Foundations of Modern Physics (F3241)

15 credits, Level 4

Autumn teaching

This module gives you an introduction to the foundations of modern physics. It covers the following topics:

  • The historical context, including physics in the 19th century.
  • Black-body radiation, Planck's quanta, photons, photoelectric effect and the Compton effect.
  • Atoms, atomic spectra, Franck-Hertz and the Stern-Gerlach experiments.
  • The Bohr theory of the atom.
  • De Broglie waves.
  • Heisenberg uncertainty principle
  • Bosons and Fermions, antimatter and Bose-Einstein condensates.
  • The periodic system of elements.
  • Relativity from a historical perspective.
  • Inertial frames and transformations amd Newton's laws in inertial frames.
  • The Michelson-Morley experiment - observed constancy of speed of light and Einstein's assumptions.
  • Lorentz-Einstein transformations, Minkowski diagrams, Lorentz contraction and time dilation.
  • Transformation of velocities - stellar aberration, variation of mass and mass-energy equivalence.
  • Lorentz transformations for momentum and energy.


50%: Lecture
25%: Practical (Workshop)
25%: Seminar (Class)


20%: Coursework (Problem Set)
80%: Examination (Unseen examination)

Contact hours and workload

This module is 150 hours of work. This breaks down into 44 hours of contact time and 106 hours of independent study.

This module is running in the academic year 2019/20. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.