You will complete the core elements of physics. Optional modules will give you the opportunity to study advanced physics modules that interests you. On the philosophy side, you will have a wide range of choices from among the more advanced options offered by the University.
You will also complete either a non-experimental physics project or a philosophy dissertation.
Atmospheric and Planetary Physics
In this module you will explore the physics of planets and their atmospheres — a topic that is at the forefront of modern astrophysics and planetary science.
In the last few decades, the discovery of thousands of exoplanets beyond our Solar System has revolutionised the study of planets and their atmospheres.
Closer to home, understanding the physical processes at play in the Earth’s atmosphere remains vital for predicting weather and climate.
- Exoplanet detection methods and the physics of planet formation
- The structure, temperature and composition of planetary atmospheres
- Atmospheric dynamics
- Exoplanet atmospheres and the search for biosignatures
Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos
How can complicated nonlinear mechanical, electrical and biological systems be understood? In this module you will develop your knowledge of classical mechanics of simple linear behaviour to include the behaviour of complex nonlinear dynamics. You’ll learn about the way in which nonlinear deterministic systems can exhibit essentially random behaviours, and approaches to understand and control them.
- In-depth knowledge of nonlinear dynamics in continuous and discrete classical systems
- Practical skills in using analytical, geometric and numerical approaches to analyse dynamics in nonlinear systems of various dimensions
- Methods to understand and create beautiful fractals through simple iteration rules.
Soft Condensed Matter
This module aims to to give you a basic grounding in key concepts in soft condensed matter physics. It will focus on the dynamic, structural and kinematic properties of these materials as well as their self-assembly into technologically important structures for the production of nanostructured materials.
Key differences and similarities between soft matter, hard matter and liquid systems will be highlighted and discussed throughout the module. Material that will be covered includes:
- Introduction to soft matter
- Forces, energies and timescales in soft matter
- Liquids and glasses
- Phase transitions in soft matter (solid-liquid and liquid-liquid demixing)
- Polymeric materials
- Crystallisation in soft systems
- Liquid crystals
- Molecular order in soft systems
- Soft Nanotechnology
This module aims to provide you with the skills necessary to use computational methods in the solution of non-trivial problems in physics and astronomy. You’ll also sharpen your programming skills through a three hour computing class and one hour of lectures per week.
Introduction to Cosmology
Cosmology is the scientific study of the Universe as a whole. It aims to understand what the Universe is made of, and its evolution from the Big Bang until today (and into the future).
- observational evidence for the Big Bang
- how the expansion of the Universe depends on its contents and geometry
- how the contents of the Universe evolve as it expands and cools
- dark matter and dark energy: observational evidence and the latest theoretical models
- inflation, a proposed period of accelerated expansion in the very early Universe
From Accelerators to Medical Imaging
Science is the cornerstone of modern healthcare. For example, in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) more than 80% of clinical decisions are informed by scientific analysis.
In this module, we will explore some of the critical technologies that underpin these decisions. The course begins by exploring particle accelerators, and how they are used to create, for example, high energy photons or anti-matter particles. We will then see how these are used to either diagnose or treat illnesses such as cancer.
We will look closely at medical imaging techniques such as X-ray computed tomography (the CT scan), exploring the mathematics of how high-definition images of the body can be formed. We will cover nuclear medicine – how radiation can be used to track the function of organs in the body – and how advanced mathematical models feed into diagnostic decisions.
Understanding the dynamics of quantum systems is crucial, not just for describing the fundamental physics of atoms, but also for the development of exciting new quantum-based technologies. This module will equip you with the key theoretical concepts and methods needed to explore how quantum systems evolve with time.
- Connections between the dynamics of quantum systems and that of more familiar classical ones
- When (and how) to use approximations that allow complex problems to be made much simpler
- The extent to which the evolution of quantum states can be controlled
- How to put theory into practice using one of IBM’s prototype quantum computers.
The Politics, Perception and Philosophy of Physics
In this module you'll gain an appreciation of the broad societal impact of physics (and science in general). You'll be introduced to the politics surrounding science policy (on, e.g., global warming/renewable energy R&D) and research funding. You'll also explorre some of the key ideas in the philosophy of physics and science, particularly as they relate to public perception of scientific research.
Introduction to Solid State Physics
Solid state physics underpins almost every technological development around us, from solar cells and LEDs to silicon chips and mobile phones.
The aim of this module is to introduce to you the fundamental topics in solid state physics. We start by looking at why atoms and molecules come together to form a crystal structure. We then follow the electronic structure of these through to interesting electronic, thermal and magnetic properties that we can harness to make devices.
- Why atoms and molecules come together to form crystal structures
- The description of crystal structures, reciprocal lattices, diffraction and Brillouin zones
- Nearly-free electron model – Bloch's theorem, band gaps from electron Bragg scattering and effective masses
- Band theory, Fermi surfaces, qualitative picture of transport, metals, insulators and semiconductors
- Semiconductors – doping, inhomogeneous semiconductors, basic description of pn junction
- Phonons normal modes of ionic lattice, quantization, Debye theory of heat capacities, acoustic and optical phonons
- Optical properties of solids absorption and reflection of light by metals, Brewster angle, dielectric constants, plasma oscillations
- Magnetism – Landau diamagnetism, paramagnetism, exchange interactions, Ferromagnetism, antiferromagnetism, neutron scattering, dipolar interactions and domain formation, magnetic technology
Enterprise for Chemists
Students will learn about the factors that lead to successful innovation, including evaluation and management of an idea/concept.
In addition, students will consider the factors required to extract the value from a product/concept (e.g. market awareness) and the potential routes to market available from both an academic and industrial viewpoint.
Functional Medical Imaging
The techniques for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) are explored. The course aims to introduce the brain imaging technique of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), giving an overview of the physics involved in this technique. The electromagnetic techniques of electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) will then be outlined, and the relative advantages of the techniques described.
Quantum Coherent Phenomena
This module will introduce a number of systems in which quantum coherent phenomena are observed, discuss their common features and the general underlying theoretical ideas for their description as well as some of their applications.
- Bose condensation review of Bose statistics, BEC, BEC in cold atomic gases.
- Superfluidity in Helium-4 quantum fluids, macroscopic wave functions, superfluidity, non-classical rotational inertia and vortices, phonon and roton excitations.
- Superconductivity conduction in metals, superconducting materials, zero-resistivity, Meissner effect, perfect diamagnetism, type I and type II behaviour, London theory.
- BCS theory of superconductivity.- electron-phonon interaction, Cooper pairs, BCS wave function, order parameter and microscopic origin of GL.
- Applications: squids, superconducting magnets etc.
This module explores the physical processes involved in the most extreme environments known in the Universe. Among the objects studied are neutron stars, black holes, supernova explosions, and active galactic nuclei.
Imaging and Manipulation at the Nanoscale
The invention of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) in the 1980s has led to a revolution in the imaging of surfaces and has provided an enormous stimulus for the development of nanoscience. The operation of a scanning probe microscope relies on the interaction between a local probe and a surface. A family of techniques has been derived from the STM which exploit a range of different forces and other interactions for image formation. The most widely-used of these techniques is atomic force microscopy which, unlike, STM, can be used to image insulating samples. In this module the focus will be on the development of physical models to describe the interaction between a local point-like probe and a surface. The operation of the STM will be considered in detail together with design considerations which are common across all scanning probe microscopes. In the second half of the course, forces between the tip and sample will be considered and methods for measuring these interactions will be discussed. The probe-surface interaction can also be used to modify the surface with a specificity which can result in placement of single atoms and molecules and these patterning processes will be discussed. Throughout the course images from the current research literature will be introduced to inform students of the range of possible applications of this these techniques.
Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics
Particle physics has been hugely influential in both science and society, from the discovery of the electron to the detection of the Higgs boson. In this module you will be introduced to the mathematical tools required to understand our current description of the Standard Model of particle physics.
- The Dirac equation, which describes electrons, quarks and neutrinos
- How symmetry and conservation laws are crucial in particle physics
- The Feynman approach to computing the scattering of particles
This module introduces you to the physics and applications of Semiconductors. Semiconductors are key materials of the current Information Age. They enabled most of the devices and technologies we use everyday, such as computers, internet, mobile phones. Semiconductors help us to mitigate global warming, data theft, end of the Moore’s law and other global challenges.
This module includes detailed overview of the Semiconductors past, present and future, and provides skills and knowledge essential for a future Semiconductor researcher or engineer.
- Physics and applications of conventional semiconductor materials and devices, for example p-n diodes and field-effect transistors
- Physics and applications of novel semiconductor materials, quantum materials, nanostructures, low dimensional materials, such as graphene and quantum dots
- Current and future semiconductor challenges and technologies, such as efficient solar cells, ultrasensitive phone cameras and quantum computers.
This module introduces a range of theoretical techniques for the construction and analysis of simplified effective models. You will learn advanced mathematical methods and apply them to problems in quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, and other areas of physics.
- Differential calculus of complex functions
- Advanced solution methods for differential equations such as the Schrödinger equation
- Vector spaces of functions and Green functions
The Structure of Stars
In this module you will learn how the same physics that works on Earth – gravity, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, optics, quantum physics, atomic and nuclear physics – is used to understand stars. You will explore the most important physical processes occurring in stars of different types. You will then use this knowledge to build mathematical models of stars and to understand their internal structure, their formation, evolution, and death.
- How astronomers measure the most important properties of stars such as their mass, size, distance, brightness, temperature, chemical composition and age. This module will then teach you how physics is able to explain these properties.
- How energy is generated inside stars through nuclear fusion, and how it is transported to the surface to make stars shine.
- How to write the equations that describe the structure of stars, and how to use them to build mathematical models that explain their properties and evolution.
- How stars are born, how they evolve with time, how long they live, how they die, and what remnants they leave behind. You will be able to understand, for instance, how supernovae explode and how some black holes form.
The Structure of Galaxies
This module will develop your current understanding of the various large-scale physical processes that dictate the formation, evolution and structure of galaxies, from when the Universe was in its infancy to the present day.
You’ll explore a range of topics, starting with the fundamentals of observational techniques used by astronomers for understanding the structure of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. We will then look at the more sophisticated ways of unpicking the physics that drives the complexity we see throughout the population of galaxies in the Universe.
Specifically, in this module, you will study:
- The structure of the Milky Way – how we determine the structure of the Milky Way, its rotation curve and what this implies for its dark matter content
- Properties of galaxies in the Universe – how astronomers classify galaxies, the properties of the different classes and how their constituents vary between classes
- Dynamics of galaxies – kinematics of the gas and stars in galaxies, why spiral arms form, the theory of epicycles, bar formation, different types of orbits of matter within galaxies
- Active galaxies – radio galaxies, quasars and active galactic nuclei, super-massive black holes
- The environment of galaxies – how the environment that a galaxy resides in affects its evolution and structure
- Galaxy evolution – observations of galaxy evolution from the early Universe to the present day, models of galaxy evolution.
Force and Function at the Nanoscale
We will study some of the fundamental forces at the nanoscale and look at the role of key concepts such as entropy. We will also learn how we can visualise and measure the nanoscale structures that form.
The nanoscale world is very different from our regular experience. Thermal energy pushes and pulls everything towards a state of disorder whilst nanoscale forces allow for materials to resist this and stay together. We will study some of the fundamental forces at the nanoscale and look at the role of key concepts such as entropy. We will also learn how we can visualise and measure the nanoscale structures that form.
While the forces we will study operate over distances as small as 1 nanometre we will explore how these concepts are responsible for phenomena in our everyday world we often don’t even think about:
- Why is a droplet spherical?
- What is going on when you scramble an egg?
- How can a gecko walk across a perfectly smooth ceiling?
- Why do you use soap when you wash?
- Why don’t oil and water mix?
Karl Marx's thoughts and words have had an enormous impact on history. Revolutions have been fought, economic policies pursued and artistic movements established by followers (and opponents) of Marxism.
Together we'll examine some of Mark's original writing and explore his thinking. Specific themes we'll cover include:
- the materialist conception of history
- the labour theory of value
By the end of the module you should have a good overview of Marx's attempt to synthesise German philosophy, French political theory, and British economics.
This module is worth 20 credits.
In this module we'll ask questions like:
- How should human beings interact with the non-human natural world?
- Is nature intrinsically valuable, or does it possess value only by being valuable to us?
As part of this we'll cover topics such as:
- the moral status of animals
- the ethics of zoos
- responsibility for climate change
- whether there is any connection between the twin oppressions of women and nature
- the environmental impact of having children
- the ethics of restoring nature after it has been damaged by human development
This module is worth 20 credits.
Taking Utilitarianism Seriously
This module is an extended discussion of utilitarian approaches to moral and political philosophy, including utilitarian accounts of:
- the nature of wellbeing
- reasons and rightness
- rights and justice
- individual decision-making
- praise and blame
This module will teach you how to communicate philosophy through a variety of different mediums, assessing them in each. We will look at how philosophy can be communicated through legal documentation, press releases, handouts, lesson plans, webpages, funding bids and posters (with optional presentations).
A number of the sessions will be delivered by professionals from outside the university, with support from the module convener. Seminars will be used to develop each of the items for assessment. You will be invited to draw upon your prior philosophical learning to generate your assessments, except in the case of handout where you will be set a specific philosophical task and asked to complete some (very basic) independent research.
Subjectivism and Relativism in Ethics
One often hears the opinion that ethics is subjective. But what does this mean, exactly?
And one often hears the view that ethics is relative. But relative to what?
And what is ‘ethics’ anyway?
And if ethics is subjective, or relative, what does that mean for ethics as a discipline? Does it mean, for example, that our ethical pronouncements can never be incorrect, never be challenged, or never disagreed with?
This module addresses these and other questions about the foundations of ethics, and gives you the material to develop your own views of this peculiarly human phenomenon.
Philosophy and Mortality
Illness, ageing, death and dying are universal experiences. Yet discussion about them often only happens in times of emotional distress.
Together we'll explore philosophical issues related to human mortality in an open, supportive and compassionate way.
As well as a deeper understanding of the issues you will also build capacity to think sensitively and humanely about the human experience of ageing, illness, and dying.
Typical topics might include:
- experiences of being chronically ill
- psychiatry and mental health
- the oppression of ill persons · illness narratives
- the moral and spiritual significance of illness
- the experience of dying
- empathy, grief, and mourning
- death and the meaning of life
- the significance of human mortality to wider philosophical issues and concerns
This module is worth 20 credits.
Knowledge, Ignorance and Democracy
Politics and truth have always had a complicated relationship. Lies, bullshit, spin, and propaganda are nothing new.
Polarization is on the rise in many democracies and political disagreements have spread to disputes about obvious matters of fact.
But have we really entered the era of 'post-truth' politics? Is debate now framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the facts?
In this module, we'll explore questions such as:
- Should the existence of widespread disagreement in politics make us less confident in our own views?
- Are voters morally or epistemically obligated to vote responsibly?
- Is it rational for citizens to base their political views on group identity rather than reasoned arguments?
- Should we have beliefs about complex policy questions about which we are not experts?
- Is democracy the best form of government for getting at the truth?
This module is worth 20 credits.
Philosophy of Sex
- How many people have you had sex with?
- Is there a difference between sex work and working in a supermarket?
- What is love? Do we chose who we love?
- What is gender? What do we mean when we say 'trans women are women'?
These are some of the many philosophical questions which arise when you start thinking about sex and related topics.
During this module we will tackle the conceptual, moral, political, and metaphysical issues raised by sexual activity. Possible topics we'll look at include:
- the nature of sexual desire
- sexual consent
- sexual objectification
- sexual orientation
Together we'll look at the experiences and testimony of a variety of groups, including those considered sexual and gender minorities. Then we'll use philosophical tools to explore the issues that such testimony raises.
This module is worth 20 credits.
Mind, Psychology and Mental Health
This module will consider mind, psychology, and mental health from a philosophical angle. The module will cover a range of exciting and fundamental topics in the philosophy of mind and psychology (chosen from topics such as, the social mind, animal minds, the nature of consciousness, the mind-body problem, the emotions, imagination, pain, will and action, belief, perception, mind as machine, and artificial intelligence - selected topics will vary from year to year).
We will always ask how these relate to mental health. But the module will also have a more specific focus on mental health as we will take the tools of philosophy of mind and psychology to mental health: we will consider how philosophy of mind and psychology can help us better understand mental health, but also how reflection on mental health can impact work in philosophy of mind and psychology. So the module will also cover content chosen from topics and areas such as the nature of mental health (and mental illness), delusion, thought-insertion, therapy, self-deception and the philosophy of specific mental disorders (for example, addiction, schizophrenia, depression) - specific topics varying from year to year.
So, in sum the module will combine focus on specific topics in philosophy of mind and psychology (with a mental health angle), and specific topics in philosophy of mental health (with a philosophy of mind and psychology angle).
This module investigates different kinds of contemporary logic, as well as their uses in philosophy. We will investigate the syntax and semantics of various logics, including first order logic, modal logics, and three-valued logics, as well as ways to apply formal techniques from these logics to philosophical topics such as possibility and necessity, vagueness, and the Liar paradox.
We’ll cover ways to reason and construct proofs using the logics we study, and also ways to reason about them. We’ll look at proofs regarding the limits of formal logic, including proofs of soundness, completeness, and decidability.
Philosophy of Criminal Law
There is perhaps no more vivid example of the exercise of state power over individuals than through the institution of criminal law. This power relationship raises a host of important philosophical questions, such as:
- Is there a general obligation to obey the law? If so, what is the basis for this obligation?
- What sorts of acts should be criminalised, and why?
- What does it mean for someone to be responsible for a crime, or for the state to hold someone responsible?
- Is criminal punishment justified? If so, why?
- What is the proper role for the presumption of innocence: Who must presume whom to be innocent of what?
- Is the state ever justified in imposing legal restrictions on offenders even after they have completed their punishment?
- How should the criminal law function in the international context?
We'll look at thinking from across history, from seminal figures such as Plato, Bentham, and Kant, to more contemporary philosophers such as Hart, Hampton, Duff, and others.
No experience of criminal law necessary. Ideal for both philosophers and practitioners.
This module is worth 20 credits.
Topic in the Philosophy of Science
We'll consider and evaluate some key debates in one specific area of philosophy of science.
The area will vary from year to year but recent areas and their questions have included:
- What is it?
- Can it be creative?
- Can it understand or have phenomenal consciousness?
- What would a paradigm shift in the way we understand intelligence and artificial intelligence look like?
- What are the ethical constraints on the research and methods of artificial intelligence?
- What are the dangers associated with the wider use of AI in human society ?
- What is progress?
- What is a diseases?
- Theory confirmation in medical science
- What are the ethical constraints on the research and objectives of the health sciences?
- Types of explanation in the health sciences
This module is worth 20 credits.
Philosophy of Education
Education plays a fundamental part in all our lives. It shapes who we are as individuals, our value systems, our political and religious outlooks. As a consequence it changes how society looks, how it operates, and what we think society ought to be like. Education then, is of the most profound importance.
As philosophers we are uniquely placed to think long and hard about education:
- what is its role?
- what should its role be?
- who gets to decide what is taught?
Rising to this challenge this module creates the space, and provides the tools, for you to do just this.
This module is worth 20 credits.
Philosophy of Recreation
We expect recompense when we work but appear to do recreational activities just for their own sake.
You'll use philosophical tools to examine the meaning and value of such recreational activities, exploring questions such as:
- Is recreational sex and drug consumption merely about pleasurable sensations?
- Why do we put such great effort into achieving seemingly arbitrary goals in sport?
- Does it make sense for fans to feel elated if they played no part in a team’s success?
- Is there something special about being in a zone of effortless attention whilst playing an instrument?
- Could risking death seeking sensations of the sublime by climbing a mountain be better than safely siting on your sofa watching trash tv?
Authenticity, Freedom, and Ethics
This module concerns these three themes: Authenticity, Freedom, and Ethics, and their relations. We will be exploring these themes via a focus on how they are handled by three different schools of thought: Kantianism; Existentialism; and Contemporary Compatibilism.
Philosophers on the agenda include: Kant, Korsgaard, and Velleman (from the Kantian School); Sartre, Camus, and Beauvoir (from the Existentialist School); and Frankfurt, Watson, and Wolff (from the Contemporary Compatibilist School).
What are the proper concerns of an egalitarian society? If we’re concerned about equality, what kind of world should we be working towards? What does it mean to treat one another as equals? Should we treat each other that way? If so, why? And what are the political implications of such obligations?
In this module we will be exploring these and other questions at the heart of the egalitarian project. Subjects will include equality of condition, relational equality, moral equality and political equality. We will also touch on issues around welfare, luck, rights, dignity, status and democracy. Writers covered may include Dworkin, Sen, Parfit, Anderson, Kant, Rousseau, Scanlon, Christiano and Rawls.