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Unit information: Classical Physics I: Thermal Physics, Oscillations and Mechanics in 2018/19

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing and student choice.

Unit name Classical Physics I: Thermal Physics, Oscillations and Mechanics
Unit code PHYS20007
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Barnes
Open unit status Not open

PHYS10005, PHYS10006, or equivalent


Classical Physics II: Electromagnetism and Waves

School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science


Classical Physics comprises much of the core of physics, built on the foundations developed in the 17th to 19th centuries and underpinning all of 'modern' physics.

This unit builds on level C/4 material in the areas of Thermal Physics, Oscillations and Mechanics. The laws of thermodynamics are introduced and related to the statistical physics understanding of bulk phenomena through the Boltzmann distribution and the canonical distribution function. The effect of identical particles is briefly introduced. Methods to analyse the motion of systems with many degrees of freedom are presented. The significance of conservation principles in mechanics is discussed, using central force motion as an example system. Mechanics in non-inertial reference frames is introduced. The treatment of rotation and angular momentum is extended into three dimensions, allowing a full understanding of the motion of rigid bodies.


To introduce students to a core of classical physics including thermodynamics, statistical physics, rigid body mechanics, central force motion, and coupled oscillators.

Intended learning outcomes

Students will:

  • gain an appreciation of the broad thrust of classical physics and its wide applicability
  • appreciate the microscopic origin of macroscopic thermodynamics and be able to derive simple results in thermodynamics from a microscopic description for simple systems
  • understand the concepts of entropy, free energy and chemical potential and be able to manipulate thermodynamic expressions to derive simple results
  • be able to perform simple calculations involving temperature and pressure dependence of phase transitions
  • appreciate the different distributions of fermions and bosons and the relevance for thermodynamical effects
  • appreciate the behaviour of systems of coupled oscillators
  • be able to describe qualitatively and quantitatively motion under central forces
  • understand the modifications to laws of motion experienced in a non-internal reference frame
  • gain a qualitative understanding of the general motion of rigid bodies, and be able to carry out full analysis of simple systems.

Teaching details

Lectures, Problems classes

Assessment Details

Written examination

Reading and References

Blundell and Blundell - Concepts in Thermal Physics

Kleppner and Kolenkow - An Introduction to Mechanics

Kibble and Berkshire - Classical Mechanics