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The University of Southampton

PHYS2023 Wave Physics

Module Overview

This course introduces the properties and mechanics of waves, from the derivation and solution of wave equations, through the origins of the classical processes of refraction, dispersion and interference, to the quantum mechanical phenomenon of the uncertainty principle. It will arm students with a basic knowledge of wave behaviour and propagation, together with techniques for their quantitative analysis and application to a range of physical systems. It will further provide a fundamental base from which to examine wave aspects of electromagnetism, quantum mechanics and solid state physics in subsequent courses.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Express the nature of wave propagation and its physical mechanisms
  • Differentiate interference and diffraction, the Huygens principle, Fraunhofer diffraction, diffraction gratings
  • Define dispersion and the phase and group velocities
  • Depict the energy and momenta of wave motions
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Interpret the physical basis of continuity conditions and their implications for interfaces
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Relate superpositions, wave packets and Fourier analysis
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Derive the solution of wave equations, both in one and three dimensions
  • Distinguish the travelling, standing and harmonic wave solutions


- General principles of wave propagation; derivation and solution of wave equations - Transverse waves; travelling, standing and harmonic solutions; initial conditions - Linearity, interference, superposition and the Huygens construction for wave propagation - Fourier series and transforms; the convolution theorem - Wave packets, dispersion and phase and group velocities - Diffraction: single slit, double slit, grating and general Fraunhofer results - Energy and momentum transport in wave motions - Continuity conditions and interfaces - Longitudinal waves; waves from moving sources; waves in various physical systems - Wave mechanical operators; wavefunction averages; transform limits and uncertainty

Learning and Teaching

Completion of assessment task10
Preparation for scheduled sessions18
Wider reading or practice46
Follow-up work18
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

A. P. French (1971). Vibrations and Waves. 

H. H. Pain (1998). The Physics of Vibrations and Waves. 

R P Feynman (2011). Lectures in Physics vol 1. 

I.G. Main (1993). Vibrations and Waves in Physics. 

E Hecht (2001). Optics. 

Tim Freegarde (2012). Introduction to the Physics of Waves. 


Assessment Strategy

Weekly course work will be set and assessed in the normal way, but only the best ‘n-2’ attempts will contribute to the final coursework mark, where n is the number of course work items issued during that Semester. As an example, if you are set 10 sets of course work across a Semester, the best 8 of those will be counted. In an instance where a student misses submission of one or two sets of course work, these sets will not be counted. Students will, however, still be required to submit Self Certification forms on time for all excused absences, as they may ultimately end up missing 3+ sets of course work through illness, for example. The submitted Self Certification forms may be considered as evidence for potential Special Considerations requests. In the event that a third (or higher) set of course work is missed, students will be required to go through the Special Considerations procedures in order to request mitigation for that set. Please note that documentary evidence will normally be required before these can be considered.


MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 20%
Final Assessment  80%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisites: PHYS1011 AND PHYS1013 AND PHYS1015 AND PHYS1022

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