Relativity, Quantum Physics and Particles

Module code: PA2260
Module co-ordinator: Dr Matt Burleigh

In this module you will learn about some of the most exciting and counter-intuitive areas in modern physics: Einstein’s special theory of relativity, quantum physics and fundamental particle physics.

Special relativity is the theory that describes motion at high speeds, close to the speed of light, but it has profound consequences for our understanding of time and space. We will study the ideas underlying Special Relativity, and you will learn how to carry out calculations involving speeds close to the speed of light.

We will then study the fundamental equation of quantum mechanics, the Schrödinger equation, and apply it to idealised systems to learn about the quantum behaviour of matter. In the final part of this module we will survey the basic concepts of particle physics, including the properties of elementary particles such as leptons and quarks. We will study the conservation laws that allow us to deduce whether a decay or reaction is allowed and review some of the core elements of the Standard Model of particle physics.

Topics covered

  • Special relativity, including Lorentz transforms and the energy momentum relationship, and an introduction to the concepts of General Relativity
  • Quantum mechanics in 1D, including solution of the Schrödinger equation for simple systems
  • Elementary particles and the Standard Model


  • 24 hours of lectures
  • 3 hours of seminars
  • 8 hours of practicals/workshops
  • 115 hours of guided independent study


  • Coursework (30%)
  • Exam, 2 hours (70%)