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Introduction To Modern Physics


Key information

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Module description

Module Description

This module introduces students to topics in modern physics such as quantum mechanics, special relativity, particle physics and cosmology. An indicative list of topics covered by this module, but which may change from year to year, is given by:

Introduction to Relativistic Mechanics - elements of Special relativity, basic concepts, the Lorentz transformations, invariant (observer-independent) quantities, energy-mass equivalence, energy-momentum dispersion relations, the nonrelativistic limit: from Lorentz to Galilean mechanics.

Quantum Ideas for the microcosmos: Introductory concepts to quantum world for microscopic physics: concepts without formalism, such as particle-wave dualism, the uncertainty principle, elementary experiments pointing towards the quantum nature of microcosmos: the Photoelectric effect, Davidson-Germer experiment, two slots (interference) experiments, tunneling manifestation in nature: decay of nuclei (qualitative) and concept of  overcoming a potential barrier, contrast with classical physics. Nuclear fission and fusion as energy producing mechanisms based on purely quantum physics.

Macrocosmos-Cosmological scales: What we know about the Universe today from observations: brief description of energy budget of the Cosmos-Dark sector: dark energy and dark matter, is dark matter an unknown (beyond the standard model) elementary particle? If yes, what would be its basic properties (kind of interactions with ordinary visible matter, mass range).

Learning aims & outcomes

To introduce the student to the complex ideas of the modern physics, dealing with a dynamical description of both microcosmos (quantum physics) and the Universe (classical physics) in a rather qualitative way, thus preparing the student for the more advanced courses (s)he will meet in higher years.

At the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Describe the elementary structure of matter at microscopic scales, and the experiments leading to the verification of quantum nature of microcosmos.
  • Apply the principles of special relativity, such as Lorentz transformations, and their consequences such as energy ? mass equivalence, to perform computations in elementary scattering processes.
  • Explain how the mass of elementary constituents of nature is generated in modern quantum particle physics.
  • Describe  the energy ``budget'' of the Universe today, including its ``dark energy'' and ``dark matter'' sectors, and the observations that lead to this.
  • Describe the properties a particle-like ``dark matter'' should have.

Assessment details

Please note that students who are in attendance for Semester 1 only can expect to be set alternative assessment before their return to their home institution. Further information will be provided by your lecturer.