Physics is a dynamic subject which is continually changing, as new ideas and information build upon the experience and knowledge of those who have gone before. Students will build on their experience of classical physics and apply this experience to a range of problems, both of a theoretical/conceptual and a practical nature. Originality, innovation, creative thinking and teamwork are encouraged throughout.
The course begins with a classical treatment of waves, using the ideas of Huygens, Newton, Einstein, Young and others. Computer software will be used to simulate wave behaviour such as diffraction and interference. Optical instruments such as telescopes, and electro-optic instruments such as lasers, will be covered in detail. Radioactivity will be investigated; its application to nuclear power, both present and future, will be discussed. Thermodynamics will be discussed in the context of the Industrial Revolution and also from a modern perspective using the ideas of Boltzmann, Gibbs and Clausius. Links to Information Theory will emerge and will be discussed with reference to data transmission techniques such as fibre optics. Chaos theory will be introduced as an example of an “emergent phenomenon”; fractals will be generated via computer programs and compared to real-life objects such as clouds, trees, lungs and islands.
Regular practical investigations will take place. They will be open-ended and their outcome will depend largely on the ideas of and input from the students. Background research will be encouraged and class presentations (for example via Power Point) from the students normally form an integral part of the course.
Aims and Objectives
- To appreciate the dynamic and emerging nature of Modern Physics
- To gain knowledge of trends in Modern Physics and to develop a view on its potential future
- To appreciate some of the difficulties facing Modern Physics, and to develop a critical view on some of the potential resolutions
- To encourage creative thinking, teamwork and a spirit of exploration among the class
- To understand how theory and experiment work together to achieve a greater understanding of the Physical World
- 10% Class participation
- 30% Problem solving (private study assignments)
- 20% Test on Waves (descriptive and numerical problems)
- 40% Two essays, or one long essay and a presentation
Example Weekly Private Study Assignments
- Use the Internet and other resources to research the development of Thermodynamics, including 19th and 21st Century ideas.
- Solve problems on waves, and apply Huygens’ Theory to the ideas of diffraction.
- Research the ideas on fractals, using the ideas of Mandelbrot, Lorentz, Sierpinski and Poincaré.
- Begin essay on either the work of one scientist or on competing theories of “dark matter”.
- Problems on radioactivity and half-life. Continuation and conclusion of first essay.
- Begin work on presentation or second essay, contrasting Newton’s and Lagrange’s approach to Mechanics.
- Continue and conclude research for second essay or presentation.
This class is normally delivered over one term, with 90 teaching contact hours or equivalent in the Michaelmas term, and 60 teaching contact hours for Hilary and Trinity terms. For students requesting credit, we recommend the transfer of three college credits for Michaelmas and two college credits for Hilary and Trinity, on successful completion of the class.
|Active participation in class. Has done some own research using|
|libraries and Internet. Shows ability and originality in solving both|
|DISTINCTION||numerical and descriptive problems on Physics. Shows an excellent|
|Grade A||understanding of some of the key concepts in Physics, and is able to|
|communicate this understanding. Is proactive in suggesting solutions|
|to problems, both practical and theoretical. Can manipulate|
|apparatus with dexterity and with due attention to accuracy.|
|CREDIT||Full participation in class. Has done some own research. Can solve|
|most problems set, both numerical and descriptive. Can demonstrate|
|Grade B||a good understanding of some of the key concepts in Physics. Is able|
|to listen critically to new ideas and suggest ways of testing them.|
|Good attendance in class. Has done some own research. Can solve|
|MERIT||some problems, both numerical and descriptive. Can demonstrate an|
|Grade C||understanding of some of the key concepts in Physics. Carries out|
|practical instructions carefully and points out some potential sources|
|PASS||Regular attendance in class. Has attempted own research. Can solve|
|Grade D||some problems, numerical or descriptive. Demonstrates some|
|understanding of one of the key concepts in Physics.|
|None of the criteria listed above followed. Student is passive and|
|FAIL||offers few, if any, ideas of his/her own. Concentration and motivation|
The Universe in a Nutshell Stephen Hawking Order out of Chaos Prigogine and Stengers The Fountains of Paradise Arthur C Clarke
If you are unable to obtain books locally, they may be ordered from
http://www.bookshop.blackwell.co.uk or www.Amazon.co.uk