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Table of contents
  1. Preface
  2. Optics
    1. 1 The Nature of Light
      1. Introduction
      2. 1.1 The Propagation of Light
      3. 1.2 The Law of Reflection
      4. 1.3 Refraction
      5. 1.4 Total Internal Reflection
      6. 1.5 Dispersion
      7. 1.6 Huygens’s Principle
      8. 1.7 Polarization
      9. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    2. 2 Geometric Optics and Image Formation
      1. Introduction
      2. 2.1 Images Formed by Plane Mirrors
      3. 2.2 Spherical Mirrors
      4. 2.3 Images Formed by Refraction
      5. 2.4 Thin Lenses
      6. 2.5 The Eye
      7. 2.6 The Camera
      8. 2.7 The Simple Magnifier
      9. 2.8 Microscopes and Telescopes
      10. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
    3. 3 Interference
      1. Introduction
      2. 3.1 Young's Double-Slit Interference
      3. 3.2 Mathematics of Interference
      4. 3.3 Multiple-Slit Interference
      5. 3.4 Interference in Thin Films
      6. 3.5 The Michelson Interferometer
      7. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    4. 4 Diffraction
      1. Introduction
      2. 4.1 Single-Slit Diffraction
      3. 4.2 Intensity in Single-Slit Diffraction
      4. 4.3 Double-Slit Diffraction
      5. 4.4 Diffraction Gratings
      6. 4.5 Circular Apertures and Resolution
      7. 4.6 X-Ray Diffraction
      8. 4.7 Holography
      9. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
  3. Modern Physics
    1. 5 Relativity
      1. Introduction
      2. 5.1 Invariance of Physical Laws
      3. 5.2 Relativity of Simultaneity
      4. 5.3 Time Dilation
      5. 5.4 Length Contraction
      6. 5.5 The Lorentz Transformation
      7. 5.6 Relativistic Velocity Transformation
      8. 5.7 Doppler Effect for Light
      9. 5.8 Relativistic Momentum
      10. 5.9 Relativistic Energy
      11. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
    2. 6 Photons and Matter Waves
      1. Introduction
      2. 6.1 Blackbody Radiation
      3. 6.2 Photoelectric Effect
      4. 6.3 The Compton Effect
      5. 6.4 Bohr’s Model of the Hydrogen Atom
      6. 6.5 De Broglie’s Matter Waves
      7. 6.6 Wave-Particle Duality
      8. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
    3. 7 Quantum Mechanics
      1. Introduction
      2. 7.1 Wave Functions
      3. 7.2 The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
      4. 7.3 The Schrӧdinger Equation
      5. 7.4 The Quantum Particle in a Box
      6. 7.5 The Quantum Harmonic Oscillator
      7. 7.6 The Quantum Tunneling of Particles through Potential Barriers
      8. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    4. 8 Atomic Structure
      1. Introduction
      2. 8.1 The Hydrogen Atom
      3. 8.2 Orbital Magnetic Dipole Moment of the Electron
      4. 8.3 Electron Spin
      5. 8.4 The Exclusion Principle and the Periodic Table
      6. 8.5 Atomic Spectra and X-rays
      7. 8.6 Lasers
      8. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
    5. 9 Condensed Matter Physics
      1. Introduction
      2. 9.1 Types of Molecular Bonds
      3. 9.2 Molecular Spectra
      4. 9.3 Bonding in Crystalline Solids
      5. 9.4 Free Electron Model of Metals
      6. 9.5 Band Theory of Solids
      7. 9.6 Semiconductors and Doping
      8. 9.7 Semiconductor Devices
      9. 9.8 Superconductivity
      10. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    6. 10 Nuclear Physics
      1. Introduction
      2. 10.1 Properties of Nuclei
      3. 10.2 Nuclear Binding Energy
      4. 10.3 Radioactive Decay
      5. 10.4 Nuclear Reactions
      6. 10.5 Fission
      7. 10.6 Nuclear Fusion
      8. 10.7 Medical Applications and Biological Effects of Nuclear Radiation
      9. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
    7. 11 Particle Physics and Cosmology
      1. Introduction
      2. 11.1 Introduction to Particle Physics
      3. 11.2 Particle Conservation Laws
      4. 11.3 Quarks
      5. 11.4 Particle Accelerators and Detectors
      6. 11.5 The Standard Model
      7. 11.6 The Big Bang
      8. 11.7 Evolution of the Early Universe
      9. Chapter Review
        1. Key Terms
        2. Key Equations
        3. Summary
        4. Conceptual Questions
        5. Problems
        6. Additional Problems
        7. Challenge Problems
  4. A | Units
  5. B | Conversion Factors
  6. C | Fundamental Constants
  7. D | Astronomical Data
  8. E | Mathematical Formulas
  9. F | Chemistry
  10. G | The Greek Alphabet
  11. Answer Key
    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
    6. Chapter 6
    7. Chapter 7
    8. Chapter 8
    9. Chapter 9
    10. Chapter 10
    11. Chapter 11
  12. Index

Welcome to University Physics, an OpenStax resource. This textbook was written to increase student access to high-quality learning materials, maintaining highest standards of academic rigor at little to no cost.

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About University Physics

University Physics is designed for the two- or three-semester calculus-based physics course. The text has been developed to meet the scope and sequence of most university physics courses and provides a foundation for a career in mathematics, science, or engineering. The book provides an important opportunity for students to learn the core concepts of physics and understand how those concepts apply to their lives and to the world around them.

Due to the comprehensive nature of the material, we are offering the book in three volumes for flexibility and efficiency.

Coverage and scope

Our University Physics textbook adheres to the scope and sequence of most two- and three-semester physics courses nationwide. We have worked to make physics interesting and accessible to students while maintaining the mathematical rigor inherent in the subject. With this objective in mind, the content of this textbook has been developed and arranged to provide a logical progression from fundamental to more advanced concepts, building upon what students have already learned and emphasizing connections between topics and between theory and applications. The goal of each section is to enable students not just to recognize concepts, but to work with them in ways that will be useful in later courses and future careers. The organization and pedagogical features were developed and vetted with feedback from science educators dedicated to the project.


Unit 1: Mechanics

  • Chapter 1: Units and Measurement
  • Chapter 2: Vectors
  • Chapter 3: Motion Along a Straight Line
  • Chapter 4: Motion in Two and Three Dimensions
  • Chapter 5: Newton’s Laws of Motion
  • Chapter 6: Applications of Newton’s Laws
  • Chapter 7: Work and Kinetic Energy
  • Chapter 8: Potential Energy and Conservation of Energy
  • Chapter 9: Linear Momentum and Collisions
  • Chapter 10: Fixed-Axis Rotation
  • Chapter 11: Angular Momentum
  • Chapter 12: Static Equilibrium and Elasticity
  • Chapter 13: Gravitation
  • Chapter 14: Fluid Mechanics

Unit 2: Waves and Acoustics

  • Chapter 15: Oscillations
  • Chapter 16: Waves
  • Chapter 17: Sound


Unit 1: Thermodynamics

  • Chapter 1: Temperature and Heat
  • Chapter 2: The Kinetic Theory of Gases
  • Chapter 3: The First Law of Thermodynamics
  • Chapter 4: The Second Law of Thermodynamics

Unit 2: Electricity and Magnetism

  • Chapter 5: Electric Charges and Fields
  • Chapter 6: Gauss’s Law
  • Chapter 7: Electric Potential
  • Chapter 8: Capacitance
  • Chapter 9: Current and Resistance
  • Chapter 10: Direct-Current Circuits
  • Chapter 11: Magnetic Forces and Fields
  • Chapter 12: Sources of Magnetic Fields
  • Chapter 13: Electromagnetic Induction
  • Chapter 14: Inductance
  • Chapter 15: Alternating-Current Circuits
  • Chapter 16: Electromagnetic Waves


Unit 1: Optics

  • Chapter 1: The Nature of Light
  • Chapter 2: Geometric Optics and Image Formation
  • Chapter 3: Interference
  • Chapter 4: Diffraction

Unit 2: Modern Physics

  • Chapter 5: Relativity
  • Chapter 6: Photons and Matter Waves
  • Chapter 7: Quantum Mechanics
  • Chapter 8: Atomic Structure
  • Chapter 9: Condensed Matter Physics
  • Chapter 10: Nuclear Physics
  • Chapter 11: Particle Physics and Cosmology

Pedagogical foundation

Throughout University Physics you will find derivations of concepts that present classical ideas and techniques, as well as modern applications and methods. Most chapters start with observations or experiments that place the material in a context of physical experience. Presentations and explanations rely on years of classroom experience on the part of long-time physics professors, striving for a balance of clarity and rigor that has proven successful with their students. Throughout the text, links enable students to review earlier material and then return to the present discussion, reinforcing connections between topics. Key historical figures and experiments are discussed in the main text (rather than in boxes or sidebars), maintaining a focus on the development of physical intuition. Key ideas, definitions, and equations are highlighted in the text and listed in summary form at the end of each chapter. Examples and chapter-opening images often include contemporary applications from daily life or modern science and engineering that students can relate to, from smart phones to the internet to GPS devices.

Assessments that reinforce key concepts

In-chapter Examples generally follow a three-part format of Strategy, Solution, and Significance to emphasize how to approach a problem, how to work with the equations, and how to check and generalize the result. Examples are often followed by questions and answers to help reinforce for students the important ideas of the examples. Problem-Solving Strategies in each chapter break down methods of approaching various types of problems into steps students can follow for guidance. The book also includes exercises at the end of each chapter so students can practice what they’ve learned.

  • Conceptual questions do not require calculation but test student learning of the key concepts.
  • Problems categorized by section test student problem-solving skills and the ability to apply ideas to practical situations.
  • Additional Problems apply knowledge across the chapter, forcing students to identify what concepts and equations are appropriate for solving given problems. Randomly located throughout the problems are Unreasonable Results exercises that ask students to evaluate the answer to a problem and explain why it is not reasonable and what assumptions made might not be correct.
  • Challenge Problems extend text ideas to interesting but difficult situations.

Answers for selected exercises are available in an Answer Key at the end of the book.

Answers to Questions in the Book

Answers to Unreasonable Results are not provided. All answers to Check Your Understanding are provided in the Answer Key in the book. Odd-numbered answers to Conceptual Questions, Problems, Additional Problems, and Challenge Problems are also provided in the Answer Key. Students can find additional answer information in the Student Solution Guide via the Student Resources page. Answers to even-numbered Conceptual Questions, Problems, Additional Problems, and Challenge Problems are provided only to instructors in the Instructor Answer Guide via the Instructor Resources page.

Additional resources

Student and instructor resources

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About the authors

Senior contributing authors

Samuel J. Ling, Truman State University
Dr. Samuel Ling has taught introductory and advanced physics for over 25 years at Truman State University, where he is currently Professor of Physics and the Department Chair. Dr. Ling has two PhDs from Boston University, one in Chemistry and the other in Physics, and he was a Research Fellow at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, before joining Truman. Dr. Ling is also an author of A First Course in Vibrations and Waves, published by Oxford University Press. Dr. Ling has considerable experience with research in Physics Education and has published research on collaborative learning methods in physics teaching. He was awarded a Truman Fellow and a Jepson fellow in recognition of his innovative teaching methods. Dr. Ling’s research publications have spanned Cosmology, Solid State Physics, and Nonlinear Optics.

Jeff Sanny, Loyola Marymount University
Dr. Jeff Sanny earned a BS in Physics from Harvey Mudd College in 1974 and a PhD in Solid State Physics from the University of California–Los Angeles in 1980. He joined the faculty at Loyola Marymount University in the fall of 1980. During his tenure, he has served as department Chair as well as Associate Dean. Dr. Sanny enjoys teaching introductory physics in particular. He is also passionate about providing students with research experience and has directed an active undergraduate student research group in space physics for many years.

William Moebs, Formerly of Loyola Marymount University
Dr. William Moebs earned a BS and PhD (1959 and 1965) from the University of Michigan. He then joined their staff as a Research Associate for one year, where he continued his doctoral research in particle physics. In 1966, he accepted an appointment to the Physics Department of Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (IPFW), where he served as Department Chair from 1971 to 1979. In 1979, he moved to Loyola Marymount University (LMU), where he served as Chair of the Physics Department from 1979 to 1986. He retired from LMU in 2000. He has published research in particle physics, chemical kinetics, cell division, atomic physics, and physics teaching.

Contributing authors

Stephen D. Druger, Northwestern University
Alice Kolakowska, University of Memphis
David Anderson, Albion College
Daniel Bowman, Ferrum College
Dedra Demaree, Georgetown University
Edw. S. Ginsberg, University of Massachusetts
Joseph Trout, Richard Stockton College
Kevin Wheelock, Bellevue College
David Smith, University of the Virgin Islands
Takashi Sato, Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Gerald Friedman, Santa Fe Community College
Lev Gasparov, University of North Florida
Lee LaRue, Paris Junior College
Mark Lattery, University of Wisconsin
Richard Ludlow, Daniel Webster College
Patrick Motl, Indiana University Kokomo
Tao Pang, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Kenneth Podolak, Plattsburgh State University


Salameh Ahmad, Rochester Institute of Technology–Dubai
John Aiken, University of Colorado–Boulder
Raymond Benge, Terrant County College
Gavin Buxton, Robert Morris University
Erik Christensen, South Florida State College
Clifton Clark, Fort Hays State University
Nelson Coates, California Maritime Academy
Herve Collin, Kapi’olani Community College
Carl Covatto, Arizona State University
Alejandro Cozzani, Imperial Valley College
Danielle Dalafave, The College of New Jersey
Nicholas Darnton, Georgia Institute of Technology
Ethan Deneault, University of Tampa
Kenneth DeNisco, Harrisburg Area Community College
Robert Edmonds, Tarrant County College
William Falls, Erie Community College
Stanley Forrester, Broward College
Umesh Garg, University of Notre Dame
Maurizio Giannotti, Barry University
Bryan Gibbs, Dallas County Community College
Lynn Gillette, Pima Community College–West Campus
Mark Giroux, East Tennessee State University
Matthew Griffiths, University of New Haven
Alfonso Hinojosa, University of Texas–Arlington
Steuard Jensen, Alma College
David Kagan, University of Massachusetts
Sergei Katsev, University of Minnesota–Duluth
Gregory Lapicki, East Carolina University
Jill Leggett, Florida State College–Jacksonville
Alfredo Louro, University of Calgary
James Maclaren, Tulane University
Ponn Maheswaranathan, Winthrop University
Seth Major, Hamilton College
Oleg Maksimov, Excelsior College
Aristides Marcano, Delaware State University
James McDonald, University of Hartford
Ralph McGrew, SUNY–Broome Community College
Paul Miller, West Virginia University
Tamar More, University of Portland
Farzaneh Najmabadi, University of Phoenix
Richard Olenick, The University of Dallas
Christopher Porter, Ohio State University
Liza Pujji, Manakau Institute of Technology
Baishali Ray, Young Harris University
Andrew Robinson, Carleton University
Aruvana Roy, Young Harris University
Gajendra Tulsian, Daytona State College
Adria Updike, Roger Williams University
Clark Vangilder, Central Arizona University
Steven Wolf, Texas State University
Alexander Wurm, Western New England University
Lei Zhang, Winston Salem State University
Ulrich Zurcher, Cleveland State University

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