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Unit information: Core Physics II: Oscillations, Waves and Fields in 2023/24

Unit name Core Physics II: Oscillations, Waves and Fields
Unit code PHYS10005
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. McKinley
Open unit status Not open
Units you must take before you take this one (pre-requisite units)

Normally A-level Physics and A-level Mathematics.

Units you must take alongside this one (co-requisite units)

Core Physics I: Mechanics and Matter

Units you may not take alongside this one


School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science

Unit Information

Oscillations, Waves, Fields, and Fundamental Particles

The unit builds on A level Physics A2 and some aspects of Core Physics I (Mechanics and Matter). It introduces the basic mathematical treatment of waves and oscillations, the concept of the wave function as an introduction to Quantum Physics, the concept of fields and their mathematical treatment in terms of vectors and vector operators in 3 dimensions, and the fundamental particles and fields.


Oscillations and Waves:

  • To introduce and provide examples of the use of complex numbers in oscillation and wave phenomena.
  • To introduce the simple harmonic oscillator and its mathematical solution and to explore the effects of damping.
  • To illustrate different forms of the wave equation, with specific examples for light and sound.
  • To discuss the principles governing the propagation of light and sound.
  • To develop ideas of superposition and introduce the application of Fourier Analysis.
  • To introduce and explain interference and diffraction phenomena.
  • To introduce the laws governing refraction and reflection of light and to explore the mathematical formulation of geometrical optics.
  • To introduce the Schrödinger wave equation for simple potentials, and to illustrate the similarities and differences between classical and quantum wave mechanics.


  • To provide clear explanations of the concept of a field and its mathematical description in physics.
  • To introduce and explain the gravitational and electromagnetic fields and their similarities and differences.
  • To introduce methods for calculating fields including, Coulomb’s law, Gauss’ law, Ampères law, Faraday’s law, Biot-Savart law, etc.
  • To describe inductors, capacitors and resistors and their properties when included as components in AC circuits and in particular to the solution of problems using impedances expressed as complex numbers.

Fundamental particles:

  • To provide a basic introduction to the structure of the nucleus and the standard model of particle physics
  • Students will be brought to a level of understanding and knowledge that will enable them to continue with studies in these areas in relevant year 2 Physics programmes.

Your learning on this unit

Oscillations and waves:

Students should be able to:

  • write down the simple harmonic oscillator and damped harmonic oscillator equations and know their solutions,*to write down the wave equation for longitudinal and transverse waves and solve simple problems of wave motion.
  • recognise physical systems in which oscillatory motion takes place, write down the appropriate oscillator equation in terms of the appropriate physical parameters and interpret the mathematical solutions,
  • write down the one dimensional wave equation and know its solution in terms of k, x, and t in appropriate complex number form,
  • recognise physical systems in which wave motion takes place, write down the appropriate wave equation in terms of the appropriate physical parameters and interpret the mathematical solutions,
  • understand dispersion and to determine the phase and group velocities of a wave packet,
  • understand the difference between longitudinal and transverse waves and examples of physical systems in which they occur,
  • understand the fundamental wave nature of the solutions to the one dimensional Schrödinger equation and the abstract idea of the quantum mechanical wave function,
  • understand and be able to manipulate physical quantities expressed in complex variable notation, - understand the principles of wave superposition and Fourier analysis and to be able to apply them to solving simple problems,
  • predict the diffraction patterns of simple optical systems,
  • understand and to be able to solve simple problems in geometric optics,
  • understand the operation and resolution criteria of optical instruments.


Students should be able to:

  • understand the concept of the scalar potential and to use it to solve simple problems in electrostatics and gravitation,
  • understand vector fields, their mathematical description and to solve simple problems in electrostatics and gravitation using them,
  • understand the mathematical relationship between the scalar potential and vector field in terms of the del operator and to use it to solve simple problems involving electrostatic or gravitation fields,
  • understand and be able to use the Gauss, Coulomb, Ampere, Faraday, Biot-Savart Laws for calculating electric and magnetic fields from charges and currents,
  • understand and be able to apply Kirchoff's laws to analyse simple AC circuits containing L, C and R components,
  • analyse simple AC circuits using impedances expressed in complex variable notation.

Fundamental particles:

Students should be able to:

  • understand the significance of binding energy and be able to calculate the mass defect of nuclides,
  • understand the origin of the terms in the Semi Empirical Mass Formula and be able to use it to estimate the binding energy of nuclei, - understand the difference between alpha, beta and gamma decay and to be able to calculate which the different decays are possible and the energy released,
  • understand which fundamental particles are affected by which fundamental forces,
  • to determine the quark structure of low mass hadrons (mesons and baryons) from the quantum numbers.

How you will learn

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

How you will be assessed

Formative assessment is provided through a combination of online tests, examples that students can work through at their own pace, for which worked solutions are provided, and regular problem solving workshops.

Summative Assessment will consist of coursework (40%) and a final written exam (60%).


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. PHYS10005).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the University Workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. For appropriate assessments, if you have self-certificated your absence, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (for assessments at the end of TB1 and TB2 this is usually in the next re-assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any exceptional circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.