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Programme & Unit Catalogues

PH10090: Experimental physics and computing 1a

[Page last updated: 05 August 2021]

Academic Year: 2021/2
Owning Department/School: Department of Physics
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Certificate (FHEQ level 4)
Semester 1
Assessment Summary: PR 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • Practical (PR 100%)
Supplementary Assessment:
PH10090A - OT reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Requisites: While taking this module you must take PH10003
Description: Aims:
The primary aims of this unit are to give the student confidence and competence in basic laboratory and information processing skills, and to introduce laboratory project work. Further aims are to encourage the application of basic principles to unfamiliar areas of physics, and to reinforce other course material through self-paced laboratory demonstrations. The unit provides a preparation for work in the undergraduate physics laboratory by developing students' understanding of error analysis and statistics, as relevant to the understanding and interpretation of experimental data.

Learning Outcomes:
While taking this unit the student should be able to:
* demonstrate the correct use of common laboratory equipment;
* set up and carry out experimental demonstrations related to level 1 physics units;
* use a scientific log book for recording details of experimental procedure, experimental results and data analysis;
* apply dimensional analysis to expressions linking measurable variables;
* evaluate the standard error on a mean of experimental measurements;
* apply least-squares fitting to experimental data;
* plan, design and carry out a physics project consisting of a small-scale experimental investigation;
* analyse experimental and observational data, and write a formal scientific project report.

Written Communication T/F A, Spoken Communication T/F A, Numeracy T/F A, Data Acquisition, Handling, and Analysis T/F A, Information Technology T/F A, Problem Solving T/F A, Working as part of a group T/F, Practical laboratory skills T/F A, Project planning/management T/F A.

Techniques of measurement: Examples include use of oscilloscope, light sources and detectors, operational amplifiers, geometrical optics, introduction to computer data acquisition.
Demonstrations: Examples include velocity of light, astrophysical data analysis, elastic properties, spectrum of atomic hydrogen, ultrasonic waves in air, the Michelson interferometer, heat engines, and photoelectric determination of Planck's constant.
Electronics: Resonant ac circuits and filters. Operational amplifiers.
Project: An independent project to simulate the processes of researching, planning, performing, analysing and reporting a small-scale experimental investigation. The topics are chosen from a wide range of physics appropriate to first-year students, including hypothesis testing, design of apparatus and investigating unfamiliar phenomena.
Handling data lectures (4 hours): Dimensional analysis, and orders of magnitude (dimensional homogeneity, Rayleigh Method). Describing data distributions, and estimating uncertainty (mean, variance, standard deviation). Combining errors, Gaussian errors as a consequence of the Central Limit Theorem. Linear regression (least squares; error in the gradient and intercept).
PC laboratory sessions: The use of spreadsheets, such as EXCEL, to perform statistical operations and data analysis. The use of word processors, such as WORD, to produce technical reports. The use of computers for scientific purposes, including analysis of astrophysical data.

Further information on programme availabilityProgramme availability:

PH10090 is only available subject to the approval of the Physics Director of Studies/Director of Teaching.


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2021/22 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2022/23 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2021/22.
  • 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.
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