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This subject surveys the foundations of Thermal Physics and Classical Mechanics and develops the fundamental principles of Quantum Mechanics. Topics in Thermal Physics include the kinetic theory of gases, the classical laws of thermodynamics, temperature, work, heat, chemical thermodynamics and chemical potential, heat engines, refrigerators, Gibbs and Helmholtz free energies and phase changes. Topics in Classical Mechanics include a review of Newton’s Laws, the Principle of Least Action, Lagrange’s equations, Hamilton’s equations and the Legendre transform. These principles will be illustrated by application to the simple harmonic oscillator. Topics in Quantum Physics include the inadequacies of Classical Physics, matter waves and quantum behaviour, one-dimensional quantum systems, expectation values, observables, operators, quantum tunnelling, and the quantization of three-dimensional systems.
Intended learning outcomes
To challenge students to expand their knowledge of the fundamental physical principles that underpin the behaviour of matter from microscopic to macroscopic length scales and to develop their capacity to:
- discuss the key observations and events that led to the development of quantum mechanics from a foundation of thermal physics and classical mechanics;
- discuss the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics and the critical aspects of quantum theory that distinguish it from the classical theories of thermodynamics and mechanics;
- apply the principles of thermal, classical and quantum physics to the analysis of simple physical, chemical or mechanical problems.
A student who completes this subject should be able to:
- Explain their understanding of physics principles and applications lucidly, both in writing and orally;
- Describe the experimental and observational basis of the physical principles presented in the subject, both in writing and orally;
- Participate as an effective member of a group in tutorial discussions and study groups;
- Think independently and analytically and direct his or her own learning;
- Manage time effectively in order to be prepared for regular tutorial classes, tests, the examination and to complete assignments.
Last updated: 6 December 2023