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BSc Physics with Theoretical Physics / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:

Unit code PHYS30392
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Department of Physics & Astronomy
Available as a free choice unit? No




Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Mathematics 1 PHYS10071 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Dynamics PHYS10101 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Quantum Physics and Relativity PHYS10121 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Introduction to Astrophysics and Cosmology PHYS10191 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Vibrations & Waves PHYS10302 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Properties of Matter PHYS10352 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Mathematics 2 PHYS10372 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Statistical Mechanics PHYS20352 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


1. To provide a broad overview of modern physical cosmology.
2. To make clear the connections between basic physical ideas and modern cosmology.

Learning outcomes

This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates

On completion of the course, students should be able to:
1. Explain the concepts of the expansion and curvature of space.
2. Summarize the main evidence in favour of the Big Bang, inflation, dark matter and dark energy.
3. Relate the density of the universe to its rate of expansion and understand how this relation is modified by a cosmological constant.
4. Solve for the scale factor a(t) in different epochs of the Universe’s history.
5. Make quantative calculations of physical processes in the early universe.
6. Relate observed to physical properties of distant objects given the luminosity and angular size distances.
7. Describe the main events of the universe's history and locate them approximately in time and redshift.


1. Basic observations of the Universe                                                                                         (6 lectures)
1.1  What is cosmology?
1.2  Olber’s paradox
1.3  Expansion and acceleration of the Universe
1.4  Cosmic Microwave Background
1.5  Large-scale structure
1.6  Dark matter in galaxies and clusters of galaxies

2. FRW Universe Model                                                                                                                 (8 lectures)
2.1  Review of Newtonian gravity
2.2  Geometry of the spacetime
2.3  Dynamical equations
2.4  Solutions for the scale factor
2.5  Distances measures in the FRW Universe
2.6  Cosmological puzzles and inflation

3. Thermal History of the Universe                                                                                              (6 lectures)
3.1  Review of statistical mechanics and natural units
3.2  Cosmological freeze-out
3.3  Recombination
3.4  Neutrino decoupling – relativistic freeze-out
3.5  WIMP decoupling – non-relativistic freeze-out
3.6  Nucleosynthesis
3.7  Baryogenesis
3.8  Brief history of time!

4. Precision Cosmology                                                                                                                  (2 lectures)
4.1  Standard model of cosmology
4.2  Measurement of parameters using the CMB & P(k)
4.3  Beyond the standard model : curvature, dark energy & massive neutrinos

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 33%
Written exam 67%

Feedback methods

Feedback will be offered by examples class tutors based on examples sheets, and model answers will be issued.

Recommended reading

Recommended text:
Liddle, A., An Introduction to Modern Cosmology 2nd ed. (Wiley)
Ryden, B., Introduction to Cosmology (Addison Wesley)

Useful references:
Harrison, E., Cosmology: the Science of the Universe, 2nd ed. (CUP)
Hawley, J.F and Holcomb, K.A., Foundations of Modern Cosmology (Oxford)
Peacock, J.A., Cosmological Physics, (CUP)
Serjeant, S., Observational Cosmology (CUP)

Supplementary reading:

Weinberg, S., The First Three Minutes, Updated ed. (Basic Books)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 76.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Scott Kay Unit coordinator

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