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PX2013: LIGHT SCIENCE (2017-2018)

Last modified: 25 May 2018 11:16

Course Overview

For most of us, our perceptions are governed most strongly by our vision. We see because of light, but what is light? It’s been considered a particle, a wave, and in modern physics is somehow both. This course explores the fascinating physics of this 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, see how polarisation can be applied in both scientific fields and every day life, and see how the photon can be used in devices in the increasing prevalent field known as photonics.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 2
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus None. Sustained Study No
  • Dr Ross Macpherson

Qualification Prerequisites

  • Programme Level 2

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

  • One of KL108W The Physical Universe A (Passed) or PX1014 The Physical Universe - 1 (Passed) or PX1015 The Physical Universe A (Passed) or PX1017 The Physical Universe a (Distance) (Passed)
  • Any Undergraduate Programme (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

The course aims to give a wide introduction to various fundamental topics in the science of Optics. The exploration of these fundamental topics goes beyond merely developing the appropriate theories by including study of the widespread applications of optical techniques and devices to science, industry and modern life.

Particular subjects given extensive treatment include: diffraction, interference and polaristation, the functions of lasers and photonic devices and the phenomena governing the behaviour of lens systems.

Degree Programmes for which this Course is Prescribed

  • BSc Computing Science and Physics
  • BSc Geology - Physics
  • BSc Mathematics-Physics
  • BSc Physical Sciences
  • BSc Physics
  • BSc Physics with Modern Languages
  • BSc Physics with Philosophy
  • Bachelor Of Science In Geophysics
  • MA Natural Philosophy
  • Master of Physics with Complex Systems Modelling
  • Physics Joint
  • Physics Major
  • Physics Minor

Contact Teaching Time

55 hours

This is the total time spent in lectures, tutorials and other class teaching.

Teaching Breakdown


1st Attempt: Final two-hour written exam (75%), 2 concept mapping exercises (5% total) and 3 in-class written exams distributed appropriately throughout the course (20% total).

Resit: Final two-hour written exam (75%), 2 concept mapping exercises (5% total) and 3 in-class written exams distributed appropriately throughout the course (20% total).

Formative Assessment

Tutorial sheets assisted by demonstrator, answers provided later.


Concept map marks are returned two weeks after submission, with commentary. Class exams are marked and returned within a week.

The formative assessment is not marked, though the demonstrator checks work as the tutorial progresses and the students are later provided with worked solutions to the problems.

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