Waves and Vibrations - PH025

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn 3 15 (7.5) DR G Roch checkmark-circle


(i) Types of waves. Characteristics of a wave:- frequency, period, amplitude, wavelength and velocity. Introduction to transverse and longitudinal waves and polarisation. c = f?
(ii) Properties of Waves. Qualitative description of the properties of waves; motion, reflection, refraction (Snell's law), dispersion, diffraction, interference, standing waves.
(iii) Sound Waves. Description of sound - loudness, noise, note, pitch, intensity, intensity level. Properties of sound - reflection, refraction, interference (interference pattern produced by two speakers), beats, resonance in a vibrating wire, including overtones/harmonics. Qualitative treatment of Doppler effect.
(iv) Electromagnetic (em) Waves. Electromagnetic spectrum. Qualitative treatment of em waves from different parts of the spectrum. Refraction of light - critical angle and optical fibres. Polarisation of light, microwaves and radio waves. Interference. Young's double slit experiment. The Michelson interferometer. Transmission diffraction grating - orders of diffraction, application in spectroscopy.
(v) Simple Harmonic Motion (SHM). Displacement, velocity and acceleration of a body undergoing S.H.M. Link between SHM. and circular motion. Force acting on a body undergoing SHM. Qualitative description of systems displaying SHM. Detailed description of pendulum and mass on a spring. Energy in SHM. General expression for SHM.
(vi) Damping and Forced Oscillations. Qualitative treatment of light, heavy and critical damping. Qualitative discussion of the concepts of natural frequency, resonance and the behaviour of vibratory systems driven by a periodic force.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

24 hours of lectures.


This is not available as a wild module.

Method of assessment

30% coursework including class tests and homework; 70% final exam.

Indicative reading

Core text:

  • New Understanding Physics for Advanced Level 4th edition, by J. Breithaupt. (Copies of the 4th edition are in the library, + copies of earlier editions).

    Background text:
  • Physics by J. Breithaupt (Copies of 2003 edition in the library).

    See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

    Learning outcomes

    Knowledge and understanding of:

  • Physical laws and principles, and their application to diverse areas of physics (this will include laws of motion, electromagnetism, wave phenomena and the properties of matter), with modules covering the necessary mathematics.

    Intellectual skills:
  • An ability to identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with problems, and to make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
  • An ability to solve problems in physics using appropriate mathematical tools.
  • An ability to use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour.

    Subject-specific skills:
  • An ability to present and interpret information graphically.
  • An ability to make use of appropriate texts, or other learning resources as part of managing their own learning.

    Transferable skills:
  • Problem-solving skills, an ability to formulate problems in precise terms and to identify key issues, and the confidence to try different approaches in order to make progress on challenging problems. Numeracy is subsumed within this area.
  • Analytical skills – associated with the need to pay attention to detail and to develop an ability to manipulate precise and intricate ideas, to construct logical arguments and to use technical language correctly.
  • Personal skills – the ability to work independently, to use initiative, to organise oneself to meet deadlines and to interact constructively with other people.


    1. Credit level 3. Foundation level module taken in preparation for a degree.
    2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
    3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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