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2005/06 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PHYS1100 Quantum Physics and Relativity

10 creditsClass Size: 140

Module manager: Professor G J Morgan

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2005/06

Pre-requisite qualifications

A-Level Physics and Mathematics or equivalent

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

In this course I will introduce basic concept of quantum physics and contrast them with the laws of classical (Newtonian) physics. I will discuss the superposition principle of quantum mechanics which states that any physical object can exist in many different states at the same time. This principle has astonishing and bizarre consequences when it comes to the macroscopic world, such as the permanent flow of electrical current without resistance (superconductivity) as well as the condensation of billions of atoms into a single super atom at low temperatures (Bose-Einstein condensation). The experimental evidence leading to early quantum theory and Plank's hypothesis will be discussed. This will lead us to the Bohr model of atoms and wave-particle duality thence to the basic ideas of wave mechanics as illustrated by the Heisenberg uncertainty relations. Throughout the course I will emphasis the conceptual side of the theory and how it changes our perception of the world, but at the same time talk about technological implications. I hope that at the end of the course students will begin to understand why physics has been called 'the greatest adventure that human imagination has ever begun'.


By the end of the module students should be able to:
- recall and use the transformation equations of Special Relativity;
- summarize the evidence leading to the quantum theory of radiation;
- recall the radiation laws of Stefan and Wien and sketch the form of the black body curve;
- derive and use the Bohr equation for hydrogen like atoms;
- summarize the evidence leading to the wave theory of matter;
- use the de Broglie relationship to find the allowed energies of a particle confined to a box;
- describe the properties of atomic nuclei and details of the nuclear binding energy curve;
- deduce the form of the radioactive decay law.

Skills outcomes
The ability to appreciate aspects of science which transcend our everyday classical experience.The ability to appreciate aspects of science which transcend our everyday classical experience.


Relativity: The use of reference frames to express the laws of physics. Coordinate transformations and the experimental observation of the invariance of the velocity of light. The form waves and the velocity of a wave. The need for Lorentz transformations and the new view of space and time imposed by the invariance of the velocity of light. Some consequences of the Lorentz transformations including (a) time dilation and the increase in observed lifetime of fast moving unstable particles, (b) the relativistic increase of mass and the formula E = mc2, (c) relativistic invariants involving energy and momentum.

Atomic and Quantum Physics: Survey of the experimental evidence leading to the Quantum Theory; cavity radiation and the quantum hypothesis of Planck. Einstein and the photoelectric effect. Compton scattering. Line Spectra, the quantisation of angular momentum, the Bohr model of the hydrogen atom. Particle-wave duality, the de Broglie relation. Particle in a box and the simple harmonic oscillator. The wave function. Normalisation. Significance of the wave function as expressing a probability. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

Nuclear Physics: Properties of the nucleus from scattering experiments, size and constant density. Systematics of A,N and Z. Nuclear masses and binding energy. The binding energy curve. Nuclear models: liquid drop and shell model. The radioactive decay law.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Lectures: 22 x 1 hour;

Tutorials: 3 x 1 hour;

Problem-solving classes: 3 x 1 hour.

Private study

Preparation for exercise classes and tutorials: 18 hours;
Reading: 54 hours.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

3 problem-solving assignments and 3 tutorials.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

1 x 2 hour written examination at the end of the semester: 85%;
Marked work from problem-solving classes: 15%.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/03/2006


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