MPhys Physics / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Coronavirus information for applicants and offer-holders

We understand that prospective students and offer-holders may have concerns about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The University is following the advice from Universities UK, Public Health England and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Read our latest coronavirus information

Course unit details:

Unit code PHYS10101
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Physics & Astronomy
Available as a free choice unit? No




To introduce the fundamental concepts of Newtonian mechanics.

Learning outcomes

This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 21/22 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 successful students will be able to explain the role of, and solve problems involving, the following concepts: 

1. frame of reference and its associated coordinate systems. 

2. Newton's laws and the motion of simple systems. 

3. energy, work, power, momentum, force, impulse, angular velocity, angular acceleration and torque. 

4. conservation of energy, momentum, and angular momentum. 

Furthermore, they will be able to solve problems involving: 

5. the rotation of rigid bodies. 

6. motion in a gravitational field.



1: Motion in 2D and 3D 1

Position, velocity and acceleration as vectors; simple vector calculus. 

Accelerated motion in 2D (canon ball and circular motion)

2: Motion in 2D and 3D 2

Description of motion using polar coordinates

Reference frames, relative velocity, change of frame.

3: Newton's Laws

Newton I, II and III; application to circular motion.

4: Friction

Static and Dynamic Friction (also, motion in a vertical circle).

5: Work and Energy

Work energy theorem, centre of mass, reduced mass.

7: Potential Energy

Forms of potential energy and their application.

8: Momentum and Collisions

Momentum and its conservation.

Elastic and inelastic collisions.

9: Rotation of Rigid Bodies 1

Rigid body rotation

The vector product

Moments of inertia and their calculation

Torque and Newton II

10: Rotation of Rigid Bodies 2

Rolling without slipping

Combining rotation and translation

Angular momentum

Vector form

11: Gravitation

Newton’s Law of Gravitation 

Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion 

Gravitational Potential Energy 

Spherical mass distributions 

Tidal forces 


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 10%
Written exam 80%
Written assignment (inc essay) 10%

Feedback methods

Feedback will be offered by tutors on students’ written solutions to weekly examples sheets, and model answers will be issued.

Recommended reading

Compulsory Text book

Young, H.D. & Freedman, R.A. University Physics (Addison-Wesley)


Recommended texts

Forshaw, J.R. & Smith, A.G. Dynamics & Relativity (Wiley)

French, A.P. Newtonian Mechanics (Norton)

Halliday, D., Resnick, R. & Walker, J. Fundamentals of Physics (Wiley)

Kleppner, D. & Kolenkow, R. An Introduction to Mechanics (McGraw-Hill)

Tipler, P.A., Physics for Scientists and Engineers (W.H. Freeman and company)


Supplementary maths text

Tinker, M. & Lambourne, R. Further Mathematics for the Physical Sciences (Wiley)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Lectures 22
Practical classes & workshops 11
Tutorials 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 59.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Niels Walet Unit coordinator
Timothy O'Brien Unit coordinator

Return to course details