MPhys Physics

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Physics in Everyday Life

Course unit fact file
Unit code PHYS10461
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


Physics in Everyday Life


To use physics to explain a variety of phenomena and devices in everyday life

Learning outcomes

On completion successful students will be able to:

  1. use the method of dimensions to help solve problems in physics
  2. use orders of magnitude and estimations 
  3. describe and explain the physics basis of various everyday atmospheric phenomena
  4. describe and explain the physics underlying various aspects of the human body, including sight and hearing 
  5. discuss how physics can be applied to sport
  6. explain the physics behind a number of devices in modern technology


      1. Everyday life in context  [2 lectures]

Units, length, energy and time scales in physics; the method of dimensions; estimating; ordering of magnitude.

      2. Physics in the Earth’s atmosphere  [6 lectures]

The Sun; the Earth’s atmosphere as an ideal gas; pressure, temperature and density; Pascal’s Law and Archimedes’ Principle; Coriolis acceleration and weather systems; Rayleigh scattering; the blue sky; the red sunset; refraction and dispersion of light; the rainbow.

      3. Physics in the human body [5 lectures]

The eyes as an optical instrument; vision defects; Rayleigh criterion and resolving power; sound waves and hearing; sound intensity; the decibel scale; ion transportation and cellular excitation.

      4. Physics in sports [5 lectures]

The sweet spot; dynamics of rotating objects; running, jumping and pole vaulting; motion of a spinning ball; continuity and Bernoulli equations; Bending it like Beckham; the Magnus force; turbulence and drag.

      5. Physics in technology: [4 lectures]

Microwave ovens; the Lorentz force; the Global Positioning System; CCDs; lasers; displays

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Feedback methods

Feedback will be available on students’ individual written solutions to examples sheets, which will be marked, and model answers will be issued.

Recommended reading

There is no single recommended text. Where appropriate, examples will be taken from Young, H.D. and Freedman, R.A. University Physics (Addison Wesley)

Supplementary reading:

Regular issues of New Scientist and Scientific American

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Henggui Zhang Unit coordinator

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