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PH10004: Classical mechanics

[Page last updated: 15 October 2020]

Follow this link for further information on academic years Academic Year: 2020/1
Further information on owning departmentsOwning Department/School: Department of Physics
Further information on credits Credits: 3      [equivalent to 6 CATS credits]
Further information on notional study hours Notional Study Hours: 60
Further information on unit levels Level: Certificate (FHEQ level 4)
Further information on teaching periods Period:
Semester 1
Further information on unit assessment Assessment Summary: EX 100%
Further information on unit assessment Assessment Detail:

Information regarding synoptic assessment for this unit will be published shortly. In the meantime please contact the Director of Studies or consult your programme handbook for further details.

Further information on supplementary assessment Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Further information on requisites Requisites: While taking this module you must take PH10007
You must have A-level Physics or Chemistry (or equivalent) and A-level Mathematics (or equivalent) to take this unit.
Aims: The aims of this unit are to present students with a clear guide to the laws of classical mechanics, and to strengthen their understanding of the universality of concepts from classical mechanics (from fundamental particles to billiard balls and planets) by means of practical problems.
Learning Outcomes: After taking this unit the student should be able to:
* describe motion of particles and determine the relationship between forces and acceleration using vector notations, and in Cartesian and Polar coordinates;
* use the concepts of kinetic and potential energy, and mechanical work to solve a range of physical problems;
* use conservation of energy to qualitatively describe motion of particles in external potentials, determine positions of equilibrium and regimes of bound and free motion;
* use conservation laws of linear and angular momentum to describe collisions of particles and rigid bodies;
* describe collisions in the centre of mass frame;
* use the concepts of angular momentum, torque and moment of inertia to describe rotations of rigid bodies;
* determine moments of inertia of rigid bodies using the table for basic shapes, additive property, and parallel axis theorem.
Skills: Numeracy T/F A, Problem Solving T/F A.
Content: Kinematics and Newton's laws of motion (5 hours, including problems classes): Vector notations, velocity and acceleration; Galilean invariance, inertial frames and inertial forces; fundamental and non-fundamental (phenomenological) forces in common physical problems; motion of particles in a plane: Cartesian and Polar coordinate systems; non-uniform circular and spiral motions, Coriolis acceleration.

Conservation laws in mechanics (5 hours, including problems classes): mechanical work and energy; potential energy, free and bound motions, turning points, equilibrium positions as extrema of potential energy; conservative and non-conservative forces; momentum and impulse; conservation of momentum; centre of mass; the two-body problem; collisions in the centre of mass frame.

Dynamics of rigid bodies (5 hours, including problems classes): angular momentum of a point particle; spin and orbital angular momentum of a rigid body; conservation of angular momentum; torques, dynamics of fixed axis of rotation; kinetic energy of a rotating body; moments of inertia, parallel axis theorem; motions involving translation and rotation, instantaneous rotations.
Further information on programme availabilityProgramme availability:

PH10004 is Compulsory on the following programmes:

Department of Physics
  • USPH-AFB01 : BSc(Hons) Physics (Year 1)
  • USPH-AAB02 : BSc(Hons) Physics with Study year abroad (Year 1)
  • USPH-AKB02 : BSc(Hons) Physics with Year long work placement (Year 1)
  • USPH-AFB10 : BSc(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics (Year 1)
  • USPH-AAB10 : BSc(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Study year abroad (Year 1)
  • USPH-AKB10 : BSc(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Year long work placement (Year 1)
  • USPH-AFM02 : MPhys(Hons) Physics (Year 1)
  • USPH-AFM04 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Research placement (Year 1)
  • USPH-AAM03 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Study year abroad (Year 1)
  • USPH-AAM12 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Study year abroad (Year 1)
  • USPH-AKM03 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Professional Placement (Year 1)
  • USPH-AKM04 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Professional and Research Placements (Year 1)
  • USPH-AFM10 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics (Year 1)
  • USPH-AFM11 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Research placement (Year 1)
  • USPH-AAM10 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Study year abroad (Year 1)
  • USPH-AKM10 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Professional Placement (Year 1)
  • USPH-AKM11 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Professional and Research Placements (Year 1)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2020/21 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2021/22 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2020/21.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.