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Last modified: 25 May 2018 11:16

Course Overview

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.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 4
Session Second Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus None. Sustained Study No
  • Dr Geoffrey Dunn

Qualification Prerequisites

  • Either Programme Level 3 or Programme Level 4

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Any Undergraduate Programme (Studied)
  • Either PX3511 Quantum Mechanics (Studied) or BSc Computing Science and Physics (Studied)

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?


Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

Course content reflects the learning outcomes:

  • Lagrangian description of fields, Concepts in group theory, definition of a group, irreducible representations, theory of (quantum mechanical) time independent and time dependent perturbation theory.
  • Semi-quantitative explanation of the ideas behind general relativity.
  • The 3 types of basic particle interactions: strong, weak and electromagnetic (derivations of using perturbation theory and Lagrangian densities).
  • The roles of conservation laws in particle interactions and the idea of gauge invariance (symmetry properties of I-space).
  • The current status of the Standard Model SU(2), SU(3).
  • The main ideas behind modern theories of everything, string theory and supersymmetry.
  • The formation and evolution of the Universe.
  • The formation and evolution of Galaxies.
  • The formation evolution and structure of stars.
  • The various evolutionary possibilities for stars of different mass.
  • The formation and types of planets and planetary systems.

The first part of the course covers the foundations of theoretical physics: Lagrangians, perturbation theory and group theory. Lagrangians are then used to understand classical field theory and solve the Klein Gordon and Dirac equations. The gravitational field is then explained in terms of curved spacetime. Quantum field theories (such as Quantum electrodynamics) are then examined in terms of exchange particles using perturbation theory. Gauge theories, the idea of an internal space and isospin are then introduced together with the classification of particles and exchange particles according to their symmetries. Yangs Mills SU(2) theory and the concept of quarks and Gell-Mann SU(3) theory is used to explain the families of baryons and mesons. Finally, string field theories are introduced. The second half of the course covers astrophysics, addressing the topics of the evolution of the universe, galaxies, observed properties of stars, star formation and evolution and planet formation.

Further Information & Notes

This course alternates with PX4516.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown


More Information about Week Numbers

Summative Assessments

1st Attempt: 1 two-hour written paper (70%) and in-course assessment (30%) - two class tests. Resit: As above with the continuous assessment carried forward.

Only the marks obtained on the first attempt can be used for Honours classification.

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment will be by means of dialogue with the lecturer and particularly in the problem classes.


Feedback will be immediate during the problem classes and within two weeks (usually one) for the summative class tests.

Course Learning Outcomes


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