PHY 252 Computing

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Computing in Physics 252

Useful hints and instructions


The computers used in this lab are controlled by a central server. It is your responsibility to close all applications and log-out of your computer account when you leave the laboratory.

There are four software tools you will use:

I. Microsoft Excel
This is a spreadsheet program used to record/store your data. An empty spreadsheet is available at the start of each lab. The program allows you to do ALL calculations on your data. This tool removes all repetitive calculations from the lab, so you can concentrate on graphing and interpreting your data. However, the spreadsheet does not do ALL the calculations for you. In order to start the calculations you must perform at least one of them by hand. After you enter the correct formula into the spreadsheet for that particular quantity, the program will do all the other calculations for you.

II. Kaleidagraph
This tool is a general plotting program. It takes its input from columns of data and allows you to either plot a histogram of the contents of one column and/or graph any column versus any other column. Although some of these things are possible in Excel, Kaleidagraph has a very user friendly interface for adjusting axes/labels/text/bins etc. in any of the graphs. The input for the graphs is copied/pasted from the Excel spreadsheet. Once you are satisfied with your graph (binning is correct, labels are clear, axes are labeled and have units!!), you should save the graph to your user space on the server or on a floppy disk. It can then be printed separately or copied/pasted into your final lab report.

III. Microsoft Word
Word is used as the standard word processor for the lab. You should submit your completed report in Word. This will allow you to include the relevant parts of your spreadsheets, graphs, introduction, and conclusion.

IV. Graphing Calculator
This is a tool very similar to a graphics calculator, but much more flexible. It allows you to graph functions in a very convenient way and even print them out.


    Save your files in assigned user space and do this regularly.  Save your files using your last name and experiment number.  If you want a copy of your work, bring in a floppy disk and save your documents to the floppy. This may help you in the following weeks. If something happens to your work during the lab and it is destroyed, you will have to do the lab again. ....SAVE YOUR DATA OFTEN!!! There are no student data back-ups and all student data are deleted when the student account is closed.

    All the necessary computer software and spreadsheets will be on the computer when you start, so you should not have to search for items. You must purchase a new laboratory manual from any of the local bookstores. Do not use old versions of the laboratory manual as there have been significant changes to the material. The correct manual has the 2005 copyright date!


  • Text: The manual, PHYSICS 251 and PHYSICS 252 combined manual, published by Hayden - McNeil, can be purchased at any local student bookstore. Do not use the old manual for Physics 252. There have been significant changes to the new manual. The correct manual has the 2005 copyright date!

  • Calculator: Trigonometric and logarithmic functions are required. Statistics functions will be very useful, but are not required.

  • Pens and a Straight-Edge: Pencils and erasers are not allowed in the teaching labs.

  • PHY 252 on the Web : http//

No food or drinks of any kind are allowed in the laboratories....NO exceptions.