PHY1021 Vector Mechanics 2022-23
Dr F. Gielen
Delivery Weeks: T1:01-05,07-12
Level: 4 (NQF)
Credits: 15 NICATS / 7.5 ECTS
Enrolment: 149 students (approx)


This module uses lectures and guided self-study to develop students' understanding of Newtonian classical mechanics and special relativity. Although some of the concepts will be familiar from A-level, vector notation will be used throughout. Particular emphasis is placed on the precise and consistant application of the laws and methods.

Module Aims

Our interest in mechanics arises from its general applicability to a vast number of familiar phenomena. This module provides meaningful and easily visualizable problems which allow development of the skills of problem solving, required in all the fields of physics. It provides the necessary background to later modules that will apply the principles of mechanics to the solution of more complex problems.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

A student who has passed this module should be able to:

Syllabus Plan

  1. Vectors and Scalars
    1. Introduction
    2. Definition of vectors and scalars
    3. Scalar and vector algebra
    4. Transformations and the transformation matrix
    5. Study Package 1: displacement and distance, equations of lines and planes, triple products
  2. Newtonian Physics
    1. Newton's laws and the principle of relativity, Galilean transformations
    2. Study Package 2: average and instantaneous velocity, motion under constant acceleration, relative velocity
    3. Translational and rotational dynamics, moments, moment of inertia
    4. Work done by forces, kinetic and potential energy, power
    5. Conservative and non-conservative forces
    6. Study Package 3: physics of friction, tensile forces in free body diagrams, concept of impulse
    7. Conservation theorems, energy diagrams, friction
    8. Two-particle systems, centre of mass, rocket motion, collisions, kinetic energy, zero-momentum frame
    9. Rigid bodies, moment of inertia, axis theorems
    10. Study Package 4: rotation with constant angular acceleration, moment and product of inertia, rotation about a moving axis
  3. Einsteinian Physics
    1. A brief history, the special theory of relativity, Lorentz transformations
    2. Study Package 5: Michelson-Morley experiment, Doppler effect, Newton's laws
    3. The invariance of the space-time interval, the light cone, relativistic kinematics
    4. Relativistic dynamics, collisions

Learning and Teaching

Learning Activities and Teaching Methods

Description Study time KIS type
22×1-hour lectures 22 hours SLT
5×6-hour self-study packages 30 hours GIS
7×2-hour problems sets 14 hours GIS
Problems class support 9 hours SLT
Tutorial support 3 hours SLT
Reading, private study and revision 72 hours GIS


Weight Form Size When ILOS assessed Feedback
0% Exercises set by tutor 3×1-hour sets (typical) Scheduled by tutor 1-7 Discussion in tutorials
0% Guided self-study 5×6-hour packages Fortnightly 1-7 Discussion in tutorials
10% 7 × Problems Sets 2 hours per set Weekly 1-7 Marked in problems class, then discussed in tutorials
15% Mid-term Test 1 30 minutes Weeks T1:04 1-7 Marked, then discussed in tutorials
15% Mid-term Test 2 30 minutes Weeks T1:09 1-7 Marked, then discussed in tutorials
60% Final Examination 120 minutes January 1-7 Mark via exehub, collective feedback via ELE and solutions.


The following list is offered as an indication of the type & level of information that students are expected to consult. Further guidance will be provided by the Module Instructor(s).

Core text:

Supplementary texts:


Further Information

Prior Knowledge Requirements

Pre-requisite Modules none
Co-requisite Modules Mathematics Skills (PHY1025)


Re-assessment is not available except when required by referral or deferral.

Original form of assessment Form of re-assessment ILOs re-assessed Time scale for re-assessment
Whole module Written examination (100%) 1-7 August/September assessment period

Notes: See Physics Assessment Conventions.

KIS Data Summary

Learning activities and teaching methods
SLT - scheduled learning & teaching activities 34 hrs
GIS - guided independent study 116 hrs
PLS - placement/study abroad 0 hrs
Total 150 hrs
Summative assessment
Coursework 10%
Written exams 90%
Practical exams 0%
Total 100%


IoP Accreditation Checklist
  • CM-01 Newton's laws and conservation laws including rotation.
  • MT-08 Three-dimensional trigonometry.
  • SR-01 Lorentz transformations.
  • SR-02 The energy-momentum relationship.
Availability unrestricted
Distance learning NO
Keywords Physics; Body; Conservation rules; Energy; Force; Classical mechanics; Momentum; Motion; Newton's Laws; Particle; Special Relativity; Vectors.
Created 01-Oct-10
Revised 08-Nov-12