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Durham University

Department of Physics

PHYS3631 Foundations of Physics 3B (2012/13)

Details of the module's prerequisites, learning outcomes, assessment and contact hours are given in the official module description in the Faculty Handbook - follow the link above.  A detailed description of the module's content is given below, together with book lists and a link to the current library catalogue entries.  For an explanation of the library's categorisation system see


Modern Optics

Prof C. S. Adams

18 lectures + 3 examples classes in Michaelmas Term


Required: Optics, Hecht (4th edition).
The course is defined by material contained in this book and in particular the material defined in the syllabus below where the numbers refer to the sections in the book.
Required: Introduction to Fourier Optics, J. W Goodman (McGraw-Hill 2nd edition)
The course is defined by material contained in this book, in particular Chapter 3 which will be placed on duo.


  1. Review of EM [Hecht Section 2.8, 3.2 and Appendix 1]
  2. Plane waves and spherical waves [Hecht Section 2.7 and 2.9]
  3. Fourier transforms: Linearity, convolution, shifting, scaling [Hecht Chapter 11]
  4. Propagating the solution to the wave equation using the angular spectral method [Goodman Chapter 3]
  5. Gaussian beams [Hecht Section 13.1]
  6. Near-field (Fresnel) and far-field (Fraunhofer) diffraction [Hecht Section 10.1 and 10.3]
  7. Simple cases: single and double slits [Hecht Section 10.1 and 10.2]
  8. Simple cases: multiple slits [Hecht Section 10.1 and 10.2]
  9. Phasors [Hecht Section 4.5 and 4.11]
  10. 2D diffraction: letters, and circular apertures [Hecht Section 10.2.3 and 10.3]
  11. Diffraction limit: Rayleigh criterion, Heisenberg microscope [Hecht Section 10.2]
  12. Spatial filtering [Hecht Section 13.2]
  13. Babinet’s Principle. Apodization [Hecht Section 10.3]
  14. Fabry Perot: Gaussian modes of a cavity [Hecht Section 9.6 and 13.1]
  15. Lasers and cavities [Hecht Section 13.1]

Statistical Physics

Prof P. D. Hatton

18 lectures + 3 examples classes in Michaelmas and Epiphany Term


Required: Statistical Physics: Enlarged Edition, A. M. Guenault (Springer, 2nd Edition)
The course is defined by material contained in this book, in particular Chapters 1-15.


Syllabus:  Introduction and basic ideas:- macro and microstates, distributions; distinguishable particles, thermal equilibrium, temperature, the Boltzmann distribution, partition functions, examples of Boltzmann statistics: spin-1/2 solid and localized harmonic oscillators; Gases: the density of states: fitting waves into boxes, the distributions, fermions and bosons, counting particles, microstates and statistical weights; Maxwell-Boltzmann gases: distribution of speeds, connection to classical thermodynamics; diatomic gases: Energy contributions, heat capacity of a diatomic gas, hydrogen; Fermi-Dirac gases: properties, application to metals and helium-3; Bose-Einstein gases: properties, application to helium-4, phoney bosons; entropy and disorder, vacancies in solids; phase transitions: types, ferromagnetism of a spin-1/2 solid, real ferromagnetic materials, order-disorder transformations in alloys; statics or dynamics? ensembles, chemical thermodynamics: revisiting chemical potential, the grand canonical ensemble, ideal and mixed gases; dealing with interactions: electrons in metals, liquid helium 3 and 4, real imperfect gases; statistics under extreme conditions: superfluid states in Fermi-Dirac systems, statics in astrophysical systems.

Magnetic Materials

Dr I. Terry

12 lectures + 2 examples classes in Epiphany Term


Required: Introduction to Solid State Physics, C Kittel (Wiley)
Additional: Superconductivity, W. Buckel(Cambridge University Press).
Additional: Solid State Magnetism, J. Crangle (Arnold).
Additional: Introduction to Magnetism and Magnetic Materials, D. Jiles (Chapman and Hall)
Additional:  Modern Magnetic Materials, R.S. O’Handley (Wiley).

Syllabus: paramagnetism, mean field theory, ferromagnetism, antiferromagnetism, Curie-Weiss law, magnetic excitations, bulk magnetic properties, domains walls, magnetostriction, magnetic order and exchange interaction, Heisenberg hamiltonian. Critical temperature and field, London equation, type I and type II superconductors, vortex states, flux pinning.


3 lectures in Easter Term, one by each lecturer

Teaching Methods

Lectures: 2 or 3 one-hour lectures per week.

Examples classes: These provide an opportunity to work through and digest the course material by attempting exercises and assignments assisted by direct interaction with the lecturers and demonstrators. Students will be divided into groups, each of which will attend one one-hour class every week.

Problem exercises: See