As one of the most fundamental of the natural sciences, Physics has much to offer students from a wide range of disciplines. It provides a unique insight into natural phenomena and the workings of the world around us, and a basic appreciation of the science underlying technologies, both old and new. The skills in quantitative analysis developed in physics units, particularly through laboratory work and assignment problems, are widely sought after in many other fields.
The Department of Physics offers two full-year 12-point units for Science students, Physics 100 and Physics 140, and a six-point unit, Introductory Physics 131 (first semester).
Physics 100 is the appropriate choice for students with good mathematical skills, including TEE Calculus and Physics, who want a strong background in the physical sciences including geophysics. It is the natural entry point for further studies in physics.
Physics 140 is an appropriate choice for Science students who have studied physics at school but who have limited mathematical skills. It covers a comparatively wider range of topics than Physics 100, but in less depth and in a less mathematically rigorous manner. Physics 140 is particularly suited to students intending to major in the biological and other sciences including Biophysics.
Physics 131 is a single-semester unit aimed at students who have not done, or have not passed, TEE Physics and are not planning to major in Physics or Biophysics. This unit makes fewer mathematical demands than either Physics 100 or Physics 140.
Entry to Biophysics is via either Physics 100 or Physics 140. A major in Biophysics requires completion of all four units from second-year Biophysics. Subsets of these units are available for students who wish to study some biophysics without going on to major in it. Students who intend to major in Biophysics are advised to include some calculus in their second-year course if they have not previously studied that subject. As Biophysics is a multidisciplinary course, students intending to major are encouraged to take relevant units in chemistry and biosciences, possibly leading to a double major.
The department offers a range of second-year physics units, suited to students with various requirements. The minimum requirement for students wishing to major in Physics is enrolment in Physics 201 and Physics 202 (with concurrent enrolment in 16 points of second-year Mathematics). Students enrolled in the joint BSc/BE programme, with a Physics major, take this combination of units. Science students may supplement the 16 points offered in Physics 201 and Physics 202 to a maximum of 24 points by enrolment in one or both of Physics 203 and Physics 204. Physics 230, 250 and 270 are for students majoring in other subjects, but carry the option of continuing some study of physics at third-year level. Physics 250 is particularly suited to students of Materials Chemistry, but its content makes it appropriate for Chemistry students and others. The units Physics 203 and Physics 204 are also available to non-Physics majors who wish to include some second-year Physics, and can be entered from Physics 140.
A set of core units and several options are available for third-year Physics students. The core provides a firm grounding in quantum mechanics, solid state physics, electromagnetism, optics, particle physics and methods of experimental physics, together with a minimum set of advanced experimental projects. The options are two-fold. Students can take specialty units in three different areas and also adjust the total number of topics taken to allow flexibility with concurrent studies in other departments. The possibilities are organised into three streams and are labelled 31X, 32X and 33X where the 'X' is a code specifying the number of topics taken. The 31X stream contains a specialty unit in atomic and molecular physics, the 32X stream offers specialty units in statistical mechanics and special relativity, and the 33X stream contains a specialty unit in astrophysics.
Inside each stream, students may choose to take anywhere from two to six topics. The minimum for a Physics major is four topics which covers the core studies. For example, Physics 314 involves four topics (S, E, N and Q1) and is intended for students taking a double major with Chemistry, Computer Science, Information Technology or Physiology in addition to a Physics major. Physics 324 (S, E, N and Q2) is a good choice for students intending to take a double major with Mathematics. Students intending to pursue honours should plan on taking six topics. Physics 316, 326 and 336 each contain a full six topic choice and provide the best preparation for honours work. Physics 315 and 325 are popular choices for BSc/BE students majoring in Physics and Electrical and Electronic Engineering who cover the material in Topic X within Engineering. These are also available to BSc students wishing to take only 30 points of Physics rather than 36.
This unit is the required unit for students intending to major in Physics and Chemical Physics, and is strongly recommended for students majoring in physical sciences such as chemistry, geological sciences, mathematics and mathematical geophysics. This unit is also a core component of the Bachelor of Science (Geophysical Sciences).
Mechanics: Newton's laws; force and momentum; work and energy; rotational motion; torque and angular momentum; moments of inertia; conservation laws.
Relativity: postulates of special relativity; Lorentz transformations; length contraction; visual appearance; time dilation; relativistic dynamics; mass increase; mass-energy relation; energy-momentum relation.
Waves and optics: harmonic oscillations; the wave equation (sinusoidal waves, superposition); mechanical waves (reflection, normal modes); sound waves (intensity, beats, Doppler effect); light waves (speed, momentum, energy); light and matter (polarisation, dispersion, reflection, refraction); interference (double slit, thin films); diffraction (single slit, phasors, gratings).
Heat and thermodynamics: temperature; heat, work and the First Law of Thermodynamics; entropy and the Second Law; low temperatures and the Third Law; kinetic theory of gases (heat capacities of ideal gases, equipartition, speed distribution function).
Electricity and magnetism: flux and Gauss's law, electric field and potential; potential energy; capacitance; dielectrics; energy density; electric current; magnetic field; Lorentz force; magnetic moment; torque on a dipole; Biot-Savart law; Ampere's law; fields of wires and solenoids; induction; inductance; stored energy; electromagnetic waves.
Quantum physics: foundations of quantum phenomena; the uncertainty principle; the structure of atoms; the wave nature of matter; wave particle duality; quantum physics in materials; nuclei and radioactivity.
This unit is intended for students proposing to major in the biological sciences. It can also lead to a major in Biophysics and is suitable for those pursuing other fields of study, such as the geological sciences, where an understanding of physical principles is desired.
Mechanics: kinematics, forces and dynamics, work and energy, circular motion, gravitation, fluids.
Heat: temperature, the First Law of Thermodynamics, entropy and the Second Law, low temperatures and the Third Law, the gas laws, heat transfer.
Waves and Optics: harmonic oscillations, wave motion, wave behaviour, sound waves, Doppler effect, geometrical optics, physical optics.
Electricity and Magnetism: electric fields, dielectrics, capacitance, electric currents, magnetic fields, Ampere's law, induction, alternating current circuits, resonance, electromagnetic waves, the electromagnetic spectrum.
Atoms and Nuclei: quantum phenomena, matter waves, uncertainty principle, imaging and resolution, electron microscopes, lasers, atomic structure, molecules, nuclei, radioactivity, radioactive dating, nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, dosimetry, positron emission tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, solid state materials.