PHY3068 Principles of Theoretical Physics 2022-23
Dr A.V. Shytov
Delivery Weeks: T2:01-11
Level: 6 (NQF)
Credits: 15 NICATS / 7.5 ECTS
Enrolment: 19 students (approx)


This module reviews the most important concepts of theoretical physics, in particular: the action, symmetries, and conservation laws. It shows how they help physicists to think about seemingly disconnected topics, ranging from mechanics to quantum field theory. The module is recommended as an option for students who wish to specialise in theoretical physics, and who are intending to take level 7 theory option(s), such as PHYM013 Quantum Many-Body Theory. The topics covered will be also of interest to the students who want to understand the language of theoretical physics without making it their field of research.

Module Aims

Theoretical physics aims to organise our knowledge about the physical world using a compact set of principles that are expressed mathematically.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

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

Syllabus Plan

  1. Analytical dynamics
    least action principle, Euler-Lagrange equations, symmetries, Noether's theorem, conservation laws.
  2. Relativistic mechanics
    geometry of space time, Lorentz symmetry, action, equations of motion, particle in external fields, scalar and vector potentials.
  3. Classical field theory
    scalar field, its action and conservation laws, sound waves in gases and solids as an example.
  4. Electromagnetic Fields
    Electromagnetic field tensor, action for electromagnetic field, Maxwell's equations, gauge invariance and charge conservation. Electromechanical analogy and the effective action.
  5. Quantum theory
    Schrödinger equation and its Green function, Heisenberg representation, path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, path integral treatment of quantum harmonic oscillator
  6. Semiclassical Methods
    Semiclassical approximation in quantum mechanics, the saddle point method.
  7. Electromagnetic fields in quantum theory
    Gauge invariance, Aharonov-Bohm effect, Landau levels
  8. Introduction to Quantum Field Theory
    Interactions mediated by virtual particles

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 problem 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 1-9 Discussion in class
0% 4 × Problems sets 4 hours per set Fortnightly 1-9 Solutions discussed in problems classes.
100% Final Examination 2 hours 30 minutes May/June 1-8 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 Quantum Mechanics I (PHY2022) and Electromagnetism II (PHY3051)/PHY3055
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%) 1-8 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
  • N/A this is an optional module
Availability unrestricted
Distance learning NO
Keywords Physics; Fields; Quantum; Action; Equations; Electromagnetic; Theory; Conservation; Principles; Mechanics; Scalar.
Created 01-Oct-10
Revised N/A