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Unit information: Relativistic Field Theory in 2021/22

Unit name Relativistic Field Theory
Unit code PHYSM3417
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Clark
Open unit status Not open

Normally PHYS30021 Solid State Physics and PHYS32011 Quantum Physics, or the equivalent taken as part of a Year in Industry or Year Abroad, and PHYS30008 Analytical Mechanics.



School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science


Aims: Special Relativity was originally proposed to account for the properties of Electromagnetic fields, and the notions of classical fields are closely related to relativity. This course will give an account of the modern approach to special relativity and Lagrangian field theory, and their role in the covariant description of the classical electromagnetic field, and the relativistic quantum Klein-Gordon and Dirac equations. The course is a mixture of calculation combined with more qualitative treatment of advanced topics.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • perform simple calculations and transformations in Euclidean and Minkowski space including vectors and tensors.
  • appreciate the significance of relativistic invariance of wave equations, and derive Lagrangians for simple wave equations.
  • manipulate the relativistic equations describing electromagnetic fields and point charges, and appreciate the notions of relativistic electrodynamics.
  • appreciate the approach of relativistic quantum mechanics, and the advantages and disadvantages of the Klein-Gordon equation.
  • derive the Dirac equation and calculate its solutions in simple situations, and appreciate relativistic effects for electrons.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials, including narrated presentations and worked examples
  • synchronous group problems classes, workshops, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous directed individual formative exercises and other exercises
  • guided, structured reading

Assessment Details

Formative assessment is through problem sheets discussed in problems classes. Summative assessment is through a 2 hour written examination (100%)


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. PHYSM3417).