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Undergraduate Physics 2015-2016

PX1015: THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE A

15 credits

Level 1

First Sub Session

Physics is the most fundamental of the sciences, and if we wish to better understand the nature and behaviour of the Universe, it is perhaps the best place to start. This course introduces the basic topics of Physics, from the sub-microscopic scale of electrons and atoms, to the orbits of the planets and stars, to the grand wheeling of galaxies. It encompasses the work of Physicists like Isaac Newton,   Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and Tony Stark. If you’ve ever been curious about how the world works, you will hopefully find this course, typically well-regarded by students, interesting.




PX1016: UNDERSTANDING THE PHYSICAL WORLD

15 credits

Level 1

First Sub Session

Did you ever wonder about the efficiency of different forms of renewable energy, the mechanisms behind the formation of double rainbows or efficient ways of counting the number of termites in a nest? This non-calculus course provides an excellent opportunity to understand the basic principles of physics necessary to answer these and many other questions relevant to multiple disciplines, ranging from geology to engineering to biology and environmental sciences.

PX1513: THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE B

15 credits

Level 1

Second Sub Session

Understanding electric and magnetic forces is of paramount importance for understanding the physical world. They are eventually responsible for the matter around us to self-organize (in solid, liquid and gas phases), with given structures, density, elastic properties, and so on. Furthermore, they are responsible for light emission and propagation across the space.

Already the first rudiments of electricity and magnetism will help to appreciate that they are two difference faces of the same coin: electromagnetism. This relationship is the first evidence of the possibility to build a unified description of the microscopic laws of the physical universe.



PX1514: ASTRONOMY AND METEOROLOGY

15 credits

Level 1

Second Sub Session

Impossibly distant, sparkling jewels cast on the black velvet cloth of the sky, no sight inspires more awe than the majestic beauty of the stars. This course explores the evolution of our understanding of astronomy from how the Universe at large works to the modern view of our solar system.

Science also intersects with our daily lives in the weather. We discuss the way elementary physics causes everything from everyday weather to colossal storm systems, and we explore some major science issues including climate change.

Descriptive, not mathematical, this is an interesting, approachable course suitable for all undergraduate students.




PX2011: AN INTRODUCTION TO SPACE SCIENCE AND REMOTE SENSING

15 credits

Level 2

First Sub Session

This popular course will look at the principles behind rocketry, satellite orbits and probes sent beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. It will look at the environment that satellites and probes operate in (orbital debris), GPS, and asteroid and impact risk assessment. The course will describe some great achievements in space exploration and discuss the main motivations for engaging in this area. It will examine how other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum of longer wavelengths than visible light that are used for remote sensing and it will concentrate on some of the science behind communicating effectively with satellites and storing the results.




PX2013: LIGHT SCIENCE

15 credits

Level 2

First Sub Session

For most of us, our perceptions are governed most strongly by our vision. We speak of possessing a worldview, seeing what someone says. We see because of light, but what is light? As long as there has been science, light has been studied. It’s been considered a particle, a wave, and in modern physics is somehow both. This course explores the fascinating physics of this ubiquitous phenomenon, at an elementary  mathematical level suitable for non-science students. We’ll cover petrological microscopy, of interest to geologists, interference and diffraction, how colour works and see how polarized sun glasses operate.


PX2015: DYNAMICAL PHENOMENA

15 credits

Level 2

First Sub Session

Understanding oscillatory and wavelike behaviour is of huge importance in comprehending how our natural world works.  It seems that everything in nature has its own cycle, rhythm or oscillation.   From planets revolving around the sun to waves on the sea, even fundamental particles are treated as waves in modern physics.   Accessible to students with some knowledge of calculus, this course will explain the mathematics of this fascinating and important subject.  Methods of solving the differential equations that describe waves and oscillatory phenomena will be explored, including numerical techniques.



PX2505: PRACTICAL OPTICS AND ELECTRONICS

15 credits

Level 2

Second Sub Session

iPods are excellent, but they’re expensive, so why not take this course, in which you will learn the basic electronics skills required to make an iPod? In electronics you will go from building simple circuits to designing complex logical architectures.

The optics half of the course explores various fascinating optical phenomena, some of which are practically applicable for geologists and many other scientific disciplines.   The practicals elegantly demonstrate the fundamental properties of light.

Oh, and did I mention the course is 100% continuously assessed?




PX2510: RELATIVITY AND QUANTUM MECHANICS

15 credits

Level 2

Second Sub Session

In the 20th Century, Physics got strange, and this course sets out to explore the foundations of this modern approach. In Special Relativity we will look at the idea that time is not an absolute – that events can happen in different times for different observers – and explore the effects of travelling at close to the speed of light. The quantum mechanics section introduces some of the most exciting and dramatically successful science of all time, and discuss the evolution of this idea from the days of Schrodinger’s cat to quantum tunnelling.





PX2512: COSMOLOGY, ASTRONOMY AND MODERN PHYSICS

15 credits

Level 2

Second Sub Session

This course gives insight into the Universe and looks at how modern physics impacts our world. From special relativity we will examine time dilation, length contraction and E=mc2. Quantum mechanical concepts will be introduced, such as matter waves and the uncertainty principle. Particle physics is then outlined followed by the design and purpose of the LHC. The course discusses the Big Bang theory and important cosmological issues, such as the effects of general relativity, Olbers’ paradox, dark matter and dark energy. Large-scale astronomy to be covered includes stellar and galactic evolutions and ‘exotic’ objects such as quasars and black holes.

PX3014: ENERGY AND MATTER

15 credits

Level 3

First Sub Session

Our world is made of three types of matter, Solids, Liquids and Gases. The first part of this course will explore the physical properties of these forms of matter and investigate important technological phenomena such as the flow of liquids and the causes of catastrophic failure in mechanical components.  In the second half of the course, the nature of heat energy in matter will be explored.  Thermodynamic behaviour will be understood in terms of Entropy and the operation of engines and their theoretical efficiency limitations will be explained.


PX3016: INTRODUCTION TO THE SOLID STATE

15 credits

Level 3

First Sub Session

The course is based on modern views on the structure of solids, how that structure is determined by X-ray crystallography and the basics of structure-property relationships.  This involves learning the language of the basic shapes and symmetry displayed by crystals, then using that within the interdisciplinary subject of X-ray crystallography, source of many Nobel prizes and great advance in Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science, Biology and Medicine.  The course then briefly examines some key topics including semiconductors, defects and amorphous materials.




PX3017: RESEARCH AND COMPUTING SKILLS

15 credits

Level 3

First Sub Session

This course introduces mathematical and computational methods. The first part is an introduction to programming starting at basics such as variables, loops and conditional statements. This course is taught in Python, with an emphasis on modern programming concepts and data analysis skills. The second part teaches advanced mathematical methods using examples from Physics; for example multivariable calculus and Maxwell's equations, or ODE and partial differential equations in classical and quantum mechanics. There will be a one week career strategies module separating the two.




PX3510: ADVANCED PRACTICAL PHYSICS

15 credits

Level 3

Second Sub Session

Theories of the physical world around us must be consistent with nature. This can be checked by experiment and indeed unexpected experimental results can lead to the development of new theories. This course offers the opportunity to test theories in optics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics and materials science by experiment. You will learn how to carry out experiments, analyse your data and present your results both in writing and verbally. You will get the opportunity to work with Michelson interferometers, venturi meters, sensors, instrumentation and computers. This course supports your physics lectures and prepares you for an experimental scientists work after university.




PX3511: QUANTUM MECHANICS

15 credits

Level 3

Second Sub Session

The course aims to provide the students with the underpinning knowledge that will enable them to think constructively about phenomena that relate to the quantum structure of matter. It is intended that the students will gain a broad appreciation of the hierarchy of interactions that give rise to the energy levels of atoms and the consequent structure of the associated spectroscopic transitions. In comparison to the previous years more emphasis will be put on the general, mathematical structure of quantum theory, tackling topics such as Hilbert spaces and time independent perturbation theory.





PX3512: ELECTRICITY AND MAGNETISM

15 credits

Level 3

Second Sub Session

We are surrounded by electromagnetic phenomena; it is not possible to understand the physical world without them. In this course we will discuss the link between electricity and magnetism, noticing that changing electric magnetic fields generate electric fields and the other way around. This will lead to the introduction of Faraday’s law, hugely relevant to understand how we generate electricity, and to the introduction of Maxwell’s correction to Ampere’s law, which will lead to the astounding result that light is an electromagnetic wave! We will finish the course by exploring how electromagnetic waves propagate and how they are originated.




PX4007: CASE STUDIES IN THE PHYSICAL SCIENCES

15 credits

Level 4

First Sub Session

Whatever career you end up in, group working skills will be critical, and this course is designed to develop them. It is 100% continuously assessed and consists of some initial teamwork training, followed by two very different projects. One explores PET scanning and is taught by Professor Andy Welch, who is in charge of the medical imaging unit at Foresterhill. The other is about fibre optics communications and is taught by Dr. Ross Macpherson. These open-ended projects will give you some less prescriptive assessment in your final year.




PX4011: PROJECT A

30 credits

Level 4

Both Sessions

This course provides the opportunity to carry out an independent, open-ended, piece of research work. This can be in an area of physics (e.g. astronomy, nuclear physics, superconductors, dynamical systems etc.) or in related subjects where physicists tools can be applied (e.g. generation of proteins, biomechanics, infectious diseases etc.). The project can be dissertation based, practical or computational. You will develop: presentation skills; experience of reading and thinking about a specialist topic in depth; critical analysis skills of your own and other people’s scientific work and project management skills. This will help prepare you for your future career beyond university.





PX4012: STATISTICAL PHYSICS AND STOCHASTIC SYSTEMS

15 credits

Level 4

First Sub Session

Statistical physics derives the phenomenological laws of thermodynamics from the probabilistic treatment of the underlying microscopic system.  Statistical physics, together with quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity, is a cornerstone in our modern understanding of the physical world. 

Through this course, you will gain a better understanding of fundamental physical concepts such as entropy and thermodynamic irreversibility, and you will learn how derive some simple thermodynamic properties of gases and solids.

The final part of the course is devoted to an introduction to stochastic systems, which are widely used in many different fields such as physics, biology and economics.





PX4510: STRUCTURE OF MATTER AND THE UNIVERSE

15 credits

Level 4

Second Sub Session

The first half of this course provides a detailed understanding of the origin of our Universe and the equations that describe its evolution.  The creation of galaxies, stars - their structure, fusion processes and life cycles will be explored along with the formation of the planets.   In the second half, the fundamental nature of matter will be investigated and theoretical techniques such as Lagrangians used to understand fields.  Gauge field theory as an explanation of the fundamental forces of nature and the standard model will be explained.




PX4514: MODELLING THEORY

15 credits

Level 4

Second Sub Session

This course was designed to show you what you can do with everything you learnt in your degree. We will use mathematical techniques to describe a fast variety of “real-world” systems: spreading of infectious diseases, onset of war, opinion formation, social systems, reliability of a space craft, patterns on the fur of animals (morphogenesis), formation of galaxies, traffic jams and others. This course will boost your employability and it will be exciting to see how everything you learnt comes together.



PX4515: PROJECT B

15 credits

Level 4

Both Sessions

This course provides the opportunity to carry out a short independent, open-ended, piece of research work. This can be in an area of physics (e.g. astronomy, nuclear physics, superconductors, dynamical systems etc.) or in related subjects where physicists tools can be applied (e.g. generation of proteins, biomechanics, infectious diseases etc.). The project can be dissertation based or computational. You will develop: presentation skills; experience of reading and thinking about a specialist topic; critical analysis skills of your own and other people’s scientific work and project management skills.




PX4517: ANALYTICAL MECHANICS AND ELEMENTS OF GENERAL RELATIVITY

15 credits

Level 4

Second Sub Session

Analytical mechanics, with its Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations, plays a pivotal role in almost every aspect of theoretical physics. It  highlights the role of conservation laws, the most fundamental laws of nature, in shaping the physical world in which we live.

Mastering Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics allows one to better appreciate and understand cornerstone physical theories such as Quantum Mechanics or Statistical Mechanics.

As an alternative to Hamiltonian mechanics, in the second half of the course students may follow a 5 weeks elementary introduction to Einstein’s General relativity, the geometrical theory of gravitation, which generalizes special relativity and Newton’s gravitation.




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