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Waves, Optics and Thermodynamics

Semester 1

This is a calculus-based physics course covering the basic laws and phenomena in waves, optics, and thermodynamics.


WAVES AND OPTICS (11 lectures)

  • Waves on a String:
  • Transverse and longitudinal waves;
  • The wave equation.
  • Phase velocity.
  • The sine wave.
  • Power transmission.
  • Superposition principle.
  • Interference.
  • Standing waves and Resonance.
  • Sound waves;
  • Wave speed (without derivation).
  • Displacement and pressure waves.
  • Beats.
  • Doppler effect for sound waves.
  • Optics;
  • Huygen's Principle (eg. in Refraction).
  • The electromagnetic wave.
  • Coherence;
  • Young's experiment.
  • Intensity in double slit interference. 
  • Thin film interference (including wedge films and Newton's rings).
  • The Phasor Method;
  • Single slit diffraction.
  • The diffraction grating.


  • Temperature.
  • Heat and the First Law Measuring temperature.
  • Constant Volume gas thermometer.
  • Ideal gas temperature.
  • Measurement of thermodynamic temperature.
  • Absorption of heat by solids and liquids.
  • Molar specific heat.
  • Heat and Work.
  • Calculation of work done by an ideal gas at constant temperature.
  • Differential form of First Law of Thermodynamics and application to selected cases.
  • Kinetic Theory of Gases;
  • RMS speed, pressure, translational kinetic energy and pressure.
  • Adiabatic equation of an ideal gas.
  • Entropy and the Second law of Thermodynamics.
  • Heat engines and refrigerators

One 2-hour theory examination paper                                    60%

Two 1-hour in-course tests      (15% each)                              30%

Laboratory Report (Averaged of 6 labs at 10% each)            10%

Learning Objectives: 

After completing this course, students should be able to:

  • Describe wave motion, including differentiating between transverse vs longitudinal waves, and standing vs progressive waves.
  • Derive and solve the equation for a propagating wave and a standing wave.
  • Describe the energy transported by a wave and the resonance condition,
  • Explain Huygen's Principle and perform calculations involving the Doppler effect.
  • Perform calculations related to the concept of superposition, including interference & diffraction.
  • Apply concepts of temperature and heat as energy to solve problems concerning the transfer of heat and effects of heat on systems.
  • Apply 1st and 2nd laws of Thermodynamics to systems to solve problems involving work, heat, and thermodynamic cycles.
  • Perform and interpret the results of simple experiments and demonstrations of physical principles.
CAPE/A-Level Physics or PHYS0411 and PHYS0412 and PHYS 0421 and PHYS 0422 or CSEC Physics with CAPE/A-Level Math

Required Textbook:

Halliday, Resnick, and Walker; “Fundamentals of Physics Extended”; 8th Edition, 2007. ISBN 978-0-471-75801-3

Alternative text

Paul A. Tipler and  Gene Mosca,Physics for Scientists and Engineers. 6th Edition, 2007. ISBN-10: 0716789647.

Internet Sources:

  1. Online lectures:
  2. Online tutorials:
Course Code: 
3 Credits
Level 1
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