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2010/11 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HPSC3850 Philosophy of Modern Physics

10 creditsClass Size: 100

Module manager: Dr Angelo Cei

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2010/11

Pre-requisite qualifications

EITHER: 20 credits of level 2 Physics (or equiv) OR: A level Physics (or equiv) together with 20 credits in level 2 HPS or level 2 Logic & Language or Theoretical Core Philosophy modules.

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

What is the nature of reality as described by modern physics? This is the central question considered in this module as we examine the philosophical foundations of quantum theory and space-time physics. Does the world just consist of physical objects standing in certain spatial and temporal relations to one another, or are there such things as space and time themselves? Aren't space and time really doomed to fade away into mere shadows anyway (Minkowski) and just what is spacetime? Why are quantum objects peculiar and can they be said to possess properties independent of sentient observers? Does quantum mechanics really involve 'spooky action at a distance' (Einstein); and can we achieve a sensible picture of the quantum world? We will address these questions by studying carefully what quantum mechanics and special relativity have say.Some familiarity with these theories will be assumed. Teaching will be by lectures and tutorials. Pre-requisites are: either 20 credits of level 2 Physics, or A-level maths/physics with 20 credits of level 2 HPS/PHIL (logic and language/theoretical), or other appropriate background, subject to decision of lecturer. Contact


To provide a critical understanding of the development of 20th century physics and its leading philosophical problems, together with an introduction to some of the more technical results in foundations of physics


This module will provide an examination of the background to the development of quantum mechanics and the special and general theories of relativity; also, the philosophical issues connected with these theories, such as determinism, causality and the nature of space and time.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours78.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

2 x 1,500 word essays

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1,500 words50.00
Essay1,500 words50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 03/05/2011


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