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PHYSICS

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PX 2512
COSMOLOGY, ASTRONOMY AND MODERN PHYSICS
CREDIT POINTS 15

Course Co-ordinator: Dr J M S Skakle

Pre-requisite(s): PX 1016 or PX 1514 or PX 2011 or equivalent.

Note(s): Cannot be taken with PX 2510.

In this course we aim to summarise some of the key developments in Modern (post 1900) physics in a simple and accessible manner. As such, the course is divided into "Modern Physics", comprising special relativity, quantum mechanics, nuclear physics and particle physics, and also "Cosmology and Astronomy". Where appropriate some of this will be presented in a historical context, describing how models are developed and tested, and how new theories come to light.

In the first part of the course, we discuss general "Modern Physics". The twin subjects of relativity and quantum mechanics have had an impact right across the sciences. The course discusses why these topics emerged from classical physics, outlines what they are about and some of their fundamental results. From special relativity we will examine time dilation, mass increase, length contraction and of course E=mc2 and the implications of this equation. The development of quantum mechanics will be followed, leading to such key results as the (implications of the) Schrodinger Wave equation and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. We will then go on to learn about the basics of nuclear and particle physics, leading to the design and purpose of the LHC.

The course also addresses some philosophical issues raised by the question "What is science?" and what distinguishes it from other fields of knowledge. It discusses the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe and how this theory makes predictions that can be tested by observation, such as the cosmic microwave background and the relative abundance of light elements in the Universe. The course looks at several cosmological issues, such as the role of General Relativity, Olbers paradox, dark matter and dark energy. Large-scale astronomy is discussed including the evolution of galaxies, different kinds of stars and their evolution and the presence of "exotic" objects such as quasars and black holes.

Normally 2 one-hour lectures and 1 one-hour tutorial per week.

1st Attempt: 1 two-hour multiple choice examination (60%); in-course assessment (40%) comprising two group presentations and a short summary essay.

Resit: 1 two-hour multiple choice examination (60%). The in-course assessment will be carried forward, although there is the opportunity to resubmit the short summary essay (worth 10%).