PHY2032 Analytical and Chaotic Dynamics 2023-24
Prof. J. Bertolotti
Delivery Weeks: T1:01-11
Level: 5 (NQF)
Credits: 15 NICATS / 7.5 ECTS
Enrolment: 33 students (approx)


This module introduces some fundamental concepts in analytical dynamics, and illustrates their applications to relevant problems. The module covers the calculus of variations, Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations of dynamics, Poisson brackets, canonical transformations, and Hamilton-Jacobi equations. The approach is necessarily mathematical and students are advised to take this optional module only if they have got marks of at least 60% in both PHY1021 Vector Mechanics and PHY1026 Mathematics for Physicists (or in equivalent modules in other departments).

Module Aims

This module will be of interest to students wishing to develop their grasp of theoretical physics. The subject of analytical dynamics provides advanced theoretical developments which prove elegant and versatile in solving dynamical problems.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

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

Syllabus Plan

  1. Generalized coordinates. Holonomic and nonholonomic constraints
  2. Virtual displacement. D'Alembert's principle
  3. The Lagrangian formulation
  4. The Hamiltonian formulation
    1. Configuration space; generalized (canonical or conjugate) momentum
    2. Phase space
    3. Legendre transformation
    4. Hamiltonian; Hamilton's equations
    5. Cyclic co-ordinates and conservation theorems
    6. Liouville's theorem
  5. Calculus of variations
  6. Poisson brackets
    1. Lagrange brackets
    2. Poisson brackets
  7. Hamilton-Jacobi equations and action-angle variables
  8. The transition to quantum mechanics
  9. Nonlinear Dynamical Systems
    1. Chaos and its relevance to mechanics
    2. The stability of non-linear equations
    3. The non-linear oscillator
    4. Phase-Space Methods
    5. The pendulum revisited
    6. Mappings
    7. Characterisation of chaotic systems

Learning and Teaching

Learning Activities and Teaching Methods

Description Study time KIS type
20×1-hour lectures 20 hours SLT
2×1-hour problems/revision classes 2 hours SLT
5×6-hour self-study packages 30 hours GIS
4×4-hour problems sets 16 hours GIS
Reading, private study and revision 82 hours GIS


Weight Form Size When ILOS assessed Feedback
0% Guided self-study 5×6-hour packages Fortnightly 1-7 Discussion in class
0% 4 × Problems sets 4 hours per set Fortnightly 1-7 Solutions discussed in problems classes.
100% Final Examination 120 minutes January assessment period 1-7 Mark via MyExeter, 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 Vector Mechanics (PHY1021) and Mathematics for Physicists (PHY1026)
Co-requisite Modules none


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 22 hrs
GIS - guided independent study 128 hrs
PLS - placement/study abroad 0 hrs
Total 150 hrs
Summative assessment
Coursework 0%
Written exams 100%
Practical exams 0%
Total 100%


IoP Accreditation Checklist
  • Not applicable, this is an optional module.
Availability unrestricted
Distance learning NO
Keywords Physics; Equations; Hamilton; Brackets; Dynamical; Poisson; Formulations; Chaos; Hamiltonian; Jacobi; Mechanics.
Created 01-Feb-12
Revised 06-Aug-20