Optics, Waves and Modern Physics (F3238)

15 credits, Level 3 (sub-degree)

Spring teaching

This module covers:

  • Waves: Definition of a wave. Equation for a progressive wave. Amplitude, wavelength, wavenumber, frequency, phase, energy in waves. Examples of waves. Doppler effect.
  • Interference: Superposition principle, standing waves and harmonics. Reflection at hard and soft boundaries, phase change at reflection, beats, coherence.
  • Physical optics: Coherent sources, optical path difference, two-slit interference pattern, diffraction gratings. Huygens' principle, single-slit diffraction, resolving power, refraction, reflection, total internal reflection. Interference in thin films, wedge fringes, Newton's rings. Michelson's experiment.
  • Introduction to non-classical physics. Topics include wave-particle duality, black body radiation, the photo-electric effect, the Compton effect, Heisenbergs uncertainty principle. The Bohr model of the Hydrogen atom, line spectra. Introduction to the quantum mechanical picture of the hydrogen atom. The Pauli exclusion principle. X-rays and lasers.
  • Nuclear physics. Radioactivity. Nuclear fission and fusion. Introduction to elementary particles.


77%: Lecture
23%: Practical (Workshop)


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

Contact hours and workload

This module is 150 hours of work. This breaks down into 43 hours of contact time and 107 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.


This module is offered on the following courses: