Faculty of Science

Undergraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2014 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered, or view unit timetables.

FacultyFaculty of Science
Organisational UnitSchool of Physics
OfferedClayton First semester 2014 (Day)
Coordinator(s)Dr Alexis Bishop


This unit is the first of two units in theoretical physics and contributes to a physics major. Mastery of these topics underpins much of theoretical physics; this unit will provide students with a better basis for carrying out study and research in theoretical physics. It consists of three 12-lecture sub-units. The three sub-units cover the following areas:

  1. Relativistic Dynamics: tensors in pseudo-Euclidean spaces, Lorentz transforms, world lines, energy-momentum 4-vectors, action and variational methods, Lagrangians and Hamiltonians, metrics and Riemann spaces, consequences of Einstein's assumptions;
  2. Electrodynamics: electromagnetic waves in a vacuum and in media, energy and momentum conservation, transmission lines and waveguides, radiation from accelerating charges, antennae, synchrotron radiation, and
  3. Classical Dynamics and Lagrangian Interaction: Hamilton's principle, dynamics of classical point particles and fields, Noether's theorem and symmetries, field theory, internal symmetry and the guage principle, Lagrangian interactions and quantised fields, Feynman diagrams, the quantum vacuum and the holographic principle.


On completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Recall fundamental concepts from the sub-unit of Electrodynamics, which includeTime dependent Maxwell's equations, Energy-momentum conservation and the Poynting vector, The Maxwell stress tensor, Electromagnetic waves in vacuum and matter: polarization, reflection and transmission, Guided waves, and Resonant cavities;

  1. Recall fundamental concepts from the sub-unit of Special Relativity, which include The ultimate speed, Einstein's box and the inertia of energy, Energy, momentum and mass, The nature of light, The Michelson-Morley experiment, Inertial reference frames, Einstein's two axioms for special relativity, Events, The Lorentz transformations and properties, Relativity of simultaneity, Newtonian limit and the Galilean transformations, Difference and differential versions of the Lorentz transformations, Lorentz invariance of squared interval, Relativistic speed limit and causality, Group properties of the Lorentz transformations, World pictures and world maps, Length contraction, Time Dilation, Twin 'Paradox', Velocity Transformation, The drag effect, The relativistic Doppler effect, Hubble's Law and Quasars, Aberration and visual appearance of moving objects, Spacetime and four-tensors, World-lines and light cones, Manipulation of four-tensors, Four-velocity and four-acceleration, Introduction to relativistic particle mechanics, Conservation of four-momentum, Relativistic billiards, The centre-of-momentum frame, Threshold energies, Three-force and four-force, Scalar and vector potentials for classical electromagnetic fields, Lorentz covariance of classical electrodynamics, Lorentz transformation of electromagnetic fields, and The Euler-Lagrange field equations;

  1. Recall fundamental concepts from the sub-unit of Classical Dynamics, which include Newton's laws of motion, The principle of least action, Changing coordinate systems, Constraints and generalised coordinates, Noether's theorem and symmetries, The dynamics of classical fields, Space-time and internal symmetries, The gauge principle, Quantization of fields, and The vacuum;

  1. Solve new problems in physics related to the core concepts of the unit by drawing on the theoretical underpinnings that illustrate the physics.


Examinations (three hours
two hours): 70%
Assignments: 30%

Chief examiner(s)

Workload requirements

  • Three 1-hour lectures and two 1-hour tutorials per week
  • Seven hours of independent study per week

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study