ray-tracing optics
  • Law of reflection
  • Index of refraction, n
  • Law of refraction (Snell’s law)  

Chapter 25 – Reflection and Refraction of Light
§25.1 - 25.4


Wed. Dec. 1

  • Total Internal Reflection
  • Optical Fibres
  • Images in a flat mirror, Front-back reversal

§25.7, 25.8

Chapter 26 – Image Formation by Mirrors and Lenses


Mon. Dec. 6

  • Converging, Diverging Lenses
  • Image formation by a Lens
  • Spherical aberration, chromatic aberration
  • Medical Fibrescopes
  • Using Lasers to store information

§26.4 – 26.6

Context 7 Conclusion (pages 1037-40)



Wed. Dec. 8

  • Review for the test, which will be on Friday, December 10 from 9:00 – 10:20 AM.

All of the above

 a bit more, please

* - In Section 12.7, you are responsible for the conceptual ideas only.

* - In Section 24.3, you are not responsible for the first two pages involving Maxwell’s equations.  Please read  from the boldfaced phrase “light is an electromagnetic wave” on page 904 on to the end of the section.  Skip parts (b) and (c) of Example 24.1.


Jason J.B. Harlow

Office: MP251A (South-West corner of the 2nd floor of the North Wing of McLennan Labs, 60 St. George St.)


Office Hours:  Wednesdays: 2-3PM, Fridays: 9-10AM.  In addition to these hours, you have are invited to call or email for an appointment, or just drop by my office to talk about PHY138Y (or anything else).

Phone: (416) 946-4071      Home Page:

Weekly Assignments

There are normally three deadlines every week in this course: Written Problem Sets, Web CT Pre-class quiz, and Mastering Physics .

·        Written Problem Sets are normally assigned during lecture on a Monday, and are due the following Monday by 5:00 PM.  Problem set answers to be left by the students in the drop-box of their T.A., who will mark it and return it during Tutorial Discussions.  Students are allowed to work in small groups on these assignments, but final write-ups should be done by the individuals, who should understand their own work.







Nov. 15





Nov. 22





Nov. 29





Dec. 6




·        Web CT Pre-class quizzes are meant to encourage students to read the assigned textbook sections before coming to class.   This allows me to discuss the content at a higher level, assuming that the student’s first exposure to the material has already occurred by reading.  Web CT quizzes are done online, and are due by 10:00 AM on Wednesdays.  Each quiz contains fairly straightforward questions dealing with the reading for the following week.  The quizzes are timed; they must be completed in less than 20 minutes.  This should be enough time for students who have read ahead.  Students are encouraged to work on Web CT Quizzes individually, not in groups.

·        Mastering Physics assignments are part of an interactive physics web-site,  They are done entirely online, and there is no time limit.  Students are allowed up to 4 attempts at each answer; the idea is to learn from your mistakes.   Students are encouraged to work on Mastering Physics assignments individually; it is not well suited to group-work.

Waves Quarter Calendar






Nov 1 - 5

Harrison Review Lecture (11:00 Con Hall)

No Web CT Pre-Class Quiz

No Mastering Physics Assignment

Harrison Lecture on Error Analysis (11:00 Con Hall)

No Written Assignment Due, Test on Tuesday evening at 6:00.

Tutorial Discussions: Test 1 Answers


Nov. 8 – 12

Lecture W1 (11:00 Con Hall)

Web CT Pre-Class Quiz, Ch 13, due 10:00

Wednesday Representative Assembly (12:00 MP713)

Lecture W2 (11:00 Con Hall)

Mastering Physics Assignment, due 17:00

No Written Assignment Due

Tutorial Discussions -  McDermott pg.138,141


Nov. 15 – 19

Lecture W3 (11:00 Con Hall)

Web CT Pre-Class Quiz, Ch 14, due 10:00

Thursday Representative Assembly (12:00 MP713)

Lecture W4 (11:00 Con Hall)

Mastering Physics Assignment, due 17:00

Waves Assignment 1 due 17:00 in drop box

Tutorial Discussions – McDermott pg. 149


Nov. 22 – 26

Lecture W5 (11:00 Con Hall)

Web CT Pre-Class Quiz, Ch 24, 25, due 10:00

Friday Representative Assembly (12:00 MP713)

Lecture W6 (11:00 Con Hall)

Mastering Physics Assignment, due 17:00

Waves Assignment 2 due 17:00 in drop box

Tutorial Discussions


Nov. 29 – Dec 3

Lecture W7 (11:00 Con Hall)

Web CT Pre-Class Quiz, Ch 26, due 10:00

Mastering Physics Assignment, due 17:00

Lecture W8 (11:00 Con Hall)

Waves Assignment 3 due 17:00 in drop box

Tutorial Discussions


Dec. 6 – 10

Lecture W9 (11:00 Con Hall)

No Web CT Pre-Class Quiz

Test on Friday morning at 9:00

Lecture W10 (11:00 Con Hall)

Waves Assignment 4 due 17:00 in drop box

No Tutorial Meeting

Representative Assemblies

The Representative Assemblies are a mechanism for the staff and students of PHY138 to discuss issues of communication and organization of the course. We do not talk about the content of the course. There will be three Representative Assemblies, corresponding to the three days that tutorials meet: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Each tutorial will choose a Representative using any method that they wish.

For the Waves section of PHY138, the assemblies will meet on Fridays at 12 noon in MP713; this room is on the 7th floor of the "tower" of McLennan.  There will be pizza.  Here are the days when the Assemblies will meet:



November 12

Wednesday tutorial

November 19

Thursday tutorial

November 27

Friday tutorial

Quick Links

PHY138 Home Page:

Lab Home Page:

STORM for Checking Marks and Tutorial Group Assignments:

MasteringPhysics for Some Problem Sets:

WebCT for Pre-Class Quizzes:

Solutions to past-years PHY138 tests and assignments: