Physics (PHYS)

Course Descriptions

1000 Physics for Life Sciences I
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: Nova Scotia grade 11 physics and Nova Scotia grade 12 math, or equivalent.

This algebra-based physics course offers an introduction to the foundations of physics.  The emphasis is on the understanding and application of equations of motion, Newton’s Laws, the nature of forces, and the extension to fluids.  These ideas are applied to “real world” situations, including biological systems. This course does not satisfy the physics requirements for programs in Astrophysics, Chemistry, Engineering, or Physics.  Students in these programs should take University Physics I and II.

Classes 3 hrs. and lab/tutorial 3 hrs. per week

Note: Students who wish to take PHYS 1101 following PHYS 1000 must obtain a grade of at least A in PHYS 1000 and receive the permission of the chair in order to waive the standard prerequisite requirements for PHYS 1101.


1001 Physics for Life Sciences II
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: PHYS 1000.

This algebra-based physics course builds on the foundation of PHYS 1000, and considers specific applications, such as thermodynamics, waves and sound, light and optics, electricity and magnetism, atomic physics and radioactivity.  These ideas are applied to “real world” situations, including biological systems.  This course does not satisfy the physics requirements for programs in Astrophysics, Chemistry, Engineering, or Physics.  Students in these programs should take University Physics I and II.

Classes 3 hrs. and lab/tutorial 3 hrs. per week.


1100 University Physics I
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: Nova Scotia Grade 12 physics and Nova Scotia grade 12 math pre-calculus, or equivalent.

This calculus-based physics course is intended primarily for (astro) physics and chemistry majors and engineers.  Topics include kinematics, Newton’s laws of motion, conservation of energy and momentum, rotational dynamics, and Newton’s law of gravitation.  Emphasis is placed on problem solving skills.

Classes 3 hrs. and lab/tutorial 3 hrs. per week.


1101 University Physics II
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 1100; and either MATH 1210 or 1190

This calculus-based physics course is a continuation of PHYS 1000, and covers the topics of oscillations and waves, thermodynamics, and electricity and magnetism.

Classes 3 hrs. and lab/tutorial 3 hrs. per week.


1370 Scientific Method [PHIL 1255]
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: Nova Scotia grade 11 physics or chemistry and Nova Scotia grade 12 math or equivalent; or permission of the instructors.

This course provides a historical and logical analysis of methods commonly used in science, and is normally taught by faculty from both the Department of Astronomy and Physics and the Department of Philosophy.  Topics include science vs. pseudo-science, natural vs. social sciences, modes of reasoning, observation and experimentation, construction and empirical testing of theories and models, and thought experiments.


1500 Introduction to Modern Physics
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 1100; and either MATH 1210 or MATH 1190.

The special theory of relativity and early ideas in quantum mechanics are introduced.  Topics in relativity include departures from Newtonian theory, Lorentz transformations, space and time dilation, the “Twin Paradox”, and relativistic dynamics.  Topics in quantum mechanics include the quantum theory of light, the Bohr model of the atom, the wave nature of particles and the Schrödinger equation applied to simple one-dimensional problems.


2300 Vibrations, Waves and Optics
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 1101 and MATH 1211.

This course focuses on the production, propagation and manipulation of waves including light. Topics include geometric optics, forced damped oscillators, elasticity and distortion, the wave equation, wave speed and propagation, polarisation, wave packets, interference and diffraction 3-D waves, plane and circular waves and physical optics.

Classes 3 hrs. and lab 3 hrs. per week.


2301 Analytical Mechanics
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 2300, MATH 2311, and either MATH 2301 or 2301.

This course continues on some of the ideas introduced in PHYS 2300, and introduces the student to a broad range of other areas in classical mechanics.  Topics include coupled and 3-D oscillators, non-inertial reference frames, central forces (celestial mechanics), N-body dynamics, rigid bodies, angular momentum and torques, deformation and vibration of beams.

Note: Credit cannot be given to students who already have a credit for PHYS 2305, Newtonian Mechanics.


2400 Electricity and Magnetism
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 1101, MATH 2311 and MATH 2301.

This course is a comprehensive introduction to the self-consistent mathematical theory for electric and magnetic fields which was developed during the latter half of the 19th century. Topics include electric field and potential, Gauss’ law, capacitance, elementary circuit analysis, Ampère’s law, the Biot-Savart law, magnetisation of matter, Faraday’s law of inductance, and Maxwell’s equations in integral and differential form.

Classes 3 hrs. and lab 3 hrs. per week.


3200 Mathematical Methods in Physics I
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 2301 and MATH 2303.

This course provides the student with the mathematical techniques needed to solve problems in advanced physics courses.  Topics in complex analysis include the Cauchy-Riemann conditions, Cauchy Theorem and Integrals, Laurent expansions, and the calculus of residues. Topics in differential equations and the separation of variables, the Method of Frobenius and Sturm-Liouville theory.

Note: Credit for PHYS 3200 cannot be given to students who have completed MATH 4436 and either MATH 2303 or 3405.


3201 Mathematical Methods in Physics II
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: either PHYS 3200 or MATH 3405/4436.

This course is a continuation of PHYS 3200 and covers additional topics in mathematical physics, including special functions (Bessel, Neumann, Lagrange, etc.), Green’s functions, Fourier series and transforms, Laplace transforms, integro-differential equations, and Hilbert-Schmidt theory.


3210 Computational Methods in Physics
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 3500 and either PHYS 3200 or MATH 3405.

This course introduces the student to methods of solving mathematically difficult or tedious problems using the computer.  After a brief introduction to Unix and Fortran or C, the course focuses on some of the algorithms most useful to a physicist, including root-finding, spline fitting, Richardson extrapolation, Romberg integration, Runga-Kutta and Monte Carlo methods. Students complete a term project which applies learned algorithms to problems in computational (astro) physics.


3300 Classical Mechanics
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 1500, 2301, MATH 2311 and either 2303 or 3405

This advanced course in Classical Mechanics introduces the student to the calculus of variations, constrained problems, and generalised Lagrangian and Hamiltonian dynamics.  Applications are made to oscillations, the “brachistochrone problem”, central force problems, rigid bodies, and the motion of tops.  Additional topics include relativistic mechanics, canonical perturbation theory, and chaos.


3350 Thermal Physics
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 3500 and either PHYS 3200 or MATH 3405/4436.

This course gives a comprehensive overview of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics.  Topics in thermodynamics include equations of state, the three laws of thermodynamics, the Maxwell relations, and the kinetic theory of gases.  Topics in statistical mechanics include the idea of particle ensembles and the partition function, classical and quantum statistics, thermodynamics of magnetism, Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac gases, and information theory.


3400 Electrodynamics
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 1500, 2400, and either PHYS 3200 or MATH 3405/4436.

This course is a continuation of PHYS 2400 which focused primarily on electro- and magnetostatics, and turns to the more general theory of electrodynamics.  Topics include Maxwell’s equations in vacuo and matter, the Poynting vector, electromagnetic waves, wave guides, scalar and vector potentials, guage transformations, Lienardt-Wiechart potentials, radiation from moving charges, and relativistic electrodynamics.


3500 Quantum Mechanics I
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 1500, 2300, MATH 2311, and either MATH 2303 or 3405.

This course builds on the foundations set in PHYS 1500. Topics in this course include the (time-independent) Schrodinger equation, one-dimensional potentials, barriers and tunnelling, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, Dirac notation, expectation values, the three-dimensional Schrodinger equation, single-electron atoms, spin, and identical particles.


3600 Experimental Physics I
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 2300 and 2400

This course provides the student with the necessary skills to be a successful experimental (astro)physicist.  Students assemble labs from advanced experiemental equipment including computers and other digital devices, perform the experiment possibly over several weeks, and communicate their results in a scientifically useful fashion.

Note:  While this is a three (3) credit course, it will be taught over two semesters.


4370  Philosophy of Physics [PHIL 4515]
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: PHYS 2400, 3500 and PHIL prerequisites as outlined in paragraph 8 in the Philosophy Calendar entry; or permission of the instructors.

This course explores methodological, conceptual, metaphysical, and epistemological questions that arise in modern physics.  Possible topics include scientific revolutions, experimentation, laws of nature, space, time, matter, causality, indeterminism, non-locality, thought experiments, and theoretical unification.


4380 Fluid Dynamics
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 3300, and either PHYS 3201 or MATH 3406/4437.

This course introduces students to the fundamentals of fluid dynamics.  Discussion embraces both compressible and incompressible fluids and includes the continuity equation, the Navier-Stokes equation, Bernoulli’s theorem, viscosity, the Reynolds number, vorticity, and numerous applications to “real world” problems.  Some specialized numerical techniques for solving complex problems in fluid dynamics may also be discussed.


4390 General Relativity
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 3300, and either PHYS 3201 or MATH 3406/4437.

This is an advanced course introducing Einstein’s theory of general relativity and the curvature of space-time.  Topics shall include manifolds, Riemannian geometry, Einstein’s equations, and applications to cosmology and black holes.


4500 Quantum Mechanics II
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 3300, 3500, and either PHYS 3201 or MATH 3406/4437.

This course is a continuation of PHYS 3500, and covers topics such as time-independent perturbation theory, the variational principle, the Wentzel-Kramers-Brillouin (WKB) approximation, time-dependent perturbation theory, the adiabatic approximation, and scattering.


4501 Quantum Mechanics III
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: PHYS 4500.

This advanced course in Quantum Mechanics covers a selection of topics that may include scattering, lasers, relativistic quantum dynamics (Dirac theory), second quantization, and field theory.


4510 Subatomic Physics
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: PHYS 3500.

Students are introduced to modern nuclear and particle physics.  Topics may include the nucleon-nucleon interaction, the deuteron, the nuclear shell model, dynamical probes of nuclei (electron, photon, and hadron scattering), the structure of nucleons and mesons, electroweak interactions


4600 Experimental Physics II
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: PHYS 3600

This course is designed primarily for honours physics students to study  advanced topics in physics and/or astrophysics in the laboratory. Students are responsible for setting up and performing the experiments, writing computer programs to aid the analysis, and preparing and presenting their results in a professional manner. The majority of work will be project-based, each project conceived and built by the students from equipment available in the lab.

Note:  While this is a three (3) credit hour course, it will be taught over two semesters.


4790 Research Thesis
6 credit hours
Prerequisite: honours standing.

A research project carried out by the student under the supervision of a faculty member in the Department throughout the Honours year. The project should be in the area of astrophysics for students in the honours astrophysics program. Results are written up in a formal thesis that adheres to standard University-set guidelines.

Directed study 3 hrs. per week; 2 semesters.


4826 – 4849 Special Topics in Physics
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: permission of instructor


4876 – 4899 Directed Study in Physics
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: permission of instructor