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Semester 1

Physics 1A: Foundations (PHYS08016)

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Physics and Astronomy





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Course Summary

This is an introductory-level course, covering the classical physics of kinematics, dynamics, forces, and oscillations, and touching on aspects of contemporary physics, including relativity and chaos. The course is designed for those with qualifications in physics and mathematics at SCE Higher level or equivalent. It serves both as a preparation for further study in physics-based degree courses, and as a stand-alone course for students of other disciplines, including (but not limited to) mathematics, chemistry, computer science and engineering.

Course Description

Section 1: The Tools of the TradeThis introductory section explores what Physics is and reviews the key tools (mental, not metal) needed in the practice of Physics.1.1 The trade: what is Physics?1.2 Units1.3 Numbers1.4 Vectors1.5 Problem solvingSection 2: Space and TimePhysics deals with the sequence of events that make up the unfolding story of the universe. The most basic questions we can ask about 'events' are 'where?' and 'when?' Thus Space and Time are the key concepts of physics. In this section we explore the classical view of Space and Time developed by Galileo and Newton, and touch on its failures, unearthed by Einstein.2.1 One dimensional particle kinematics2.2 Kinematics in two (or three) dimensions2.3 Application: projectile motion2.4 Application: circular motion2.5 Relativity: the common sense view2.6 Relativity: Einstein's viewSection 3: Force Mass and MotionUnderstanding a changing world means understanding motion. This section is concerned with the key concepts (mass, force) underlying the classical Newtonian theory of motion, and expressed in Newton's three laws. We illustrate the application of these laws in the context of a wide range of forces, and touch on some of the curious 'forces' encountered in 'accelerating' reference frames.3.1 Inertial reference frames: Newton's 1st Law3.2 Force and mass: Newton's 2nd and 3rd laws3.3 How to use Newton's Laws3.4 Classification of forces3.5 Gravitational force near the earth's surface3.6 Normal contact force3.7 Tension3.8 Frictional force3.9 Linear restoring force3.10 The centripetal force3.11 The gravitational force3.12 The electrostatic force3.13 Fictitious forcesSection 4: Energy and WorkTo describe the changing world around us, we must describe its state. Energy is one of the key tools that allow us to do this. In this section we explore the concept of energy: its definition, its conservation and its utility in problem solving.4.1 Introduction4.2 Work4.3 Power: the rate of working4.4 Kinetic energy4.5 Potential energy4.6 Potential energy: examples4.7 Energy conservationSection 5: Linear MomentumThe concept of the linear momentum of a system of particles is an extremely fruitful one in many areas of physics. In this section we develop the tools needed to describe the motion of such a system, and deduce that momentum must be conserved for an isolated system. This allows us to analyse elastic and inelastic collisions. We will also look at what happens to our view of mass, momentum and energy for objects moving at very high speeds.5.1 Preview5.2 Systems of particles5.3 Motion of the centre of mass5.4 Linear momentum5.5 Linear momentum and its conservation5.6 Collisions5.7 Relativity: Mass, Momentum and EnergySection 6: Angular MomentumIn this section we develop concise methods of describing rotational motion using quantities such as angular velocity, angular momentum and moment of inertia, the rotational analogues of velocity, momentum and mass. Using this new language, we can describe such counterintuitive phenomena as the behaviour of spinning tops and gyroscopes, and find out why it is easier to ride a bicycle with bigger wheels.6.1 Linear and rotational motion6.2 Angular positions, velocities and accelerations6.3 Relations between angular and linear quantities6.4 Constant acceleration equations6.5 Kinetic energy of a rotating body: moment of inertia6.6 Torque6.7 Angular momentum6.8 Angular momentum conservationSection 7: OscillationsUnderstanding and exploiting oscillations is central to many aspects of science including physics, chemistry, biology and engineering. In this section we will set out the key concepts, and explore them in the context of a wide range of examples. We shall end up in chaos.7.1 Introduction: what and why7.2 Simple Harmonic Motion: the physical context7.3 The SHM equation: a general tour7.4 The SHM equation: applications7.5 Energy conservation in SHM7.6 Driving and damping7.7 Chaos

Assessment Information

Written Exam 80%, Coursework 20%, Practical Exam 0%

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