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PX145 - Physics Foundations

  • Module code: PX145
  • Module name: Physics Foundations
  • Department: Physics
  • Credit: 12

Content and teaching | Assessment | Availability

Module content and teaching

Principal aims

To introduce the style and content of physics at university and to cover key ideas about waves, matter and thermodynamics

Principal learning outcomes

At the end of the module you should: Be able to use dimensional analysis to establish how physical quantities can depend on each other; Know about the solid, liquid and gas phases of matter and how their properties depend on thermal motion and the forces between atoms and molecules; Have a working knowledge of the kinetic theory of gases and how this relates to what is observed in real gases; Be able to explain and use the first and second laws of thermodynamics to solve problems involving heat transfers and work; Be able to recognise the wave equation and solve wave problems involving travelling waves, the Doppler effect, boundary conditions and normal modes in a string or organ pipe; Understand the nature of light: its electromagnetic origin, its polarization and the role of the refractive index; Be able to describe interference effects and have acquired a familiarity with the use of complex number notation, and be able to describe interference effects

Timetabled teaching activities

29 Lectures + 10 problems classes

Departmental link

Other essential notes

This module looks at thermodynamics and waves. Thermodynamics is the study of how work and heat are related. The most important question for the founders of the discipline was how much useful work could be extracted from a heat engine (they wanted to build better steam engines). They showed that the answer is determined by a quantity called the entropy, which turned out to be a measure of a system's disorder. The topic is introduced via the ideal gas, whose properties are discussed and derived in some detail. The second half of the module covers waves. Waves are time-dependent variations about some time-independent (often equilibrium) state. They carry energy, momentum and information and much of their behaviour is similar whether they are light waves, sound waves or waves on water. The module covers phenomena like the Doppler effect (this is the effect that the frequency of a wave changes as a function of the relative velocity of the source and observer), the reflection and transmission of waves at boundaries and some ideas about diffraction and interference patterns.

Module assessment

Assessment group Assessment name Percentage
12 CATS (Module code: PX145-12)
B (Examination only) 2 hour examination (Summer) 100%

Module availability

This module is available on the following courses:

  • Undergraduate Physics (BSc) (F300) - Year 1
  • Undergraduate Physics (MPhys) (F303) - Year 1
  • Undergraduate Physics (BSc MPhys) (F304) - Year 1
  • Undergraduate Physics and Business Studies (F3N1) - Year 1
  • Undergraduate Mathematics and Physics (MMathPhys) (FG31) - Year 1
  • Undergraduate Mathematics and Physics (BSc MMathPhys) (FG33) - Year 1
  • Undergraduate Mathematics and Physics (BSc) (GF13) - Year 1
Optional Core