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Introduction to Nuclear Physics and Optics

Semester 2

This is a pre-calculus course covering fundamental topics in Nuclear Physics and Optics.


Optics ( 11 Lectures):

  • Light as Electromagnetic Wave:
    • The electromagnetic spectrum.
    • The speed of light.
    • Wavefronts and rays.
    • Laws of reflection.
    • Image formation by Concave and convex mirrors.
    • Refraction of light.
    • Index of refraction.
    • Snell’s law.
    • Total internal reflection and the critical angle. Examples of application of TIR. 
  • Lenses:
    • Thin converging and diverging lenses.
    • Image formation by lenses using ray diagrams.
    • Linear magnification.
    • Derivation of the lens equation and sign convention.
    • Lenses in combination. 
  • Human Eye:
    • Anatomy of the human eye.
    • Image formation by the eye of objects at varying distances.
    • Defects of vision (nearsightedness and farsightedness) and their correction by lenses. 
  • Telescopes and Microscopes:
    • Angular magnification.
    • Simple and compound microscopes their angular magnification.
    • Astronomical and Galilean telescopes and angular magnification.

Nuclear Physics ( 7 Lectures)

  • Nuclear Model of the Atom:
    • Geiger-Marsden experiment.
    • Nuclear structure.
    • The fundamental forces.
    • Binding energy and mass defect. 
    • Atomic mass unit.
    • Nuclear stability and natural radioactivity.
    • Fission and fusion.
  • Radioactivity:
    • Radioactive decay and its equation.
    • Radioactive activity.
    • Radioactive dating.
    • Medical and other applications of radioactivity.
    • X-ray production and spectrum.
    • Simple radioactive detectors.

One 2-hour theory examination paper                                                60%

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

Laboratory work (average of 6 labs at 10% each)                              10%

Learning Objectives: 

After completing this course, students should be able to:  

  •  Appreciate that no material body, in free space, can travel faster than the speed of light.
  • Perform quantitative analyses of problems of image formation with concave and convex mirrors and thin lenses. 
  • Explain the defects of vision and the methods of correction using appropriate lenses. In addition, to perform the necessary quantitative analysis to determine the focal length of the corrective lens.  
  • Explain the construction of the compound microscope and the astronomical telescope and calculate the angular magnification in each case.
  • Explain the structure of the nucleus.
  • Explain the concepts of “binding energy” and “mass defect” and perform simple calculations to determine these quantities. 
  • Explain nuclear stability and radioactive decay.
  • Perform and interpret the results of simple experiments and demonstrations of physical principles.
CXC/CSEC Physics or GCE “O” Level Physics.

Required Textbook:

Cutnell, and Johnson; “Physics ”; 8th Edition, 2009. ISBN 978-0-470-22355-0

Internet Sources:

  1. An online suite of
  2. Self-assessment:
  3. Online lectures:
  4. Online tutorials:
Course Code: 
3 Credits
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