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Physics for Theoretical Physics - PY1T10

Michaelmas Term – lectures, practical laboratory, online & small group tutorials – 10 credits
(M Möbius, J Lunney, L Bradley)

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

  • Express relativistic effects concerning the motion of a body, as observed in different inertial reference frames
  • Describe wave motion and relate it to basic phenomena in light and sound
  • Understand sources of errors in measurements and calculate their propagation
  • Prepare a brief report, including error analysis, on a simple physical experiment


  • Examination (written paper) - 60%
  • Laboratory practical work - 30%
  • Online tutorials - 10%


What is Physics?

Lecturers: Professors M. Möbius
Duration: Michaelmas Term 3 lectures
Description: An introduction to the School of Physics, the JF Physics course and statistical methods.

Special Relativity

Lecturers: Professor J Lunney
Duration:Michaelmas Term 15 lectures
Description: Galilean transformations, Michelson-Morley experiment. Lorentz transformations, time dilation, length contraction, simultaneity. Doppler effect. Transformation of velocities and forces. Relativistic dynamics. Pair creation, fission, fusion. Collisions. Compton effect. Relativity and electromagnetism.

Waves and Optics I

Lecturers: Professor L. Bradley
Duration: Michaelmas Term 20 lectures
Description: Resonance, harmonic oscillators, SHM, frequency. Waves: standing, travelling, wavelength, wave velocity. Sound: music, vibrations of a string and of a column of air, harmonics, Doppler effect. Light: Rayleigh scattering, refraction, reflection, dispersion, index of refraction, polarization, polarized reflection, Malus' law, birefringence, total internal reflection, colour vision, gas discharges, lasers. Optics: refracting optics, lenses, real images, focus, focal length, f-numbers, lens equation, cameras, reflecting optics, curved mirrors, telescopes. Interference: superposition of waves, beating, 2 beam interference, anti-reflection coating. Diffraction: Huygen's principle, diffraction by a slit and grating, X-ray diffraction.


Lecturers: Professors M. Möbius
Duration: Michaelmas Term 10 lectures
Description: Systematic and random errors. Discrete and continuous distributions such as binomial, Poisson, Gaussian and Lorentzian. Moments of a distribution. Histograms and probability densities. Estimation of mean and standard deviation in a measurement. Error propagation and transformation of variables in probability distributions. Linear regression analysis, method of least squares, goodness of fit (Chi squared) and plotting techniques. Introduction to programming basics in Python.