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PYU22T20 Modern Physics for Theoretical Physics

Hilary Term – lectures, practical laboratory, small group tutorials – 10 credits (S Hutzler, M Stamenova, A Vidotto, D McCloskey)

This module combines four elements of modern physics, as follows:

Chaos and Complexity – 12 lectures
Nuclear and Particle Physics – 14 lectures
Astrophysics – 12 lectures
Waves and Optics II – 14 lectures

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

  • Describe how physics is underpinned by quantum and nuclear physics; waves and optics
  • Explain the concepts of deterministic chaos and complexity in relation to dynamical systems
  • Explain a broad variety of astrophysical phenomena with simple physics
  • Prepare calculations and present in small groups
  • Write and run Python programs to perform computer experiments


Chaos and Complexity – 12 lectures
Examples of chaotic systems, logistic map, period doubling, Feigenbaum numbers, Ljapunov exponent, phase portraits, iterated maps, fractals, self organised criticality, cellular automata, dynamics of pedestrian motion.

Nuclear and Particle Physics – 14 lectures
Scattering. Cross-sections. Rutherford scattering. Nuclear force. Nuclear binding. Nuclear masses. Mass defect. Mass dependence of binding energy per nucleon. Beta decay. Electron, positron emission. Electron capture. Decay chains. Alpha decay. Heavy element decay chains. Barrier penetration mechanism. Gamma decay. Radioactive decay law. Analysis of parent-daughter activity relationships. Nuclear fission. Liquid drop model. Fission products. Induced fission. Nuclear reactors. Neutron moderation. Control and delayed neutrons. Reactor types. Environmental and other concerns. Fuel cycle. Nuclear fusion. Fusion reactors. Fundamental particles, Leptons and Baryons, Quarks.

Observing the Universe – 12 lectures
Continuous radiation of stars: flux, luminosity, magnitudes, colours. Spectral lines in stars: spectral classification, origin of spectral lines, the Hertzprung-Russell diagram. Binary stars: Doppler effect in astronomy, stellar masses, mass-luminosity-radius relationship. Basic nucleosynthesis and stellar equilibrium. Life and death of stars: stellar evolution, end stages of stellar evolution, planetary nebulae, white dwarfs, supernovae, neutron stars and black holes. Interstellar medium. Star formation: gravitational collapse, initial mass function. Exoplanets and life in the Universe: planet formation, exoplanets detection and statistics, life in the universe. Galaxies and galaxy clusters: Milk Way, galactic rotation, dark matter, galaxy classification, distribution of galaxies, expansion of the Universe, galaxy clusters, active galaxies. Cosmology and the early Universe: gravitational lensing, cosmology, the evolution of the universe, dark energy, big bang theory.

Waves and Optics II – 14 lectures
Maxwell equations in differential form. Coulomb's and Gauss' Laws; Biot-Savart and Ampere's Laws; absence of magnetic monopoles; Faraday’s Law and magnetic induction. Electric dipoles, dielectric polarisation and dielectric susceptibility; magnetic dipoles, magnetisation and diamagnetic susceptibility; continuity equation, displacement current and Maxwell’s generalisation of Ampere’s Law. Electromagnetic waves in vacuum and isotropic matter. Energy density in time-varying electromagnetic fields and Poynting vector. Reflection, refraction, plane, circular and elliptic polarisation of light; dichroism, birefringence; interference, interferometers, coherence, Young’s slits, near and far field diffraction.






Experimental / Computational laboratories