The University of Newcastle, Australia
Available in 2020
Course code



10 units


2000 level

Course handbook


Modern Physics 1 deals with the application of non-classical physics to the motion of systems that are moving really fast or systems that are really small, both of which lie outside the realm of Newtonian Mechanics. As such, Modern Physics 1 is fundamental to the Engineering and Technology of Satellite Communications, Quantum Computing and Nuclear Fusion.

At its core Modern Physics 1 studies: (a) the motion of particles and systems at speeds close to the speed of light, (b) wave-particle duality and its application to atomic systems and (c) nuclear processes and their applications to biological systems This course provides an intermediate level calculus-based treatment of Special Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and Nuclear Physics.

Blended problem-based conceptual learning (lectorials) will be used to gain an understanding of key developments, ideas and theories covered in Modern Physics 1. Blended problem-based hands-on learning (laboratory workshops) will be used to gain an understanding of key experiments, models and analysis covered in Modern Physics 1.



  • Semester 1 - 2020

Replacing course(s)

This course replaces the following course(s): PHYS2170 and PHYS2240. Students who have successfully completed PHYS2170 or PHYS2240 are not eligible to enrol in PHYS2211.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Describe the role of Special Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and Nuclear Physics in the development of modern physics.

2. Solve qualitative and quantitative problems, using appropriate mathematical and computing techniques.

3. Perform experiments which involve making correct and appropriate use of a range of scientific equipment, keeping an accurate record of experimental work and analysing results and reaching non-trivial conclusions from them.

4. Communicate the results of both theoretical and experimental work in various forms including written reports, oral presentations and poster presentations.

5. Contribute to team and group work for scientific investigations and for the process of learning.


The topics to be covered include:

  • Special Relativity: Frames of Reference; Einstein’s Postulates; Space-Time interval; Lorentz Equations; Energy-momentum Interval
  • Quantum Mechanics: Waves Particle duality; Schrodinger equation; Bound States; Expectation values & Operators; Unbound States; Three dimensional systems; Hydrogen Atom
  • Nuclear Physics: Nuclear properties and models; Nuclear reactions; Radiation detectors; Biological Effects of radiation; Applications selected from a range including medicine, nuclear power production, industrial applications & environmental issues  


Students must have successfully completed PHYS2111 or PHYS2250, and have previously completed, or be concurrently enrolled in MATH2310 to enrol in this course. If students have completed PHYS2170 or PHYS2240 they cannot enrol in this course.

Assumed knowledge

PHYS2111 or PHYS2250, MATH2310

Assessment items

Quiz: Weekly Quiz

In Term Test: In Term Test

Tutorial / Laboratory Exercises: Tutorial/Laboratory exercises

Formal Examination: Formal Examination

Contact hours



Face to Face On Campus 3 hour(s) per Week for 11 Weeks


Face to Face Off Campus 2 hour(s) per Week for Full Term starting in week 1