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PH30055: Computational physics A

[Page last updated: 21 April 2022]

Academic Year: 2022/3
Owning Department/School: Department of Physics
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Honours (FHEQ level 6)
Semester 1
Assessment Summary: CW 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • Coursework (CW 100%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Requisites: Before or while taking this module you must take PH20018 OR take PH20105 OR take PH20106 OR take PH20114
Learning Outcomes: After taking this unit the student should be able to:
* identify the strengths and weaknesses of a computational approach to modelling;
* demonstrate a practical knowledge of the Maple computer algebra system;
* construct Maple worksheets to analyse physical problems;
* use computational modelling to perform in-depth investigations into selected topics;
* explain the methodology, relevant issues and output of the investigations performed.

Aims: The aims of this unit are to introduce students to the practical use of computer modelling as a complement to theoretical and experimental solution of physical problems, to introduce a contemporary package available to the modeller, and to explore topics in physics that lend themselves to computational modelling.

Skills: Written 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.

Content: Introduction to computational modelling as a means of gaining physical insight: Contemporary applications of computer modelling.
Computer algebra packages as a scientific computer environment: Problems solved effectively in this environment and those that are not.
Practical introduction to Maple: Data structures; constants, variables, expressions, functions, lists, arrays and sets. Basic calculus; integration, differentiation, limits. Standard functions. Graphics. Data i/o. Solving equations; symbolic, numerical, systems of equations, ordinary differential equations. Linear Algebra. Programming; logic, loops, procedures.
Exercises and projects based upon construction of Maple worksheets: Examples may include: Bound state problems in quantum physics by shooting method, basis set expansion. Coupled oscillators; normal modes, time-series analysis. Planetary dynamics; orbit prediction, three-body problems, chaotic motion. Electrons in molecules and solids; linear combination of atomic orbitals, energy levels/bands, bonding/antibonding. Fractals; generation, characterisation via fractal dimension. Stochastic systems; random walkers, diffusion limited aggregation. Dynamics of non-linear systems; logistic map, Lorentz equations, limit cycles, chaos. Percolation; cluster counting algorithms, percolation threshold.

Programme availability:

PH30055 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Physics
  • USXX-AFB03 : BSc(Hons) Mathematics and Physics (Year 3)
  • USXX-AAB04 : BSc(Hons) Mathematics and Physics with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • USXX-AKB04 : BSc(Hons) Mathematics and Physics with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • USPH-AFM02 : MPhys(Hons) Physics (Year 3)
  • USPH-AFM04 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Research placement (Year 3)
  • USPH-AAM12 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • USPH-AKM03 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Professional Placement (Year 4)
  • USPH-AKM04 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Professional and Research Placements (Year 4)
  • USPH-AAM13 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Study year abroad and Research Placement (Year 4)
  • USXX-AFM01 : MSci(Hons) Mathematics and Physics (Year 3)
  • USXX-AAM01 : MSci(Hons) Mathematics and Physics with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • USXX-AKM01 : MSci(Hons) Mathematics and Physics with Year long work placement (Year 4)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2022/23 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2023/24 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2022/23.
  • 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.