Techniques of Theoretical Mechanics

Course Credits

PH 335: Methods of Theoretical Mechanics meets 3 hours per week (MWF for 1 hour) for 10 weeks for a total of 3 credits.

Prerequisites, Co-requisites and Enforced Prerequisites

Prereq: PH 212, MTH 254

Office Hours

    Office Hours Office


Elizabeth Gire

Wed 9-10am in Wngr 304f

Or by appointment

Wngr 499

(541) 737-1692

(I strongly prefer e-mail)

MacKenzie Lenz Wed 2-3pm, 4-5pm in Wngr 304f

Wngr 497

Ryan Tollefsen Tues 2-3pm in Wngr 304f None None


Learning Resources

Taylor, Classical Mechanics, University Science Books , 2005. ISBN 978-1891389221.

Dray, The Geometry of Special Relativity, AK Peters/CRC Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1466510470.

A complete list of required texts and other resources for the the entire year of Paradigms courses can be found on the Paradigms website.  

Course Content

  •  Intermediate Newtonian Mechanics
  •  Power Series Approximations
  •  Calculus of Variations
  •  Lagrangian Mechanics
  •  Introduction to Hamiltonian Mechanics
  •  Special Relativity in Matrix and Hyperbolic Trigonometry Languages
  •  Relativistic Mechanics


Student Learning Outcomes

Students should be able to:

  • Solve problems with symbolic (rather than numeric) parameters
  • Evaluate and articulate whether an answer is reasonable by checking dimensions, analyzing special cases, examining covariational behavior, or multiple solutions paths.
  • Coordinate multiple representations (e.g. verbal/text descriptions, diagrams, algebraic equations, free-body diagrams, matrix equations, spacetime diagrams, etc) to solve intermediate mechanics problems
  • Use Newtonian, Lagrangian and Hamiltonian methods for solving mechanics problems
  • Use Lorentz transformations to describe physical situations in inertial reference frames
  • Apply conservation laws appropriately in non-relativistic and relativistic situations


Evaluation of Student Performance

  • I will calculate your final course score 3 ways and determine your final course grade based on the highest score:
  • Option #1 - All Assessments: 40% required homework, quizzes, and other assignments, 30% Midterm Exam, 30% Final Exam
  • Option #2 - HW & Final Only: 40% required homework, quizzes, and other assignments, 60% Final Exam
  • Option #3 - Midterm & Final Only: 40% Midterm Exam, 60% Final Exam 
  • I will sometimes provide Practice Problems. These problems are meant to be relatively simple examples for you to check whether or not you understand the material as you go along.  They will not be graded.  Sometimes I will post solutions.  I recommend that you at minimum read each practice problem. If you don't know how to do it, ask for help.
  • Some Required Problems will be graded for correctness; others will be graded for completeness. Solutions will be posted online.
  • Late Assignments: If an assignment or part of an assignment is going to be late, let me and the TA know as soon as possible. Turn in what you have done by the due date. Late assignments or parts of assignments will be given reduced credit.


Statement of Expectations for Student Conduct

Students are expected to abide by all university rules regarding student conduct and academic honesty:

Additional Guidance

  1. You are strongly encouraged to work on assignments, including coding and plotting, collaboratively. Science is inherently a social and collaborative effort. So that I can best support your learning, turn in assignments that you have written up independently.
  2. Appropriate resources on assignments include: working with each other, graduates of the course, the course TAs, or me; textbooks; other online materials, etc. Do not use homework solutions from previous years and do not share your completed homework solutions with other students. 
  3. Document your resources appropriately. If you find a homework problem worked out somewhere (other than homework solutions from a previous year), you may certainly use that resource, just make sure you reference it properly. If someone else helps you solve a problem, reference that too. An appropriate reference might be "Liz Gire (private communication, 9/12/19)" or "I worked with Liz Gire on this problem".
  4. Representing someone else’s work as your own without reference – also known as plagiarism - is unethical, but collaboration and exchange of ideas is healthy. You can avoid having collaborative efforts take on the look of plagiarism by acknowledging sources as described above and by writing up your work independently.
  5. The problems in this course will likely take longer than problems you've seen in previous courses. However, if you find that you have worked on a problem for 1/2 hour without making forward progress, seek help from classmates or the instructional team.


Statement Regarding Students with Disabilities

Accommodations for students with disabilities are determined and approved by Disability Access Services (DAS). If you, as a student, believe you are eligible
for accommodations but have not obtained approval please contact DAS immediately at 541-737-4098 or at DAS
notifies students and faculty members of approved academic accommodations and coordinates implementation of those accommodations.  While not required, students and faculty members are encouraged to discuss details of the implementation of individual accommodations.


Reach Out for Student Success

Reach Out for Success: University students encounter setbacks from time to time. If you encounter difficulties and need assistance, it’s important to reach out. Consider discussing the situation with an instructor or academic advisor. Learn about resources that assist with wellness and academic success at If you are in immediate crisis, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting OREGON to 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)