PH101-Physics of the Natural World

Module Provider: Meteorology
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Matt Owens


Summary module description:
A lecture and tutorial course which covers the physics essential to understanding the natural world, namely classical mechanics, thermodynamics and electromagnetism.

The aim of the module is to equip students with a solid background in classical physics, which constitutes a crucial piece of basic scientific knowledge needed to develop further skills in quantitative natural science.
Students should be able to apply this knowledge to a range of situations, both familiar and unfamiliar, by conceptualising the core physical principles required to understand the system. They should be able to make appropriate approximations and hence compute the physical behaviour of a system.

Assessable learning outcomes:

• Ability to describe and explain the fundamental principles of classical physics (i.e., mechanics, thermal physics and electromagnetism);

• Ability to manipulate equations in order to quantitatively solve simple classical physics problems;

• Ability to analyse a problem or system and determine which physical processes are most important/relevant;

• Ability to then make appropriate approximations in order to simply/conceptualise complex systems;

• Ability to recognise and apply familiar physical processes in unfamiliar systems.

Additional outcomes:

Outline content:

Outline content:

1. Classical mechanics - Linear motion (position, velocity and acceleration. Equations of constant acceleration) - Forces (friction. Newton’s Laws). - Energy (work, potential energy, kinetic energy). - Momentum. - Gravity (universal law. Potential energy. Physical basis of Kepler’s laws. Escape velocity). - Rotational motion (rotational analogies to linear motion. Central forces. Centre of mass);

2. Introduction to electromagnetism - Electric fields (forces, potential energy, voltage, current). - Magnetic fields (Lorentz force, charged particle motion);

3. Thermal physics - Temperature (Measurement and relation to microscopic parameters) - Kinetic theory (Relation to macroscopic parameters. Ideal gases). - The first law of thermodynamics (Heat. Work. PV diagrams. Equipartition of energy). - The second law of thermodynamics (Irreversibility. Entropy). - Thermal properties of matter (Phase changes. Expansion).

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Lectures and tutorials.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20 20
Seminars 10 10
Guided independent study 70 70
Total hours by term 100.00 100.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 60
Written assignment including essay 40

Other information on summative assessment:

Coursework: Four mid-term assignments (10% each); in the form of assessed problem sheets. Relative percentage of coursework: The assignments contribute 40% of the final mark.

Formative assessment methods:
Problem sheets during guided tutorials.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    Written 2h exam contributes 60% of the final mark.

    Requirements for a pass:
    An average of 40% across the whole module.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    The final resit mark is determined wholly by written exam in August/September.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 31 March 2017

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