Department of Chemistry, Physics, & Geology

Fall 2010               Course: PHYS 256 (001) - Musical Acoustics
Credit hours:
     Lecture: MWF 8:00-8:50 AM, Sims 112   

Professor: Dr. Ponn Maheswaranathan (Mahes), Professor of Physics.
Office: 213-B, Sims, Office Hours:
M & W 10:30 - 12:00 or by appointment.
Phone: 323 4940, E-mail:

Textbook: The Physics of Sound, By Berg and Stork, Prentice Hall, 3rd ed., 2005.  

Course Description:
PHYS 256 is a semester-long musical acoustics course primarily intended for students majoring in music. It is also an appropriate science course for non-science majors. Basic knowledge of high-school level physics/physical science and algebra is assumed. Course will be delivered conceptually without using too-much mathematics.  

Course Objectives:

General Education Requirements: PHYS 256 fulfill three hours of general education requirement for natural sciences. Listed below are the student learning objectives (#1 and 3,4,6,7) related to the natural science component of the general education requirements as well as examples of how they will be fulfilled in PHYS 256.

Students will be:
1. Conversant with a few fundamental concepts from among the three main areas of natural science, including earth, life, and physical sciences. (e.g.,
wave motion, vibration, & sound)
3. Able to discuss the strengths and limitations of science. (e.g. Explaining how musical instruments work, music synthesizers, and communication technology; limitations of science in predicting the quality of music and acoustical properties of auditoriums)

4. Able to demonstrate an understanding of the history of scientific discovery. (e.g., topics and musical instruments are introduced with historical perspectives)

6. Able to communicate about scientific subjects including (lab courses only) the defense of conclusions based on one’s own observations. (e.g., see Project under Writing Component)

7. Able to discuss the application of scientific knowledge to the social sciences and to non-scientific disciplines. (e.g., application of technology in everyday life)

Writing Component:
The General Education Writing Component will be incorporated into this course by requiring the following graded writing assignment.
You will be given a topic in musical acoustics to research and write an
 essay (minimum 8 pages). In addition you will prepare a 15-minute power point presentation of the selected topic and present it to the class. Presentation will be graded by your fellow students. In addition, the instructor will evaluate your presentation and essay. The project carries 20% of the course grade.  

Attendance and Participation:
The attendance policy described in the Winthrop University undergraduate catalog will be followed. Students are encouraged to attend all the lectures and to actively take part in classroom activities. Regular attendance and good participation efforts will help in the final letter grade assignment for borderline cases.

Students with Disabilities:
Winthrop University is dedicated to providing access to education. If you have a disability and need classroom accommodations, please contact Gena Smith, Coordinator, Services for Students with Disabilities, at 323-3290, as soon as possible. Once you have your professor notification, please tell me so that I am aware of your accommodations well before the first {test/paper/assignment}.

Student Conduct Code: The policy on student academic misconduct is outlined in the “Student Conduct Code Academic Misconduct Policy” in the online Student Handbook ( 

Syllabus change policy: The instructor will make changes to this syllabus as deemed necessary for the progression of the course.

Tests & Final:


Tests and Final



Test #1



Test #2


12-14-10, 8AM

Comprehensive Final Exam





Points & Grade:
The above total of 500 points will be used to assign a letter grade, which will be very close to the following:
90% or above = A, 80% or above = B, 70% or above = C, 60% or above = D, and below 60% = F.