Light and Matter, Waves and Quanta

Module code: NT2010

In this module you will study the physics of heat (thermodynamics) and the physics of light (optics). You'll discuss thermal equilibrium and how an absolute temperature scale can be defined in terms of the properties of simple gasses. You'll investigate heat, work, entropy and the first and second laws of thermodynamics - the physics behind machines from refrigerators to jet engines. You'll also explore the basic properties of light and geometric optics - the description of light propagation in terms of rays, study wave effects such as interference and diffraction, and examine applications such as diffraction gratings.

You'll also learn about the important equations used to describe oscillations and waves, which are of fundamental importance in many branches of physics. You'll discuss the dual wave and particle nature of light and matter, and learn about the experiments that led inexorably to the need for a quantum theory of matter. You'll explore some ideas from atomic physics including the quantisation of electron energy levels in the Bohr model of the atom. You'll also consider the wave and particle natures of light and matter as described by De Broglie and Heisenberg.

Topics covered

  • Thermal equilibrium and temperature scales
  • Ideal gasses
  • First law of thermodynamics, heat capacities
  • Second law of thermodynamics, heat engines, entropy phase diagrams, thermal conduction and radiation
  • Wave-particle duality
  • Geometric optics
  • Interference and diffraction
  • Oscillations and simple harmonic motion
  • The wave equation and traveling waves
  • The wave and particle natures of light and matter
  • Atomic physics, including the Bohr model of the atom
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