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Special Relativity and Electromagnetism (PHYC20015)

Undergraduate level 2Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2017
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 2
Subject codePHYC20015
Semester 2
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject introduces Einstein’s Special Principle of Relativity and develops the fundamental principles of electromagnetism and Maxwell’s equations in differential form. Special relativity topics include the foundations of special relativity, spacetime invariance, simultaneity, and Minkowski diagrams, relativistic kinematics, the Doppler effect, relativistic dynamics, and nuclear reactions. Electromagnetism topics include the electric field (e.g. Gauss’s law in integral and differential form, scalar potential and gradient, Poisson and Laplace equations), the magnetic field (e.g. Ampere’s law in integral and differential forms), Maxwell’s equations in vacuum (integral and differential forms), Maxwell’s equations in matter (polarization, electric displacement, magnetic vector potential), time-varying electric and magnetic fields (Maxwell’s equations in general form, wave equations for E and B, plane electromagnetic wave, Poynting vector). The presentation concludes with the relativistic formulation of the Lorentz force law.

Intended learning outcomes

To challenge students to expand their knowledge of fundamental physics principles and develop their capacity to:

  • discuss the key observations and events that led to the development of Einstein’s theory of special relativity and Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism;
  • explain the fundamental principles of special relativity and electromagnetism and the far-reaching connections between them
  • use these fundamental physical principles in the analysis of simple problems;
  • discuss the experimental basis of these fundamental principles and how this contributed to the subsequent development of fundamental physics.

Generic skills

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: 20 June 2017