Instructional Materials in Physics and Astronomy



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From Study Modules for Calculus-Based General Physics
Copyright © 1975 CBP Workshop, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
Reproduction rights granted.


One way to help you understand a new phenomenon is to show you that it is like something that you are already familiar with. This method is used very frequently in physics, e.g., the electric field is like the gravitational field. This module will introduce you to a simple class of RC circuits in which there are currents, charges, and voltages that decay exponentially. This may be your first detailed study of exponential decay, but it is like (analagous to) radioactive decay, Newton's law of cooling, the final depletion of a natural resource, the decrease in atmospheric pressure with altitude, and some other interesting phenomena. With a sign change, it is like a simple model of exponential growth, which is how population, energy consumption, and pollution generation seem to be growing. The module begins, however, with a few simple ideas applied to direct-current circuits. These are the basic ideas upon which you will later build an understanding of alternating-current circuits. This course will not cover electronics, but it will provide some of the introductory concepts that are needed for a study of electronic devices and circuits.

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