You are on page 1of 57

MCA1 hys|cs kev|ew

1rans|at|ona| Mot|on
ulmenslons (length or dlstance, tlme)
vectors, components
vector addltlon
Speed, veloclty (average and lnstantaneous)
lreely lalllng bodles
Iorce and Mot|on, Grav|tat|on
Center ol mass
newton's llrst law, lnertla
newton's second law (l = ma)
newton's thlrd law, lorces equal and opposlte
Concept ol a lleld
Law ol gravltatlon (l = Cm1m2/r^2)
unllorm clrcular motlon
Centrlpetal lorce (l=mv
lrlctlon, statlc and klnetlc
Motlon on an lncllned plane
Analysls ol pulley systems
Lqu|||br|um and Momentum
Concept ol lorce, unlts
1ranslatlonal equlllbrlum (Sum ol ll = 0)
8otatlonal equlllbrlum (Sum ol 1orque = 0)
Analysls ol lorces actlng on an ob[ect
newton's llrst law, lnertla
1orques, lever arms
Momentum = mv
lmpulse = lt
Conservatlon ol llnear momentum
Llastlc colllslons
lnelastlc colllslons
Work and Lnergy
uerlved unlts, slgn conventlons
Amount ol work done ln gravltatlonal lleld ls path-lndependent
Mechanlcal advantage
Work-klnetlc energy theorem
klnetlc energy: kL = 1/2 mv^2, unlts
otentlal energy
L = mgh (gravltatlonal, local)
L = 1/2kx^2 (sprlng)
L = -CmM/r (gravltatlonal, general)
Conservatlon ol energy
Conservatlve lorces
ower, unlts
Waves and er|od|c Mot|on
erlodlc motlon
Amplltude, perlod, lrequency
Pooke's law, lorce l= -kx
Slmple harmonlc motlon, dlsplacement as a slnusoldal lunctlon ol tlme
Motlon ol a pendulum
Ceneral perlodlc motlon: veloclty, amplltude
Wave Characterlstlcs
1ransverse and longltudlnal waves
Wavelength, lrequency, veloclty
Amplltude, lntenslty
Supposltlon ol waves, lnterlerence, addltlon
Standlng waves, nodes
8eat lrequencles
8elractlon and dlllractlon
roductlon ol sound
8elatlve speed ol sound ln sollds, llqulds and gases
lntenslty ol sound (declbel unlts, log scale)
uoppler ellect (movlng sound source or observer, rellectlon ol sound lrom a movlng ob[ect)
8esonance ln plpes and strlngs
I|u|ds and So||ds
uenslty, speclllc gravlty
8uoyancy, Archlmedes' prlnclple
Pydrostatlc pressure
ascal's law
= pgh (pressure vs. depth)
vlscoslty: olseullle llow
Contlnulty equatlon (Av = constant)
Concept ol turbulence at hlgh velocltles
Surlace tenslon
8ernoulll's equatlon
Llastlc propertles (elementary propertles)
Llastlc llmlt
1hermal expanslon coelllclent
L|ectrostat|cs and L|ectromagnet|sm
Charge, conductors, charge conservatlon
Coulomb's law (l = kq
, slgn conventlons)
Llectrlc lleld
lleld llnes
lleld due to charge dlstrlbutlon
otentlal dlllerence, absolute potentlal at polnt ln space
Lqulpotentlal llnes
Llectrlc dlpole
dellnltlon ol dlpole
behavlor ln electrlc lleld
potentlal due to dlpole
Llectrostatlc lnductlon
Causs' law
uellnltlon ol the magnetlc lleld 8
Lxlstence and dlrectlon ol lorce on charge movlng ln magnetlc lleld
Llectromagnetlc 8adlatlon (Llght)
ropertles ol electromagnetlc radlatlon (general propertles only)
radlatlon veloclty equals constant c, ln vacuo
radlatlon conslsts ol osclllatlng electrlc and magnetlc llelds that are mutually perpendlcular to
each other and to the propagatlon dlrectlon
Classlllcatlon ol electromagnetlc spectrum (radlo, lnlrared, uv, x-rays, etc.)
L|ectron|c C|rcu|t L|ements
Clrcult elements
Current (l = AC/At, slgn conventlons, unlts)
8attery, electromotlve lorce, voltage
1ermlnal potentlal, lnternal reslstance ol battery
Chm's law (l = v/8)
reslstors ln serles
reslstors ln parallel
reslstlvlty (p = 8A/L)
concept ol parallel-plate capacltor
energy ol charged capacltor
capacltors ln serles
capacltors ln parallel
ulscharge ol a capacltor through a reslstor
Conductlvlty theory
ower ln clrcults ( = vl, = l
Alternatlng Currents and 8eactlve Clrcults
8oot-mean-square current
8oot-mean-square voltage
L|ght and Geometr|ca| Cpt|cs
Llght (Llectromagnetlc 8adlatlon)
Concept ol lnterlerence, ?oung double sllt experlment
1hln lllms, dlllractlon gratlng, slngle sllt dlllractlon
Cther dlllractlon phenomena, x-ray dlllractlon
olarlzatlon ol llght
uoppler ellect (movlng llght source or observer)
vlsual spectrum, color
Ceometrlcal Cptlcs
8ellectlon lrom plane surlace (angle ol lncldence equals angle ol rellectlon)
8elractlon, relractlve lndex n, Snell's law (n
= n
ulsperslon (change ol lndex ol relractlon wlth wavelength)
Condltlons lor total lnternal rellectlon
Spherlcal mlrrors
mlrror curvature, radlus, local length
use ol lormula (1/p) + (1/q) = 1/l wlth slgn conventlons
real and vlrtual lmages
1hln lenses
converglng and dlverglng lenses, local length
use ol lormula (1/p) + (1/q) = 1/l, wlth slgn conventlons
real and vlrtual lmages
lens strength, dlopters
lens aberratlon
Comblnatlon ol lenses
8ay traclng
Cptlcal lnstruments
Atom|c and Nuc|ear Structure (hys|cs port|on)
Atomlc Structure and Spectra
Lmlsslon spectrum ol hydrogen (8ohr model)
Atomlc energy levels
quantlzed energy levels lor electrons
calculatlon ol energy emltted or absorbed when an electron changes energy levels
Atomlc nucleus
Atomlc number, atomlc welght
neutrons, protons, lsotopes
nuclear lorces
8adloactlve decay: alpha, beta, gamma, hall-llle, stablllty, exponentlal decay, seml-log plots
Ceneral nature ol llsslon
Ceneral nature ol luslon
Mass dellclt, energy llberated, blndlng energy
Cld AAMC 1oplcs: the toplcs below have elther been removed or modllled lrom the orlglnal AAMC toplc.
Orbits of charged particles moving in magnetic field
General concepts of sources of the magnetic field
Nature of solenoid, toroid
Ampere's law for magnetic field induced by current in straight wire and other simple configurations
Comparison of E and B relations
force of B on a current
8as|c Concepts and Genera| 1echn|ques (o|d aamc top|c)
This entire section has been taken out of the official aamc topics list.
Units and dimensions
Metric units:
conversions within metric system
conversion from metric to English units
conversion within English system
Dimensional balance, checking equations for dimensional correctness
Significant figures
Numerical estimation
Basic concepts
Mass, length, time
Role of experiment and measurement
Graphing techniques
Cartesian co-ordinate system
Use of semi-log graph paper
Use of log-log graph paper
Error analysis
Random vs. systematic errors
Propagation of errors
Mean and standard deviation
Student t
1rans|at|ona| Mot|on
D|mens|ons (|ength or d|stance, t|me)
One dimension =magnitude of length or distance only.
Two dimensions =length or distance on a 2D plane (xy coordinates).
Three dimensions =length or distance in 3D space (xyz coordinates).
Four dimensions =length or distance in 3D space at a given time (xyzt coordinates).
Vectors, components
Scalar: without direction. For example, length, time, mass.
Vector: with direction. For example, displacement, acceleration, force.
Components: the portion of the vector in a given direction.

Trigonometric rules:
SOH CAH TOA =silly old Harry, caught a herring, trolling off Anglesea.
SOH: sin =opposite / hypotenus.
CAH: cos =adjacent / hypotenus.
TOA: tan =opposite / adjacent.
Vector add|t|on
You can only directly add vectors if theyare in the same direction.
To add vectors in different directions, you must add their x, y and z components. The resulting components
make up the added vector.
The vector sum of all components of a vector equal to the vector itself.
Operation involving a vector and a vector may or may not result in a vector (kinetic energy from the square of
vector velocity results in scalar energy).
Operation involving a vector and a scalar always results in a vector.
Operation involving a scalar and a scalar always results in a scalar.
Speed, ve|oc|ty (average and |nstantaneous)
Speed: scalar, no direction, rate of change in distance.
Velocity: vector, has direction, rate of change in displacement.
Average speed:
Average velocity:
Instantaneous speed is the speed at an instant (infinitesimal time interval).
Instantaneous velocity is the velocity at an instant (infinitesimal time interval).
Instantaneous speed equals instantaneous velocity in magnitude.
Instantaneous velocity has a direction, instantaneous speed does not.
The direction of instantaneous velocity is tangent to the path at that point.
Acceleration is rate of the change
Average acceleration:
Uniformly accelerated motion along a straight line
If acceleration isconstant and there is no change in direction, all the following applies:
The value of speed/velocity, distance/displacement are interchangeable in this case, just keep a mental
note of the direction.

You need to memorize those, be able to rearrange them, combine them, and how to use them.
You need to assign one direction as +and the opposite as-, and then keep this scheme for all your
For Cartesian coordinates, take upward and rightward motion as positive; down and left as negative.
For free falls, take downward as positive.
You can assign in what ever fashion you want, as long as the opposite direction is opposite in sign.
Iree|y fa|||ng bod|es
Free falling objects move toward theground at constant acceleration.
On Earth, the rate of acceleration is g, which is 9.8 m/s
Whenever something is in the air, it's in a free fall, even when it is being tossed upwards, downwards or at an
For things being dropped, it's easier if you take down as positive, since that will make g positive.
For things being tossed downwards, it's easier if you take down as positive, since that will make both initial
velocity and g positive.
For things being tossed upwards, the initial velocity will have opposite sign as g. You can take either up or down
as positive depending on the question and what's convenient, but either way, initial velocity will have opposite
signs as g.
The acceleration due to gravity is constant because the force (weight) and mass of the object is constant.
The net acceleration is a constant g if you don't take air resistance into consideration. Usually questions ignore
air resistance. But if the question gives you air resistance, then the acceleration is no longer constant - it will
decrease with time until it gets to zero at terminal velocity.
When there's air resistance, the acceleration will decrease because the force (weight - resistance) is decreasing
due to increasing resistance or friction at higher speeds.
At terminal velocity, weight =friction, so the net force is 0. Thus, the acceleration is 0. So, the speed stays
constant at terminal velocity.
Projectiles are free falling bodies.
The vertical component of the projectile velocity is always accelerating toward the Earth at a rate of g.
The vertical acceleration of g toward the Earth holds true at all times, even when the projectile is traveling up
(it's decelerating on its way up, which is the same thing as accelerating down).
There is no acceleration in the horizontal component. The horizontal component of velocity is constant.
What is the time the projectile is in the air? Ans: use the vertical component only- calculate the timeit takes for
the projectile to hit the ground.
How far did the projectile travel? Ans: first get the time in the air by the vertical component. Then use the
horizontal component's speed x time of flight. (Don't even think about over-analyzing and try to calculate the
parabolic path).
When you toss something straight up and it comes down to where it started, the displacement, s, for the entire
trip is 0. Initial velocity and acceleration are opposite in sign.
When you toss something straight up and it comes down to where it started, there is symmetry. Initial velocity
and final velocity are equal and opposite. Time spent going up =time spent coming down.
Crb|t|ng |n space
Satellites orbiting the Earth are in free fall.
Their centripetal acceleration equals the acceleration from the Earth's gravity.
Even though they are accelerating toward the Earth, they never crash into the Earth's surface because the Earth
is round (the surface curves away from the satellite at the same rate as the satellite falls).
8e|ow are o|d AAMC top|cs that has been deprecated or changed
Un|ts and d|mens|ons
A unit is a label for a quantity.
unit +unit =unit
unit - unit =unit
unit x unit =unit
unit / unit =no unit
Dimensions are powers of units.
unit =one dimension.
=two dimension.
=three dimension.

Common SI un|ts
Quantity SI unit Name
Length m meter
Area m
meter squared
Volume m
meter cubed
Mass kg kilogram
Density kg/m
kilogram per meter cubed
Time s second
Speed m/s meter per second
Acceleration m/s
meter per second squared
Force N Newton
Pressure Pa Pascal
Temperature K Kelvin
Energy J Joule
Power W Watt
Charge C Coulomb
Potential V Volt
Current A Ampere
Resistance Ohm
Magnetic fieldT Tesla
The product of operations involving all SI units is also in SI units.
ref|xes for un|ts
Prefix AbbreviationMultiplier
exa E 10
peta P 10
tera T 10
giga G 10
mega M 10
kilo k 10
hecto h 10
deka da 10
deci d 10
centi c 10
milli m 10
micro 10
nano n 10
pico p 10
femto f 10
atto a 10
Iorce, Mot|on, and Grav|tat|on
Center of mass
1he center of mass |s the average d|stance, we|ghted by mass
In a Cartesian coordinate, the center of mass is the point obtained by doing a weighted average for all the
positions by their respective masses.
The center of mass of the Earth and a chicken in space is going to be almost at the center of the Earth, because
the chicken is tiny, and its coordinate is weighted so.
The center of mass between two chickens in space is going to be right in the middle of the two chickens,
because their positions are weighted equally.
You do not have to obtain the absolute coordinates when calculating the center of mass. You can set the point
of reference anywhere and use relative coordinates.
The center of mass for a sphere is at the center of the sphere.
The center of mass of a donut is at the center of the donut (the hole).
Newton's f|rst |aw, |nert|a
1he |aw of |nert|a bas|ca||y states the fo||ow|ng: w|thout an externa| force act|ng on an ob[ect, noth|ng w||| change
about that ob[ect |n terms of speed and d|rect|on.
In the absence of an external force:
Something at rest will remain at rest
Something in motion will remain in motion with the same speed and direction.
Objects are "inert" to changes in speed and direction.
Newton's second |aw (I = ma)
A net force act|ng on an ob[ect w||| cause that ob[ect to acce|erate |n the d|rect|on of the net force.
The unit for force is the Newton. N =
Both force and acceleration are vectors because they have a direction.
Many MCAT questions omit the direction attribute because it is so obvious. For example, when an apple falls to
the ground (or on Newton), we all know that the force of gravity acts downwards, and the apple of course, falls
downwards. Questions in this scenario are just simple cases of plugging in the formula
However, more difficult questions have directional attributes associated with them. For example, when a bar of
soap slides down an inclined plane, the force of gravity acts downwards, but the acceleration is not completely
downwards, but is "slanted". Therefore, you need to do vector analysis (simple ones only. The MCAT is too short
for complex, time-consuming ones that appear in your physics midterm).
Newton's th|rd |aw, forces equa| and oppos|te
Lvery act|on has an equa| and oppos|te react|on
for the MCAT, you need to know that this law applies to propulsion. This is why rockets work even in the vacuum
of space.
Concept of a f|e|d
For the purposes of the MCAT, fields are lines.
When lines are close together, that's shows a strong field.
When lines are far apart, that shows a weak field.
Lines / fields have direction too, and that means they are vectors.
Things travel parallel, perpendicular, or spiral to the field line.
Law of grav|tat|on (I = Gm1m2]r^2)
Gravity decreases with the square of the distance.
If the distance increases two fold, gravity decreases by a factor of four.
The "distance" is the distance from the center of mass between the two objects.
Gravity is the weakest of the four universal forces.
This weakness is reflected inthe universal gravitational constant, G, which is orders of magnitude smaller than
the Coulomb's constant.
Un|form c|rcu|ar mot|on
Memor|ze the equat|ons
notethat theta is always in radians. To convert degrees to radians, use this formula:
The simple harmonic laws of frequency and period applies here also.
Get the concepts
Distinguish between velocity and speed: Velocity is displacement over time. Speed isthe distance over time.
Displacement is the shortest, straight-line distance between two points on the perimeter of a circle (technically,
this is called the chord). Distance is circumference and arc.
Some typical cases:
For displacements and distancesthat approach zero, the instantaneous velocity equals the speed.
For a quarter around the circle (pi/2 radians or 90 degrees), the displacement is the hypotenuse of a
right-angled triangle with the radius as the other two sides. Using Pythagoras, the displacement is
square root of 2r^2. The distance is the arc of 1/4 circumference.
For half around the circle, the displacement is the diameter and the distance is the half the
For three quarters around the circle, the displacement is again obtained by Pythagoras. The magnitude
of the displacement here is the same as that at a quarter of a circle, but the direction is different. The
distance, is 3/4 of the circumference.
Complete around the circle, the displacement is zero, which makes the velocity also zero. The distance is
the circumference.
The velocity is always less or equal to the speed.
The displacement is always less or equal to the distance.
Displacement and velocity are vectors. Distance and speed are not.
Moving around a circle at constant speed is also simple harmonic motion.
frequency =how many times the object goes around the circle in one second.
period =time it takes to move around the entire circle.
Centr|peta| Iorce (I=-mv
Centr|peta| force |s due to centr|peta| acce|erat|on. Centr|peta| acce|erat|on |s due to changes |n ve|oc|ty when go|ng
around a c|rc|e. 1he change |n ve|oc|ty |s due to a constant change |n d|rect|on.
Centripetal force:
Sometimes a negative sign is used for centripetal force to indicate that the direction of the force is
toward the center of circle.
Centripetal acceleration:
The direction of both the acceleration and the force is toward the center of the circle.
The tension force in the string (attached to the object going in circles) is the same as the centripetal force.
When the centripetal force is taken away (Such as when the string snaps), the object will fly off in a path tangent
to the circle at the point of snap.
We|ght |s the force that acts on a mass
Weight is a force. It has a magnitude and a direction. It is a vector.
Because it is a force, F=ma holds true.
Your weight on the surface of the Earth: F=mg, where g is the acceleration due to Earth, which is just under 10.
You weigh more on an elevator accelerating up because F=mg +ma, where a is the acceleration of the elevator.
An elevator accelerating up is the same thing as an elevator decelerating on its way down, in terms of the
acceleration in F=mg +ma.
You weigh less on an elevator accelerating down because F=mg- ma, where a is the acceleration of the elevator.
An elevator accelerating down is the same thing as an elevator decelerating on its way up, in terms of the
acceleration in F=mg- ma.
You weight less when you are further away from the Earth because theforce of gravity decreases with distance.
However, you are not truly "weightless" when orbiting the Earth in space. You are simply falling toward the
Earth at the same rate as your space craft.
You gain weight as you fall from space to the surface of the earth.
For a given mass, its weight on Earth is different from its weight on the Moon.
When something is laying still on a horizontal surface, the normal force is equal and opposite to the weight.
When something is laying still on an inclined plane, the normal force and friction force adds up in a vector
fashion to equal the weight.
Ir|ct|on, stat|c and k|net|c
Ir|ct|on |s a force that |s a|ways |n the d|rect|on to |mpede the s||d|ng of surfaces.
Static friction: Kinetic friction:
u is the coefficient of friction and N is the normal force.
Like any other force, friction is a vector. However, its direction is easy because it's always opposite to the motion
of the surface involved.
Static friction pertains to objects sitting still. An object can sit still on an inclined plane because of static friction.
Kinetic friction pertains to objects in motion. A key sliding across the table eventually comes to a stop because of
kinetic friction.
Static friction is always larger than kinetic friction.
The coefficient static friction is always larger than the coefficient of kinetic friction.
The coefficient of friction is intrinsic to the material properties of the surface and the object, and is determined
The normal force at a horizontal surface is equal to the weight
The normal force at an inclined plane is equal to the weight times the cosine of the incline angle (see inclined
We can walk and cars can run because of friction.
Lubricants reduce friction because they change surface properties and reduce the coefficient of friction.
Every time there is friction, heat is produced as a by-product.
Mot|on on an |nc||ned p|ane
Gravity is divided into two components on an inclined plane.
One component is normal (perpendicular) to the plane surface: F
The other component is parallel to the plane surface: F
| |
To prevent the object from crashing through the surface of the inclined plane, the surface provides a normal
force that is equal and opposite to the normal component of gravity.
Friction acts parallel to the plane surface and opposite to the direction of motion.
In a non-moving object on an inclined plane: normal component of gravity =normal force; parallel component of
gravity =static friction.
Unless the object levitates or crashes through the inclined plane, the normal force always equals the normal
component of gravity.
In an object going down the inclined plane at constant velocity: parallel component of gravity =kinetic friction
(yes, they're equal, don't make the mistake of thinking it's larger. Constant velocity =no acceleration =no net
In an object that begins to slip on the inclined plane: parallel component of gravity >static friction.
In an object that accelerates down the inclined plane: parallel component of gravity >kinetic friction.
When you push an object up an inclinedplane, you need to overcome both the parallel component of gravity
and friction.
When you push or pull an object up an inclined plane, make sure you divide that force into its components. Only
the component parallel to the plane contributes to the motion.
Ana|ys|s of pu||ey systems
u||eys reduce the force you need to ||ft an ob[ect. 1he catch - |t |ncreases the requ|red pu|||ng d|stance.
For the purpose of the MCAT, just memorize the simple pulley systems below.
Rule of thumb: The ropes on either side of a moving pulley contributes to pulling the load.
The MCAT will most probably give you simple pulleys where only the above rule is applicable.
Complex pulleys will have additional ropes that contribute to the pulling of the load (most likely not testedon
the MCAT).
The distance of pulling increases by the same factor that the effort decreases.
There are no moving pulleys here. If the weight of the box is 100 N, you have to pull with a force of 100 N. For
every 1 meter you pull, the box goes up 1 meter.
When there is one moving pulley, the force needed to pull is halved because strings on both side of the pulley
contribute equally. You supply 50 N (which is transmitted to the right-hand rope) while the left-hand rope
contributes the other 50 N. Because effort here is halved, the distance required to pull the box is doubled.
There are two moving pulleys here. Counting the ropes reveal that when we tug on one rope, it gets
transmitted to a system where 4 ropes pull on the load. Thus, you can pull the 100 N box with only 25 N.
However, for every 4 m you pull, the box only goes up 1 m.
This is a complex pulley. Just like the simple pulleys, the ropes on both sides of the moving pulley contribute.
Here, the left-most rope contributes also. Thismakes 3 contributing ropes, which makes the effort required to
be reduced by a factor of 3. The distance you need to pull here is 3 times the distance the box will travel.
There are 4 universal four-ces... get it?
Universal forces are also called fundamental forces.
The four forces are:
The strong force: also called the nuclear force. It is the strongest of all four forces, but it only acts at
subatomic distances. It binds nucleons together.
Electromagnetic force: about one order of magnitude weaker than the strong force, but it can act at
observable distances. Binds atoms together. Allows magnets to stick to your refrigerators. It is
responsible for the fact that you are not falling through your chair right now (MCAT people love to
throw you quirky examples like this one).
Weak force: roughly 10 orders of magnitude weaker than the strong force. Responsible for radioactive
Gravity: roughly 50 orders of magnitude weaker than the strong force. Responsible for weight (not
mass!). Also, responsible for planet orbits.
Lqu|||br|um and Momentum
When something is in equilibrium, the vector sum of all forces acting on it =0.
Another way to put it: when something is in equilibrium, it is either at rest or moving at constant velocity.
Yet another way to put it: when something is in equilibrium, there is no overall acceleration.
Concept of force, un|ts
Force makes things accelerate, change velocity or change direction.
In the MCAT, a force is indicatedby an arrow.
The direction of the arrow is the direction of the force.
The magnitude of the force is often labeled beside the arrow.
F=ma, so the unit for the force is kgm/s
1rans|at|ona| equ|||br|um (Sum of I| = 0)

When things are at translational equilibrium, the vector sum of all forces =0.
Things at translational equilibrium either don't move, or is moving at a constant velocity.
If an object is accelerating, it's not in equilibrium.
Deceleration is acceleration in the opposite direction.
At translational equilibrium:
An apple sitting still.
A car moving at constant velocity.
A skydiver at falling at terminal velocity.
NOT at translational equilibrium:
An apple falling toward the Earth with an acceleration of g.
A car either accelerating or decelerating.
A skydiver before he or she reaches terminal velocity.
kotat|ona| equ|||br|um (Sum of 1orque = 0)
When things are at rotational equilibrium, there the sum of all torques =0.
Conventionally, positive torques act counterclockwise, negative torques act clockwise.
When things are at rotational equilibrium, they either don't rotate or they rotate at a constant rate (angular
velocity, frequency).
You cannot have rotational equilibrium if there is angular acceleration.
Deceleration is acceleration in the opposite direction.
At rotational equilibrium:
Equal weights on a balance.
Propeller spinning at a fixed frequency.
Asteroid rotating at a constant pace as it drifts in space.
NOT at rotational equilibrium:
Unequal weights in a balance such that the balance is begins to tilt.
Propeller spinning faster and faster.
Propeller slowing down.
Ana|ys|s of forces act|ng on an ob[ect
Draw force diagram (force vectors).
Split the forces into x, y and z components (normal and parallel components for inclined planes).
Add up all the force components.
The resulting x, y and z components make up the net force acting on the object.
Use Pythagoras theorem to get the magnitude of the net force from its components.
Use trigonometry to get the angles.
... more on vector components
Newton's f|rst |aw, |nert|a
The significance of Newton's first law on equilibrium is: things in equilibrium will remain in equilibrium unless
acted on by an external force.
The significance of Newton's first law on momentum is: things resist change in momentum because of inertia
(try stopping a truck. It's not easy because it resists changes to its huge momentum).
... more on Newton's first law
1orques, |ever arms

Torque is the angular equivalent of a force- it makes things rotate, have angular acceleration, change
angular velocity and direction.
The convention is that positive torque makes things rotate anticlockwise and negative torque makes
things rotate clockwise.
The lever arm consists of a lever (rigid rod) and a fulcrum (where the center of rotation occurs).
The torque is the same at all positions of the lever arm (both on the same side and on the other side of
the fulcrum).

If you apply a forceat a long distance from the fulcrum, you exert a greater force on a position closer to
the fulcrum.
The catch: you need to move the lever arm through a longer distance.
There are two kind of weightlessness- real and apparent.
Real weightlessness: when there is no net gravitational force acting on you. Either you are so far out in
space that there's no objects around you for light-years away, or you are between two objects with
equal gravitational forces that cancel each other out.
Apparent weightlessness: this is what we "weightlessness" really means when we see astronauts
orbiting in space. The astronauts are falling toward the earth due to gravitational forces (weight), but
they are falling at the same rate as their shuttle, so it appears that they are "weightless" inside the
Momentum =mv, where m is mass, v is velocity and the symbol for momentum is p.
Impulse =Ft, where F is force and t is the time interval that the force acts.
Impulse =change in momentum:
Conservation of linear momentum
Total momentum before =total momentum after.
Momentum is a vector, so be sure to assign one direction as positive and another as negative when
adding individual momenta in calculating the total momentum.
The momentum of a bomb at rest =the vector sum of the momenta of all the shrapnel from the
Total momentum of 2 objects before a collision =total momentum of 2 objects after a collision.
Elastic collisions
Perfectly elastic collisions: conservation of bothmomentum and kinetic energy.
Conservation of kinetic energy: total kinetic energy before =total kinetic energy after.
Kinetic energy is scalar, so there are no positive / negative signs to worry about.
If you drop a ball and the ball bounces back to its original height - that's a perfectly elastic collision.
If you throw a ball at a wall and your ball bounces back with exactly the same speed as it was before it
hit the wall - that's a perfectly elastic collision.
Inelastic collisions
Conservation of momentum only.
Kinetic energy is lost during an inelastic collision.
Collisions in everyday life are inelastic to varying extents.
When things stick together after a collision, it is said to be a totally inelastic collision.
Work and Lnergy
W =Fdcos
F is force, d is the distance over which the force is applied, and is the angle between the force and distance.
Derived units, sign conventions
Work is energy, and the unit is the Joule.
Joule =Nm =kgm/s
m =kgm
If the force and the distance applied is in the same direction, work is positive.
For example, pushing a crate across a rough terrain involves you doing positive work (you are pushing
forward and the crate is moving forward).
If the force and the distance applied is in opposite directions, work is negative.
For a non-rotating system, friction always does negative work because it acts against the direction of
If the force is acting in one direction, but the object moves in a perpendicular direction, then no work is
The classic example is that no work is done by your arms when you carry a bucket of water for a mile.
Because you are lifting the bucket vertically while its motion is horizontal.
If you like math, then everything you need to know is already contained in the mathematical formula.
Cosine of 90 is zero; cosine of anything below 90 is positive and between 90-180 is negative forth.
Amount of work done in gravitational field is path-independent
Unlike friction, gravity alwaysacts downwards. Thus, it does not matter what detour you take because
sideward motion perpendicular to the gravitational force involves no work.
Pushing an object at constant speed up a frictionless inclined plane involves the same amount of work as
directly lifting the same object to the same height at constant speed.
Sliding down a frictionless inclined plane involves the same gravitational work as doing a free fall at the
same height.
Mechanical advantage
Mechanical advantage =little input force (effort) ->large output force.
Using thelever armcan achieve mechanical advantage.
Usingpulleyscan achieve mechanical advantage.
Work-kinetic energy theorem
Work on an object can transform into kinetic energy.
When you pushing on an object, it will move: Fd =mv
When gravity does work on an object, it will move: F
h =mgh =mv
Kinetic energy of an object can do work.
A moving object can slide up an inclined plane before coming to a stop: mv
A moving object can slide against friction for a while before coming to a stop: mv
Power is the rate of work, or work over time: P =W/t
The unit for power is the Watt, or W (don't confuse this W with the shorthand of work).
Watt =Joule / second
Work and energy are interchangeable.
All types of energy have the same unit - theJoule.
Kinetic energy: KE =1/2 mv^2; units
KE =mv
Unit =Joule =kgm
At the same speed, the larger mass has the larger kinetic energy.
When you double the mass, you double the kinetic energy.
At the same mass, the higher speed has the larger kinetic energy.
When you double the speed, you quadruple the kinetic energy.
Speed is more important than mass for the kinetic energy because speed is squared.
Potential energy
PE =mgh (gravitational, local)
PE =mghis local because it only works on the surface of the Earth.
h is the distance from the Earth's surface.
PE =mgh is derived from a more general formula- see below.
On earth, g is 9.8. g is larger for planets with a higher mass to radius ratio.
PE =1/2kx^2 (spring)
x is distance of the end of the spring from its equilibrium position.
k is the spring constant.
Stiff springs have a larger k because they are harder to stretch (it takes more energy to stretch
PE =-GmM/r (gravitational, general)
This is the general formula for gravitational potential energy.
r is the distance between the center of the two attracting objects.
G is the universal gravitation constant - it is the same for everything.
m and M are the mass of the two attracting objects.
Conservation of energy
The total amount of energy before =the total amount of energy after.
Gravitational potential energy is converted to kinetic energy as an object falls, but the total amount of
energy stays the same.
Kinetic energy is converted to heat and sound energy as a crate slides to a stop on a rough surface.
Conservative forces
If a force doesn't dissipate heat, sound or light, then it is a conservative force.
Work done by conservative forces are path independent.
Conservative forces are associated with a potential energy.
For example, the force from a spring can be stored as spring potential energy.
Gravitational force can be stored as gravitational potential energy.
Electromagnetic forces are also conservative.
non-conservative include frictional forces and human exertion. When friction acts on an object, the heat
and sound released cannot be recovered. When you flex your arm, you lose heat that cannot be
recovered (you cannot re-absorb the heat you lost).
Power, units
Power is the rate of energy use.
The unit for power is the Watt, or Joule per second.
Lifting a crate in one minute requires more power than lifting the same crate in an hour.
Waves and er|od|c Mot|on
er|od|c mot|on
Amplitude, period, frequency

Amplitude (A): how high the peaks are or how low the troughs are, in meters.
The displacement is how far the wave vibrates / oscillates about its equilibrium (center)
The amplitude is the maximum displacement.
Amplitude is correlated with the total energy of the system in periodic motion. Larger
amplitude =greater energy.
Period (T): the time it takes for one cycle, in seconds.
T =1/f
Frequency (f): the rate, or how many cycles per second, in Hertz (cycles per second).
f =1/T
Sometimes, frequency is in rpm (revolutions per minute). rpm =cycles per second x 60.
Angular frequency (w): the rate, in how many radians per second.
w =2f
w is also called angular velocity.

In phase: the waves are 0 or 2 radians (0 or 360) apart. The resulting amplitude (sum of the
waves) is twice the original.
Completely out of phase: the waves are radians (180) apart. The resulting amplitude is zero.
Out of phase: resulting amplitudeis between 0 and twice the original.
Hooke's law, force F=-kx
F is the force that acts to restore the spring back to its equilibrium position, or restoring force.
k is the spring constant. Stiffer springs have a higher k value.
xis the displacement. The amplitude (A) is the maximum x value.
Potential energy =PE =kx
Kinetic energy =KE =mv
At the equilibrium position x =0, PE =0, KE =maximum.
At the maximum displacement (amplitude) x =A, PE =maximum, KE =0.
At any point, PE +KE =maximum PE =maximum KE =constant.
constant =PE
constant =KE
at x =0
Simple harmonic motion; displacement as a sinusoidal function of time
x =Asin(wt)
x is displacement.
A is amplitude.
wis angular frequency (also called angular velocity).
t is time.
Examples of simple harmonic motion
Oscillating spring.
Things going around a circle at constant speed (when plot the x axis position against
Motion of a spring with mass attached to its end

T is period, m is the mass of the attached mass, and k is the spring constant.
A simpler way to express this is:
w is the angular frequency. The spring vibrates faster if it's stiffer and if the mass attached to it
is smaller.
Motion of a pendulum

T is period, L is the length of the string, and g is 9.8.

A simpler way to express this is:
w is the angular frequency. The pendulum oscillates faster when gravity is large and when the
string is short.
General periodic motion: velocity, amplitude
At the equilibrium position, PE =0, KE =maximum.
At the maximum displacement (amplitude) x =A, PE =maximum, KE =0.
At any point, PE +KE =maximum PE =maximum KE =constant.
constant =PE
for a spring.
=mgA for a pendulum, where A is the maximum height that the pendulum can gain
during a swing.
constant =KE
at the equilibrium position.
If you are given the velocity at the equilibrium position, then you should be able to findout the
amplitude by setting maximum KE =maximum PE.
If you are given the amplitude, then you should be able to find out the velocity at the
equilibrium position by setting maximum PE =maximum KE.
Wave Character|st|cs
Transverse and longitudinal waves
Transverse wave: wave displacement is perpendicular to the direction of motion.
Electromagnetic radiation.
A standing wave by oscillating a string side ways. The speed for such a wave =square
root of (string tension / mass per unit length of the string). For the MCAT, just know that
tense, light strings can produce faster transverse waves.
Longitudinal wave: wave displacement is parallel to the direction of motion.
Pressure wave.
Earth quakes.
Wavelength, frequency, velocity
v =f
v is velocity, f is frequency, and is wavelength.
Some times, frequency is also written as .
Wavelength is in meters, frequency is in Hertz and velocity is in meters per second.
Amplitude, intensity
Amplitude is correlated with the energy of the wave. Greater amplitude =greater energy of the
Intensity =energy per area per time =power per area.
Thus, amplitude and intensity are correlated. Greater amplitude leads to higher intensity.
Special note on electromagnetic waves: amplitude and intensity increases the overall energy of
electromagnetic waves such as light. However, neither amplitude nor intensity changes the
energy per photon. Energy per photon depends on wavelength. The shorter the wavelength
(also the higher the frequency), the greater the energy.
Supposition of waves, interference, addition

When waves superimpose on eachother, they interfere.

Interference results from the addition of waves.
When in phase waves add, the resulting wave has a greater amplitude.
When out of phase waves add, the resulting wave has a smaller amplitude.
Constructive interference: addition of waves resulting in greater amplitude.
Destructive interference: addition (cancellation) of waves resulting in diminished amplitude.
Resonance is when things oscillate at its maximum amplitude.
Resonance occurs at resonance frequencies.
Resonance frequencies
Examples of standing waves and the resonance frequencies that produce them
Frequencies can be obtained by f =v/
Both strings and tubes open at both ends have L =

Tubes with a closed end have L =


L is the length of the string/tube

Standing waves, nodes
Standing waves vibrate at resonance frequencies.
Standing waves do not propagate like other waves (that's why they're called standing waves).
Node: point where there's no oscillation.
Antinode: point where there's maximum oscillation.
Beat frequencies
Beats occur when two waves coexist at different frequencies.
The beat frequency is the difference between the frequencies of the two waves.
Refraction and diffraction

Refraction is the bending of waves when it meets a boundary between one medium to another.
Snell's law: n1sin1 =n2sin2 , where n is the refractive index and is the angle to the
When light moves to a denser medium (higher refractive index), it bends toward the
Dispersion, the bending of light through a prism, is a special case of refraction that
separates the colors of light into a rainbow.
Rainbows are created by refraction by water droplets.
Diffraction is the spreading (diffusion) of waves around edges of apertures and obstacles.
You can hear sounds from the other side of a building because sound spreads.
Shining light through a hole will not produce a dot of light, instead, it is a diffuse circle.
Diffraction is the basis for the single and doubleslit interference experiments with light.
When you think of diffraction, think "diffuse".
roduct|on of sound
Sound is produced by vibrations in a medium.
Sound can not be produced in a vacuum, nor can sound travel across a vacuum.
Vibrationswhose frequency is too low to hear is called infrasound.
Vibrations whose frequency too high to hear is called ultrasound.
Vibrations produce pressure waves that oscilate parallel to the direction of propagation.
Sound is a longitudinal wave.
ke|at|ve speed of sound |n so||ds, ||qu|ds and gases
Speed of sound in solids >liquids >gases.
The reason why sound travels the fastest in solids is because solids are the most stiff.
With all else being equal...
Speed of sound in stiff objects >elastic objects.
Speed of sound in less dense objects >more dense objects. Even though gases are less dense
than solids, sound still travels slower in them because they are too elastic.
Speed of sound in hot objects >cold objects.
Intens|ty of sound (dec|be| un|ts, |og sca|e)
=10 log
is sound level in decibels. I is intensity. I
is 10
Intensity is power per area, or the rate of energy expenditure per area. The unit is W/m

Intens|ty Dec|be|s
10 I
100 I
1000 I
Thedecibel system is based on human perception. The decibel value for sound with an intensity of I
zero- below this intensity, sound is not audible. As intensity increases, our perception of its loudness
only increases to a much lesser degree.
Sound attenuation is the gradual loss of intensity as sound travels through a medium.
Sound attenuation is the greatest for soft, elastic, viscous, less dense material.
Dopp|er effect (mov|ng sound source or observer, ref|ect|on of sound
from a mov|ng ob[ect)
Situations where the observed frequency is higher than the actual:
Source moving toward stationary observer: f
v- vs
Observer moving toward stationary source: f
v +v
Source and observer both moving toward each other: f
v +v
v- vs
Situations where the observed frequency is lower than the actual:
Source moving away from stationary observer: f
v +vs
Observer moving away from stationary source: f
v- v
Source and observer both moving away from each other: f
v- v
v +vs
Situations where the observed frequency could be either higher or lower than the actual:
Source moving toward the observer, but the observer is moving away from the source: f
v- vs
Source moving away from observer, but the observer is moving toward the source: f
v +v
is observed frequency. f
is actual frequency emitted by the source. v is the speed of sound. v
is the
speed at which the observer is travelling. v
is the speed at which the source is travelling.
Pitch is the human perception of the frequency of sound.
Higher frequency =higher pitch.
kesonance |n p|pes and str|ngs

Frequencies can be obtained by f =v/

Both strings and pipes open at both ends have L =

Pipes with a closed end have L =


The fundamental frequency is called the first harmonic (n =1).
The next-up frequency is called the second harmonic (n =2).
Sound has 3 fundamental properties: reflection, refraction, and diffraction.
Ultrasound imaging is based on the reflection property of sound.
A source emits ultrasound, which reflects off a surface back into the detector to form an image.
Ultrasound issound that is too high in frequency for humans to hear.
I|u|ds and So||ds
Liquids and gases are fluids.
Density, specific gravity
Density: =m/V, where is density, m is mass, and V is volume.
The density of water is
=1 g/mL =1 g/cm
=1 kg/L.
Specific gravity is the density of something compared to water.
Specific gravity =/
The specific gravity of water is 1.
Buoyancy, Archimedes' principle

Archimedes' principle: buoyant force on an object =weight of the fluid displaced by the object.
g =
The volume of an object that is submerged =the volume of fluid displaced by the object.
Things float when F
Things will rise upward when F
Things will sink when F
Hydrostatic pressure
Pascal's law: if you apply pressure on a liquid, the pressure is transmitted equally to all parts of
the liquid.

The pressure input at one end is the same as the pressure output at the other.
You apply a small force over a small area, and the output force at the end with the
larger area will be greater.
, where d is the distance that the end moves.
The work done on one end is the same as the work output at the other.
P =pgh (pressure vs. depth)
P is pressure, is the density of the fluid; g is the gravitational constant, h is the height
from the surface, or depth that the object is submerged.
Pressure at the surface is 0 because h =0.
Pressure at a depth of h is gh.
gh is the gauge pressure because it ignores the atmospheric pressure above the fluid.
Absolute pressure of something submerged in the ocean =gh +atmospheric pressure.
Viscosity: Poiseuille flow
When a viscous fluid flows through a pipe, the flow has afront that is shaped like a parabola
bulging outward.
Continuity equation (Av =constant)
The volume flow rate of a fluid is constant.
dV/dt =constant, where dV/dt is volume flow rate.
dV =AdL
AdL/dt =Av=constant, where v is linear flow rate (velocity).
Concept of turbulence at high velocities
Low velocity->laminar flow.
High velocity->turbulent flow, forms eddies.
Surface tension
Surface tension gives the surface of a liquid the ability to support things that are very light.
For example, insects can walk on water due to surface tension.
Surface tension is due to the attraction between the molecules of the solvent.
Bernoulli's equation
P +v
+gh =constant
Density: =m/V, wherem is mass and V is volume.
Elastic properties (elementary properties)

Stress: the pressure exerted on an object. =stress =F/A.

Strain: the deformation of the object in the direction of the applied force divided by the original
length. =strain =L/L
Young's modulus =stress / strain.
Young's modulus, the ratio between stress and strain, is constant until you reach the elastic
limit, where things get permanently deformed.
Elastic limit: The maximum stress something can handle before it breaks or become permanently
Thermal expansion coefficient
Things expand when temperature rises, and contracts with temperature falls.
L =L
L is the change in length, L
is the initial length, T is the change in temperature, and is the
coefficient of linear expansion.
In the same fashion as linear expansion, the equations for volume and area expansions are
V =V
A =A

Shear =stress / shear ratio.

Shear ratio =L/L
When L is very small compared to L
, Shear ratio is approximately the same as the shear angle.
Shear angle =tan
Note: L and L are perpendicular to each other.
Compression: solids and liquids are generally not compressible. Gasses are compressible.
L|ectrostat|cs and L|ectromagnet|sm
Charge, conductors, charge conservation
Charges are either positive or negative. Zero charge is neutral.
Like charges repel, unlike charges attract.
Charge is quantized, and the unit of charge is the Coulomb.
Conductors are materials in which charges can move freely. Metals are good conductors.
Charge is always conserved. You can't create or destroy charge, you can only transfer charge from one
source to another.
Insulators are materials in which charges can not move freely. Nonmetals are good insulators.
Coulomb's law (F =kq
, sign conventions)
F =kq
k =9E9 Nm
q is positive for positive charges and negative for negative charges.
Positive F =repelling force.
Negative F =attractive force.
Electric field
field lines

Electric field is denoted by the vector L.

Lines that are closer together denote stronger fields than lines that are farther apart.

Electricfields come out of positive charges, and goes into negative charges.
The unit for electric field is N/C, or Newtons per Coulomb.
field due to charge distribution

Field lines come out of the positive end and goes into the negative end of a dipole.

Field lines for two negative charges are the same as those for two positive charges except that
the direction of the field lines would be reversed.

The direction and magitude of the field at any point in space can be calculated as the vector sum
of all the field components there.

Electric field in between a capacitor is uniform until it reaches the ends of the capacitor.

Electric field for wires runs radially perpendicular to the wire.

Electric field for a cylinder runs radially perpendicular tothe cylinder, and is zero inside the
Potential difference, absolute potential at point in space

Absolute potential (V) is the amount of energy per charge that something possesses.
V =
V is the electric potential (absolute potential) caused by q, which is experienced by q
q is the charge that is causing the potential, not the charge that's experiencing the potential.
Traditionally, q
is the charge experiencing the potential. The magnitude of q
is very small.
U is the electrical potential energy possessed by q
r is the distance between the potential-causing charge and the charge that's experiencing the
potential (r is always positive).
if there are multiple charges contributing to the potential, then calculate the potentials each of
them causes (positive charges cause positive potentials, and negative charges cause negative
potentials), and sum them together.
The unit for potential is Volts (V) or Joules per Coulomb (J/C).
Potential difference (V) is the difference between two potentials.
V =V
- V
Potential difference is used in scenarios such as the difference in potential between the two
plates of a capacitor, or the positive and negative terminals of a battery.
Equipotential lines

Equipotential lines are places where the potential is the same.

Equipotential lines are always perpendicular to electric field lines.
Electric dipole
definition of dipole
dipole =a positive charge and a negative charge separated by some distance.
behavior in electric field

A dipole in an electric field will want to align itself with the electric field, such that the positive
end of the dipole is in the direction of the electric field.
potential due to dipole

To calculate the exact potential at a given point, just calculate the individual potential due to the
positive charge and the negative charge, then add them together.
Electrostatic induction

Induction does not involve any type of conduction.

Electrostatic induction is where a charged object inducesthe movement / redistribution of charges in
another object.
The classical example of electrostatic induction is picking up pieces of paper using a comb rubbed
against fur.
It's called electrostatic induction because it's static- the charged species polarizes non-charged species
by simply being there. This is not the same as electromagnetic induction, which is how electric
generators work. Luckily electromagnetic induction is not listed as an official AAMC topic.
Gauss' law

=EA cos

is electric flux.
E is electric field, A is area that the field goes through, and is the angle between the field and
the normal of the area.

For an enclosed surface, the electric flux is equal to q, the charge inside the enclosure, over the
permitivity of free space.
The net electric flux through any enclosed surface is totally dependent on the charge inside. If
there's no charge inside, then the net electric flux through the enclosure is zero.
An important application of Gauss's law is the Faraday cage. Basically, the electric field inside a closed
conducting cage is zero. This is because the charges on the conducting cage will rearrange to cancel out
any external field.
Definition of the magnetic field8
Magnetic field8 exists in a region of space if a moving charge experiences a force due to its motion in
that region.
The unit for magnetic field is the Tesla (T) or
Existence and direction of force on charge moving in magnetic field

F =qvB sin
is the angle between the charge velocity and the magnetic field. Sometimes the sin is omitted as is
assumed to be 90.
The force is always perpendicular to both the magnetic field and to the velocity of the charge.
You can use the right hand rule to predict the direction of the force. The thumb is the direction of a
positive charge, the middle finger is the direction of the magnetic field, and the palm faces the direction
of the force.
Special scenarios / cases
Charge moving in a circle
F =qvB =mv
You are setting the electromagnetic force equal to the centripetal force, which
maintains the orbit. Using this equation, you can solve for whatever the question asks
Current carrying wires
F =qvB sin =(it)vB sin =(it)(L/t)B sin =iLB sin
i is current, L is length of wire.
Consider the current in the wire as moving positive charges (by tradition, the direction
of the current is defined as the direction of moving positive charges).
You can calculate the direction of the force on the wire inthe same way using the right
hand rule. Just treat the direction of the current the same as the direction of velocity of
a positive charge.
Two wires will attract each other if the current is in the same direction.
Two wires will repel each other if thecurrent is in opposite directions.
L|ectromagnet|c kad|at|on (L|ght)
Properties of electromagnetic radiation (general properties only)
radiation velocity equals constant c, in vacuo
Electromagnetic radiation travels fastest in a vacuum, at a velocity equals c, or 3x10
Light slows down when it travels in a medium other than in vacuo.
n =
, where n is the index of refraction for the medium, and v is the speed of light travelling in
that medium.
radiation consists of oscillating electric and magnetic fields that are mutually perpendicular to each
other and to the propagation direction

Classification of electromagnetic spectrum (radio, infrared, UV, X-rays, etc.)

Lower frequency, longer wavelength, less energy

Radio Causes electronicoscillations in the antenna
Microwave Causes molecular rotation
Infrared Causes molecular vibration
Can excite electrons to orbits of higher energy. Visible light ranges from 400-700 nm. 400ish
being violet, 700ish being red.
Canbreak bonds and excite electrons so much as to eject them, which is why UV is
considered ionizing radiation.
X-rays Ionizing radiation, photoelectric effect
Even more energetic than X-rays
Higher frequency, shorter wavelength, more energy
C|d AAMC 1op|cs: the top|cs be|ow have e|ther been removed or mod|f|ed from the off|c|a| AAMC out||ne.
Orbits of charged particles moving in magnetic field

Perfect orbit occurs when qvB =mv

When qvB <mv
/r, there isn't enough centripetal force, and the charged particle flies out of orbit.
When qvB >mv
/r, there's too much centripetal force, and the charged particle spirals inward.
General concepts of sources of the magnetic field
Anything that involves a moving charge creates a magnetic field
Moving charges.
Current carrying wire.
Solenoids and toroids.
The Earth (electric current in the liquid core).
Atoms with unpaired electrons is the other source of magnetic fields. This is basically the samedeal as
moving charges, since the unpaired electrons orbiting the nuclei is the same thing as moving charges.
Individual atoms of Ferromagnetic and Paramagnetic create magnetic fields because they have
unpaired electrons. Ferromagnetic materialshave domains of aligned atoms that make them
even more susceptible to be magnetized. Both Ferro and paramagnetic material are attracted to
magnetic fields.
Diamagnetic atoms don't create magnetic fields because the electrons are paired, so their
individual fields cancel out. Diamagnetic fields actually is repeled by an external magnetic field.
Nature of solenoid, toroid

The solenoid is just a coil of current-carrying wire.
B =
n is the number of loops per meter. I is current.
The magnetic field produced by a solenoid is directly proportional to the number of coils, and to
the current.
Toroid is just a solenoid in a circle.
B =
N is the total number of loops, I is the current.
More loops, smaller circle greater magnec el d.
Ampere's law for magnetic field induced by current in straight wire and other simple configurations
Ampere's law lets you calculate the magnetic field at a radius r from a current-carrying wire: B =

Comparison of E and B relations
force of B on a current
F =qvB sin =(it)vB sin =(it)(L/t)B sin =iLB sin
i is current, L is length of wire.
Consider the current in the wire as moving positive charges (by tradition, the direction of the
current is defined as the direction of moving positive charges).
You can calculate the direction of the force on the wire in the same way using the right hand
rule. Just treat the direction of the current the same as the direction of velocity of a positive
Two wires will attract each other if the current is in the same direction.
Two wires will repel each other if the current is in opposite directions.
Oscilations of electric and magnetic fields (electromagnetic radiation) has energy.
E =h
E is energy per photon, h is Planck's constant, and is the frequency of the electromagnetic
L|ectron|c C|rcu|t L|ements
C|rcu|t e|ements
Current (I =Q/t, sign conventions, units)

Current is the rate of charge flow through the cross-section of a conductor (wire).
Traditionally, the direction of current is taken as the flow of positive charges.
The unit for current is Coulombs per second, C/s.
Battery, electromotive force, voltage
Electromotive force (emf) is really not a force, but a potential difference, with the unit voltage.
A battery is a source of emf.
If the battery has no internal resistance, then potential difference across the battery =EMF.
If the battery has internal resistance, then potential difference across battery =EMF- voltage
drop due to internal resistance.
Terminal potential, internal resistance of battery

Terminal potential is the voltage across the terminals of abattery.

Internal resistance of a battery is like a resistor right next to the battery connected in series.
Terminal potential =EMF- IR
Ohm's law (I =V/R)
resistors in series

All resistors in series share the same current.
Voltage drop among resistors in series is split according to the resistance- greater
resistance, greater voltage drop (V =IR).
resistors in parallel

All resistors in parallel share the same voltage.
Current among resistors in parallel is split according to the resistance- greater
resistance, less current (I =V/R).
resistivity ( =RA/L)
Resistivity is the inverse of conductivity.
Greater resistivity, greater resistance of the material.
Rearranging the above equation to get R =L/A. To make a wire of low resistance, select
a material that has low resistivity, keep the wire short, and keep the diameter of the
wire large.
Extension cords are made really thick to keep the resistance down, so it doesn't heat up
and cause a fire.
concept of parallel-plate capacitor

C =Q/V =A/d
Greater capacitance is created by a greater charge on plates (Q) for a given voltage (V),
greater plate area (A), or smaller distance between plates (d).
V =Ed, where V is voltage across capacitor, E is electric field between capacitor, and d is
the distance between capacitor plates.
energy of charged capacitor
U =
=QV =C(V)
U is the potential energy of the charged capacitor, Q is charge stored (magnitude of
either +Q or -Q on one of the plates), C is capacitance.
capacitors in series

capacitors in parallel

Dielectric =nonconducting material.
Inserting a dielectric between the plates of a capacitor increases the capacitance by
either increasing Q (if V is constant) or decreasing V (if Q is constant).
V =V
C =C
Discharge of a capacitor through a resistor
During the discharge of a capacitor, the capacitor acts as a battery and drives current flow,
which decreases with time as the capacitor discharges.
Conductivity theory
Conductivity is affected by electrolyte concentration:
No electrolyte, no ionization, no conductivity.
Optimal concentration of electrolyte, greatest conductivity due to greatest mobility of
Too much electrolyte, ions are too crowded, less ion mobility, less conductivity.
Conductivity is affected by temperature:
In metals, conductivity decreases as temperature increases.
In semiconductors, conductivity increases as temperature increases.
At extremely low temperatures (below a certain critical temperature typically a few
degrees above absolute zero), some materials have superconductivity- virtually no
resistance to current flow, a current will loop almost forever under such conditions.
Conductivity () is the inverse of resistivity ().
Place a capacitor inside a solution, the solution will conduct a current between the plates of the
capacitor, thus you can measure the conductivity of a solution using a capacitor.
Power in circuits (P =VI, P =I
P =IV =I
P is power, I is current, V is voltage, R is resistance.
Power companies try to save the amount of copper needed for power lines by using thinner
wires, which makes R quite high.
To minimize P dissipated by the wires, they minimize I by maximizing V. This is why power lines
transfer electricity at high voltage.
A|ternat|ng Currents and keact|ve C|rcu|ts
Root-mean-square current
=0.7 I
Root-mean-square voltage
=0.7 V
L|ght and Geometr|ca| Cpt|cs
L|ght (L|ectromagnet|c kad|at|on)
Concept of interference, Young double slit experiment
Review basic interference conceptshere
In order for interference to occur, the follow conditions must hold:
the interfering light sources must be coherent. This means they must constantly maintainthe
same phase relationship. The light coming from the two slits in Young's double slit experiment
are coherent because a single light source shines through both slits.
the light source must be monochromatic (of single color/wavelength).

dsin =m
bright bands occur at m =0, +/-1, +/-2 ...etc
dark bands occur at m =+/-0.5, +/-1.5, +/-2.5 ...etc
Thin films, diffraction grating, single slit diffraction
Thin films provide a means for interference to occur.
Light reflecting off the outer and inner boundary of a thin film interfere with each other.
A film of oil on water has the appearance of a swirly rainbow due to this interference.

Diffraction grating
Diffraction =light spreads out after passing through the slit, instead of going in a straight path.
Diffraction grating =a slab with many slits close together.
The equation for a diffraction grating is the same as the double-slit experiment.
dsin =m
dis the distance between the slits, everything else is the same as the double-slit experiment.
bright bands occur at m =0, +/-1, +/-2 ...etc
dark bands occur at m =+/-0.5, +/-1.5, +/-2.5 ...etc
Single slit
Light shining through a single slit casts acentral bright band followed by a series of maximas and
minimas on either side.
The equation for a single slit diffraction is different from the equation for the double slit.
asin =m
a is the width of the slit.
Maxima occurs for m =0 (big central maxima), +/-1.5, +/-2.5 , etc.
Minima occurs for m =+/-1, +/-2, +/-3, etc.
Other diffraction phenomena, X-ray diffraction
Light shining through a pin hole will not appear on the screen as a pin hole. Instead, it will be a
diffraction pattern of circular bright and dark bands, with a central bright band.
Light shining past an opaque boundary will not cast a sharp shadow of the boundary on the screen.
Instead, fringes of bright and dark bands appear above the boundary.
Light shining past a penny will not cast a completely black shadow. Instead, there will be a central bright
spot, as well as patterns of bright and dark rings.
X-ray diffraction =X-rays diffracting on a crystal. Patterns of interference that results from this is used to
deduce the structure of the molecules in the crystal.
Polarization of light
Unpolarized light =light with electric field oscilating in many planes.
Polarized light =light with electric field oscilating in only one plane.
Applications of polarization:
Selective absorption: pass light through polarizer that absorbs all but light with electric field in
one plane.
Reflection: at a certain polarizing angle, all reflected light is polarized.
Double refraction: birefringent materials have two indices of refraction that splits the incident
light into two rays polarized perpendicular to each other.
Scattering: air molecules scatter light, which becomes polarized.
Opticaly active molecules either rotate polarized light clockwise or counterclockwise.
Doppler effect (moving light source or observer)
Red shift =frequency decreases =occurs when source and observer is moving away from each other.
Blue shift =frequency increases =occurs when source and observer is moving toward each other.
Observed in astronomy, when stars appear redder/bluer than they really are because they are moving
away/toward us.
The equation for the doppler effect for light is the same as thedoppler effect for sound, except instead
of using speed of sound v, you now use the speed of light c. For red shift, use the equation for source
moving away from observer. For blue shift, use the equation for source moving toward observer.
Visual spectrum, color
Blue =greatest energy, shortest wavelength, highest frequency.
Red =least energy, longest wavelength, lowest frequency.
Energy per photon =h, where h is plank's constant and is frequency.
Laser =light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.
Normal light emission =spontaneous emission.
Laser emission =stimulated emission.
Repeated stimulated emission inside the lasing medium (by reflecting light back and forth
through it) amplifies light.
Geometr|ca| Cpt|cs
Reflection from plane surface (angle of incidence equals angle of reflection)

mirrors completely reflect light.

going from one medium to another results in partial reflection of light.
Refraction, refractive index n, Snell's law (n
Dispersion (change of index of refraction with wavelength)
blue light refracts more than red light in a prism.
white light passes through a prism and gets split into colors of the rainbow due to dispersion.
Conditions for total internal reflection
Going from a medium of high index of refraction to a medium of low index of refraction.
Angle of incidence >critical angle.
Find the critical angle by: n

=critical angle
Spherical mirrors
Image he|ght vs. Cb[ect d|stance:
note: this curve only shows the height of the image, not the position.

note: this curve only shows the height of the image, not the position.
mirror curvature, radius, focal length
mirror curvature can be concave or convex.
concave mirrors can focuslight, so it's converging.
convex mirrors can't focus light, so it's diverging.
The focal length is 1/2 of the radius of curvature.
converging mirrors have positive focal length, while diverging mirrors have negative focal
It's called the focal length because rays parallel to the principle axis of the mirror will converge
at the focal point (for diverging mirrors, the extrapolated rays will pass through the focal point).
use of formula (1/p) +(1/q) =1/f with sign conventions
For the purpose of the MCAT, p is always positive unless the MCAT explicitly tells you otherwise.
q is positive if the image is real. For mirrors, this is when the image is in front of the mirror. For
lenses, this is when the image is behind the lens.
f is positive when the mirror/lens is converging. For mirrors, this is when the mirror is concave.
For lenses, this is when the lens is convex.
M =h'/h =-q/p, where M is magnification, h' is height of image, h is height of object.
real and virtual images
real images are always inverted, and can be cast on a screen.
virtual images are always erect (noninverted), and can not be cast on a screen.
For concave mirrors, real images (positive q) are formed in front of the mirror, where light is
reflectedby the mirror and can be cast on a screen. It's impossible for light to be cast behind the
mirror, so anything behind the mirror is virtual (negative q).
For convex mirrors, images are always virtual (negative q).
Note: diverging mirrors and lenses (convex mirrors and concave lenses) can never form real
Thin lenses
You don't have to re-learn everything for lenses, because they are almost the same as mirrors:
Convex lenses are the same as concave mirrors (both are converging) except for the following:
Real images are on the opposite side of the lens as the object. Because light travels through the
lens and can focus on a screen behind the lens.
Virtual images are on the same side of the lens as the object. Because light can't focus in front of
a lens and be cast on a screen.
Concave lenses are the same as convex mirrors (both are diverging) except for the following:
The virtual images formed by the lens is on the same side of the lens as the object. Because light
can't focus in front of a lens and be cast on a screen.
The image height vs. object distance curve is exactly the same as those of mirrors (convex lenses the
same as concave mirrors, concave lenses the same as convex mirrors). Refer to above.
converging and diverging lenses, focal length
Focal length for converging lens is positive.
Converging lens is convex.
Focal length for diverging lens is negative.
Diverging lens is concave.
use of formula (1/p) +(1/q) =1/f, with sign conventions
same deal as with mirrors.
p always positive.
q positive if real, and negative if virtual.
f positive if converging, and negative if diverging.
real and virtual images
Real images are invertedand can be cast on a screen.
Virtual images are erect and can not be cast on a screen.
For convex lenses, real images (positve q) are formed behind the lens because light passes
through the lens and focuses there.
For concave lenses, images are alwaysvirtual (negative q), and forms in front of the lens.
lens strength, diopters
Lens strength, or lens power is measured in diopters.
P =1/f
where P is in diopters.
lens aberration
spherical aberrations: not all light will focus at the focal point.
chromatic abberation: blue light gets refracted more than red light, so different colors focus
Combination of lenses
The real image formed by a lens can be used as the object for another lens.
Magnification by multiple lenses is the product of all the individual magnifications.
Ray tracing
<li <li
For mirrors:
1. First draw a parallel line from the object, as it bounces off the mirror, it intersects the focal
point. Now, which focal point to intersect? The left or right? Use common sense: for concave
mirrors, it's going to focus the ray to the left focal point. For convex mirrors, which can't focus,
it's going to diverge the ray, which means you're going to have to extrapolate it to the right focal
2. Next draw a line that intersects the R point on the principle axis. Which R? Left or right? Should I
extrapolate? Again, use common sense: The ray drawn should bounce right back its original
path, and not be reflected else where. By eye-balling the mirror, you should be able to figure
this out.
3. Now, you already have two rays drawn, and that is enough to make an intersection. Use this
intersection as a guide to drawing the last ray. The last ray should first intersect the focal point,
then bounce off the mirror parallel to the principle axis. Which focal point to intersect? Should I
extrapolate? There's only one combination for the ray here to fit the intersection already made
by the previous two rays. The trick to do this is to draw the parallel line first, and force it to
intersect the intersection already made by the previous two rays.
For lenses (similar to the way you draw rays for mirrors):
0. First draw the parallel focal point ray. It should make sense which focal point the ray should
hit/extrapolate given the converging/diverging nature of the lens.
1. Next draw a ray intersecting the center of the lens.
2. Lastly, using the intersection already made by the previous two rays as a guide, draw the focal
point parallel ray. Again, draw the parallel line rst and force it to intersect the intersecon
already made by the previous two rays.
Optical instruments
Eye =lens focuses real image on retina.
Glasses =diverging (concave) lens for near-sightedness, converging (convex) for far-sightedness.
Magnifying glass =virtual, erect, larger image formed when p <f for a converging lens.
Atom|c and Nuc|ear Structure (hys|cs ort|on)
Atom|c Structure and Spectra
Lm|ss|on spectrum of hydrogen (8ohr mode|)
Bohr model:
An electron orbits the positively charged nucleus in the same way that the earth orbits the Sun.
Electrostatic attraction pulls the electron toward the nucleus.
The electron orbits a high speed to prevent it from crashing into the nucleus.
The electron can orbit at different energy levels: n=1, n=2, n=3 ...etc.
The higher the energy level, the larger the radius from the nucleus.
Emission spectrum of hydrogen:
When an electron transitions from a higher energy level to a lower energy level, it emits
electromagnetic radiation.
The emission spectrum of hydrogen consists of sharp, distinct lines.
Atom|c energy |eve|s
quantized energy levels for electrons
The distinct lines of the emission spectrum prove that electron energy is quantized into energy levels.
If electron energy is not quantized, then a continuous spectrum would be observed.
The energy of the energy levels is governed by: , where E is energy and n is the energy
The equation is negative, so all energies are negative.
Negative energies mean that it is energy that contributes to the "stability" of the system- the
electron binding energy.
The more negative (lower) the energy, the more stable the orbit, the harder it is to knock out
the electron.
The less negative (higher) the energy, the less stable the orbit, the easier it is to knock out the
At the highest energy, 0 eV, thereis no binding energy, so the electron dissociates.
For atoms other than hydrogen, the shape of the energy level curve stays the same. However,
the numerator is a constant other than 13.6 eV.
The precise relationship for atoms other than hydrogen is: , where Z is the atomic
Higher Z values give more negative binding energy (more stable) because the more charge, the
more electrostatic attraction.
calculation of energy emitted or absorbed when an electron changes energy levels
The wavelength of the emitted or absorbed radiation is governed by the Rydberg formula:
, where lambda is the wavelength, nf is the final energy level, ni is the initial energy
level, and R is the rydberg constant.
The energy of the emitted or absorbed radiation is: , where E is energy, f and v
both mean frequency and c is the speed of light.
Energy is emitted for transitions to lower energy levels (nf <ni).
Energy is absorbed for transitions to higher energy levels (nf >ni).
Atom|c Nuc|eus
Atom|c number, atom|c we|ght
Atomic number =the number of protons.
The atomic number is what defines an element.
When two things have the same number of protons, they are the same element.
Atomic weight =the weighted average of atomic mass for all isotopes of a given atom.
Atomic mass =number of protons +neutrons.
The atomic mass is used for an isotope.
The atomic weight is used for an element.
In standard notation the atomic number is always at the bottom, and the weight is always on top:
An easy way to remember thisis that the atomic number is "fundamental" to the identity of the element, so it is
located at the fundation.
Neutrons, protons, |sotopes
Neutrons =neutral particles that reside in the nucleus.
Protons =positive particles that reside in the nucleus.
Isotopes =things with the same number of protons, but different number of neutrons.
Atom|c part|c|es
Name Mass (amu) ChargeLocation
Proton 1 +1 In the nucleus
Neutron1 0 In the nucleus
Electron 0 -1 Surrounding the nucleus
Nucleons =protons or neutrons.
When two things have the same number of protons but different number of neutrons, they are isotopes of the
same element.
Isotopes often have similar chemical properties, but different stabilities (some decay and give off radiation,
some don't).
Nuc|ear forces
Two forces are at work in the nucleus: the strong force and the electromagnetic force.
The strong force binds the nucleons together, and is therefore contributes to the binding energy.
The electromagnetic force is due to electrostatic repulsion between the positively charged protons in the
The nucleus stays together because the strong force is much stronger than the electromagnetic repulsion.
The strong force is also called the "nuclear force".
... see forces section
kad|oact|ve decay: a|pha, beta, gamma, ha|f-||fe, exponent|a| decay, sem|-|og p|ots
Alpha decay: . Ejection of a helium nucleus at relatively low speed.
Beta decay: . Ejection of a high speed electron.
Gamma decay: . Release of high energy electromagnetic wave.

Name NotationInformation
Weakest form of radiation. Can be stopped by a sheet of paper. It is essentially a relatively
lowspeed helium nucleus.
More energy than an alpha particle. Can be stopped by aluminum foil. It is a high speed
Gamma ray
Strongest form of radiation. It is a high energy electromagnetic wave. Can be stopped by a
thick layer of lead or concrete.
Some notes on , , and decay
Conservation of mass dictates that total atomic weight before the decay equal the total atomic weight
Conservation of charge dictates that the total atomic number before the decay equal the total atomic
number after.
Don't get thrown off by particles you do not recognize. As long as they have a weight and a charge, just
incorporate these numbers in your calculations.
MCAT problems on identifying decay products are just math work.
Remember: the atomic number (the bottom number) determines what element it is.
half-life is the time it takes for the amount of something to half due to decay.
After 1 half-life, the amount of the original stuff decreases by half.
After 2 half-lives, the amount of the original stuff decreases by a factor of 4.
After 3 half-lives, the amount of the original stuff decreases by a factor of 8.
The mathematical expression for this is: , where N sub t=0
is the amount the original starting material. N sub t is the amount of the original material that is still left.
Lastly, t is time.
Although the above is the official half-life equation, people like to multiply rather than to divide.
Therefore, a more user friendly equation is:
When something is stable, it doesn't decay.
When something is unstable, it decays.
The more unstable something is, the shorter the half-life.
Exponential decay:
Semi-log plots: for the purposes of the MCAT, semi-log plots convert exponential curves into straight lines.
Something that curves up becomes a straight line with a positive slope.
Something that curves down becomes a straight line with a negative slope.
For exponential decay, asemi-log plot graphs the log of amount vs. time.
For exponential decay, a semi-log plot is a straight line with a negative slope.
The semi-log plot intercepts the x axis where the original y value is 1.

Genera| nature of f|ss|on

Fission =one nuclei splitting apart.
Uranium undergoes fission when struck by a free neutron.
The fission of uranium generates more neutrons, which goes on to split other Uranium nuclei. This is called a
chain reaction.
Genera| nature of fus|on
Fusion=two nuclei coming together.
The Sun works by fusion.
Hydrogen in the Sun fuses to form helium.
Mass def|c|t, energy ||berated, b|nd|ng energy
+binding energy/c
because some of the M
is converted to binding energy that holds the nucleons together.
=mass of all the nucleons that make up the atom in their free, unbound state.
=mass of the atom.
- M
=mass deficit (also called mass defect) =M.
Binding energy =converting M into its equivalent in energy =M c
Energy liberated =binding energy.
The conservation of mass and energy: the total mass and energy before a reaction is always the same as the
total mass and energy after the reaction.
If the total mass before thereaction is different from the total mass after the reaction, then the difference in
mass is made up for by energy.
The difference in mass before and after a reaction is called the mass deficit or mass defect.
The energy that makes up for the mass deficit is calculated by:
Energy is liberated when mass is lost during a reaction.
Energy is absorbed with mass is gained during a reaction.
More notes on binding energy:
Binding energy most commonly refers to nuclear binding energy (the energy that binds the nucleons
Binding energy is due to the strong force. ...more on forces
Binding energy per nucleon is strongest for Iron (Fe 56).
Binding energy per nucleon is the weakest for Deuterium (the 2-nucleon isotope of hydrogen).
Less commonly used is the electron binding energy. This is because electron binding energy is more
commonly referred to as the ionization energy.