Physics with Philosophy BSc
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Department of Philosophy
You are viewing this course for 2021-22 entry. 2022-23 entry is also available.
This combination of subjects produces well-rounded graduates: scientists who understand the philosophical problems raised by scientific concepts.
The science half of the course covers the whole spectrum of modern physics. It will also help you develop the skills and the personal qualities physicists rely on. The philosophy part of the course is unusually flexible. There are no compulsory modules.
You can develop your understanding of key areas of philosophy such as ethics, philosophy of mind, theory of knowledge, political philosophy, metaphysics and logic.
We also teach courses on major figures in the history of philosophy, such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes and Hegel.
Accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP) for the purpose of fully meeting the educational requirement for Chartered Physicist.
The modules listed below are examples from the last academic year. There may be some changes before you start your course. For the very latest module information, check with the department directly.
Choose a year to see modules for a level of study:
UCAS code: FV35
- Motion and Heat
This module introduces and applies the key concepts of motion and heat: force, equations of motion, phase space, determinism and free will, symmetry and conservation laws, waves and oscillations, coherence and classical frequency-time uncertainty, the laws of thermodynamics, thermal equilibrium, entropy and the arrow of time. You will learn how physics problems relate to these fundamental concepts, and how those concepts are used to construct solutions. You will apply the key concepts to design experiments to test scientific hypotheses. You will develop your data analysis and communication skills and to use different sources of information in your learning. You will work independently and as part of a group, developing a wide variety of study skills that will prepare you for the rest of your degree programme.25 credits
- Fields and Quanta
This module introduces the key concepts of fields and quanta: electric and magnetic fields, the behaviour of electric charges and currents, vectors and densities, potentials, quantum states and their evolution, the probabilistic nature of fundamental physical law, and the breakdown of classical physics. This module will teach you how physics problems relate to these fundamental concepts, and how those concepts are used to construct solutions.25 credits
- Mathematics for Physicists and Astronomers
This module provides the necessary level 1 mathematics for students taking physics and/or astronomy degrees. The following topics will be covered: basic algebra (functions, coordinate systems, algebraic manipulation etc), Taylor and binomial series, common functions of one variable, differentiation and integration techniques, basic complex numbers, first and second order differential equations, vector calculus, properties and applications of matrices and elementary probability theory.30 credits
- Matters of Life and Death
This course will look at the value of life and the wrongness of killing. We will look at various issues of important practical concern, such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, war, as well as the case of allowing people to die from need whom we could have saved. We will look at how best to understand the principles that guide, and ought to guide, our judgements about what to do when confronted with these issues. Students will gain a better understanding of how to think about these issues, and in particular will be introduced to the benefit of thinking about them philosophically.20 credits
- Self and Society
This course introduces students to central questions in political philosophy: Do we need a state, and if so, must we obey its laws? When, why and how may states punish citizen for failing to obey the law? What is freedom, and when are we free? Is equality a moral value, and if so, what are its implications for how governments ought to act? What is justice, and how does it relate to freedom, equality, and punishment? Should states be organised democratically, and what does it mean to live in a democracy? The course encourages students to think carefully and clearly about the relationship they have, as citizens, to each other and the state, and to develop their analytical and critical skills in the process. Readings will include influential, historical and contemporary discussions of the state, equality, freedom, justice, and democracy.20 credits
- Writing Philosophy
Philosophical writing is a skill that you, the student, must hone early on in order to succeed in your degree. It is also a transferable skill that will serve you in your post-academic career. Philosophical writing combines the general virtues of clarity, organisation, focus and style found in other academic writing with particular philosophical virtues, namely, the ability to expose the implicit assumptions of analysed texts and to make explicit the logical structure of one's own and other people's arguments. A precondition of philosophical writing is a unique form of textual analysis that pays particular attention to its argumentative structure. In this module you will learn and practice philosophical writing. You will learn how to read in preparation for philosophical writing, learn how to plan an essay, learn how to rework your drafts and learn how to use feedback constructively. You will write five drafts and five essays and will have one on on tutorial on each essay you write. The lectures in the course will be split between lectures of the art of writing and lectures on philosophical topics in the domain of fact and value. Essay topics will be based on the topical lectures and their associated readings20 credits
This module is mainly about death itself [whereas PHI125 is mainly about killing}. What is death? What happens to us when we die? Could there be an afterlife? Would it be a good thing if there were? What is it about death that we dislike so much, or that makes it bad? Is it rational, or even possible to fear death? What is the right attitude towards our own death? Do we have moral duties towards the dead? The course will clarify these questions and attempt to answer them. Readings will be taken from both historical and contemporary sources.10 credits
- Elementary Logic
The course will provide students with knowledge of the fundamental parts of formal logic. It will also teach them a range of associated formal techniques with which they can then analyse and assess arguments. In particular, they will learn the languages of propositional and first-order logic, and they will learn how to use those languages in providing formal representations of everyday claims. They will also learn how to use truth-tables and truth-trees.10 credits
- History of Ethics
How should we live? What is the right thing to do? This module offers a critical introduction to the history of western ethical thought, examining some of the key ideas of Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Wollstonecraft, Douglass, Bentham, Mill, Taylor Mill, Nietzsche, Rawls and Gilligan. It provides a textual introduction to some of the main types of ethical theory: the ethics of flourishing and virtue; rights-based approaches; utilitarianism; contractualism. We explore the close interconnections between ethics and other branches of philosophy (e.g. metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics), as well as the connections between ethics and other disciplines (e.g. psychology; anthropology).10 credits
- Mind, Brain and Personal Identity
What is it to have a mind? Is your mind a physical thing, such as your brain? Or is it a non-physical soul? Do human beings have free will¿the ability to freely choose their own actions¿and, if so, how? What makes you the same person you were when you were a young child? Do non-human animals have minds? Could computers or robots have artificially created minds? If animals or computers had minds would they have souls? Could they have free will? This course examines these issues and some historical and contemporary attempts to understand them.20 credits
- Philosophy of Religion
This course will pose and try to answer philosophical questions about religion. These include questions about the nature of religion. For instance does being religious necessarily involve believing in the existence of a God or Gods? And is religious faith compatible with adherence to the scientific method? Other questions that the course will cover include questions about the theistic notion of God. Does the idea of an all-powerful being make sense? Is an all-knowing God compatible with human freedom? And is an all-powerful, all-knowing and perfectly good creator of the universe compatible with the existence of evil? Further questions concern God and morality. Is it true that if there is no God, then there is no right and wrong? The course will examine philosophical arguments for the existence of God, and question whether these arguments are sound.10 credits
- Philosophy of Science
Science plays an important role in modern society. We trust science on a day to day basis as we navigate our worlds. What is about science that makes it so trustworthy? Why is science a good guide for understanding the world? The aim of this half-module is to introduce some of the philosophical issues that arise in science and through reflecting on science. Most of the questions considered concern the epistemology of scientific knowledge and methodology: what are scientific theories, what counts as evidence for these theories, what is the relationship between observation and theory, is there a scientific method, what distinguishes science from other ways of understanding the world, and how does the social structure of science help or hinder science in studying the world. This module aims to introduce these questions as philosophical issues in their own right and within in the context of the history of the philosophy of science.10 credits
- Philosophy of Sex
Sex is one of the most basic human motivators, of fundamental importance in many people's lives, and a topic of enormous moral, religious, and political contention. No surprise, then, that it turns out to be of great philosophical interest. We will discuss moral issues related to sex' asking when we might be right to judge a particular sex act to be morally problematic; and what political significance (if any) sex has. We will also discuss metaphysical issues, such as the surprisingly difficult questions of what exactly sex is and what a sexual orientation is. Throughout our study, we will draw both on philosophical sources and on up-to-date contemporary information.10 credits
- Reason and Argument
Arguments are everywhere - in our newspapers, on our television screens and radios, in books and academic papers, on blogs and other websites. We argue with our friends, families, teachers and taxi drivers. These arguments are often important; they help us to decide what to do, what to believe, whom to vote for, what car to buy, what career path to follow, or where we should attend university (and what we should study). The ability to recognise, evaluate and produce arguments is therefore immeasurably valuable in every aspect of life.10 credits
This course will teach you how to recognise an argument, how to understand it, how to evaluate and criticise it, and how to produce your own. Students in this module will learn how to extract an argument from a complex text, how to uncover hidden assumptions, and how to recognise and critique bad reasoning
- History of Philosophical Ideas
The history of philosophy is made up of a series of debates between competing philosophical traditions and schools: for example, idealists argue with realists, rationalists with empiricists. And at different times, distinctive philosophical movements have dominated the discussion, such as pragmatism, existentialism, phenomenology, analytic philosophy, and critical theory. This module will introduce you to some of these central movements and traditions in the history of philosophy from Plato onwards, and the key philosophical concepts and issues that they have brought in to western thought.10 credits
- Classical and Quantum Physics
This module provides the core level 2 physics content for non-theoretical degrees. It integrates physics content with supporting mathematics and practical work. Transferable skills are covered via different presentation modes for lab work. A further item is employability. The module also contains one or more items of group work. Physics topics covered are classical physics and oscillations, thermal physics, quantum mechanics, properties of matter and electromagnetism. Mathematics topics are Fourier techniques and partial differential equations. Both mathematical topics are applied to a range of the physics covered and are integrated with aspects of the practical work. The module is assessed via four standard exams (15% each), three topical and one integrative covering all the taught material, and course work (40%). Students must develop and pass a portfolio to pass the module.70 credits
How should we live? How should we conduct ourselves? What duties do we owe t9 other people? Are there certain things we should never do in any circumstances? If so what things are they? Do questions like the foregoing have determinate, correct answers? If so can we know what they are? If so, how? These questions and questions like them are the subject matter of ethics. We will be studying and thinking about such questions by engaging with classical and/or contemporary texts.20 credits
- Ethics: Theoretical and Practical
There are some things we morally ought to do, ways we ought to live. Those of us who are not moral sceptics will agree so far. Indeed, we may even agree extensively about what we ought to do or how we ought to live. But why? Ethicists don¿t just ask what we ought to do. They also try to work out, as systematically as possible, what explains the demands, obligations and requirements that stem from morality. That is what this module will explore. Is morality all about promoting the well-being of humans and other creatures? Does it stem from the requirements of rationality? Is it aimed at achieving the distinctive kinds of excellence that creatures like us can attain?20 credits
Feminists have famously claimed that the personal is political. This module takes up various topics with that methodological idea in mind: the family, cultural critique, language. We examine feminist methodologies - how these topics might be addressed by a feminism that is inclusive of all women - and also turn attention to social structures within which personal choices are made - capitalism, and climate crisis .20 credits
- Formal Logic
The course will start by introducing some elementary concepts from set theory; along the way, we will consider some fundamental and philosophically interesting results and forms of argumentation. It will then examine the use of 'trees' as a method for proving the validity of arguments formalised in propositional and first-order logic. It will also show how we may prove a range of fundamental results about the use of trees within those logics, using certain ways of assigning meanings to the sentences of the languages which those logics employ.20 credits
This course is an introduction to metaphysics. It will focus on two general themes: whether we are material things, and the nature of time. Readings will be drawn mainly from recent and contemporary sources.20 credits
- Philosophy of Education
What is education? And what is it for? These are the questions at the heart of this course. To begin to try to answer them, students will engage in: (1) a theoretical exploration of the central philosophical problems related to education and schooling; and (2) a practical task focusing on learning how philosophy can be taught effectively to secondary school pupils. The theoretical exploration will be taught in a similar way to other philosophy modules (through a weekly lecture and seminar) and a mid-term coursework essay will assess this component (counting for 50% of the module grade).20 credits
The practical element will be taught through workshops, engagement with reflective practice, observations at a secondary school, and actual experience of running seminars with secondary school pupils at the University during a three-day conference at the end of the course. The practical part of the course will be assessed by a teaching portfolio (which counts for 50% of the module grade) composed of lesson plans and a reflection. Teaching is a special kind of challenge, but students on the course are not expected to have any previous experience in teaching or in planning lessons. Help and support will be provided throughout the module to make the delivery of lessons to secondary school pupils a realistic goal for all motivated students.
- Philosophy of Mind
This module provides a survey of philosophical theories of the mind, looking at such questions as: How is consciousness possible? Why is it that vibrations in the air around us produce conscious experiences of particular auditory experiences in our minds? Why is it that electromagnetic waves hitting our retinas produce particular visual experiences in our minds? What makes our thoughts represent things in the world? What is it about your thought that cats have whiskers that makes it about cats and whiskers? What is it about your thought that there are stars in the universe too far away for any human to have perceived them that makes it about such stars? What is the relation between thoughts and conscious experiences and brain states? We'll look at a variety of answers to these and related questions and examine some of the most important and influential theories that contemporary philosophers have to offer.20 credits
- Philosophy of the Arts
This module introduces students to a broad range of issues in the philosophy of art. The first half asks 'What is art?'. It examines three approaches: expression theories, institutional accounts, and the cluster account. This is followed by two critiques focusing on the lack of women in the canon and problems surrounding 'primitive' art. The evolutionary approach to art is discussed , and two borderline cases: craft and pornography. The second half examines four issues: cultural appropriation of art, pictorial representation, aesthetic experience and the everyday, and the nature of artistic creativity.20 credits
- Reference and Truth
This module is an introductory course in the Philosophy of Language. The overall focus of the course will be on the notion of meaning. The first part of the course will attempt to shed light on the notion of meaning by investigating different accounts of the meanings of some types of linguistic expressions, in particular names (for instance 'Nelson Mandela') and definite descriptions (for instance 'the inventor of the zip', 'the first minister of Scotland'). We will then look at an influential approach to understanding what it is for words to have meaning and for people to mean things by their words, one due to Paul Grice. And we will examine the role and understanding of conventions and how someone can say something and yet communicate something very different from its conventional meaning. We will also explore the phenomena of “implicature” where people can communicate more (or something different from) what they literally say.20 credits
- Religion and the Good Life
What, if anything, does religion have to do with a well-lived life? For example, does living well require obeying God's commands? Does it require atheism? Are the possibilities for a good life enhanced or only diminished if there is a God, or if Karma is true? Does living well take distinctive virtues like faith, mindfulness, or humility as these have been understood within religious traditions? In this module, we will examine recent philosophical work on questions like these while engaging with a variety of religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Daoism, Islam, and Judaism.20 credits
- Theory of Knowledge
The aim of the course is to provide an introduction to philosophical issues surrounding the knowledge. We will be concerned with the nature and extent of knowledge. How must a believer be related to the world in order to know that something is the case? Can knowledge be analysed in terms of more basic notions? Must our beliefs be structured in a certain way if they are to be knowledge? In considering these questions we will look at various sceptical arguments that suggest that the extent of knowledge is much less than we suppose. And we will look at the various faculties of knowledge: perception, memory, introspection, and testimony.20 credits
- Physics of Materials
This module provides an introduction to the physical properties of materials. Subjects covered include properties of liquids (surface tension, viscosity etc), solids (elastic properties, mechanical properties etc) and soft condensed matter.10 credits
- Programming in Python
Teaching computer programming is a core aspect to our degree courses and is required by our accreditation body, the Institute of Physics. Python is a widely-available programming language that can be used to design powerful computer programmes suitable for scientific applications. In addition, Python is flexible, robust and is relatively easy to learn compared to other contemporary programming language. Python is also used widely in the computing industry and in research. The aim of this module is to teach the key elements of Python programming to enable students to design programs to perform tasks ranging from computational and numerical physics to data analysis and visualisation.10 credits
- Special Relativity & Subatomic Physics
Special relativity is a key foundation of modern physics, particularly in the contexts of particle physics and astrophysics where E = mc2 and relativistic speeds are crucial concepts. In this module, the fundamental principles of special relativity will be explained, emphasising the energy-momentum four-vector and its applications to particle collisions and decays. Applications to nuclear physics include nuclear mass & binding energy, radioactive decay, nuclear reactions, nuclear fission and fusion. We will also cover the structure of the nucleus (liquid drop model and an introduction to the shell model).10 credits
- The Physics of Music
This module will provide an introduction to the physics of music building on physics covered in year 1 and semester 2 of year 2. The module will include the following topics: Recap of oscillations, waves and resonance, the human voice, physics of tuned and untuned percussion, musical pitch and timbre, Fourier analysis, musical scales, physics of stringed instruments, physics of wind instruments, electric instruments (based on electro-magnetic pickups and piezoelectric transducers), synthesizers (analogue and digital), sound recording and reproduction (analogue & digital), myths, legends, folklore and pseudoscience in acoustics.10 credits
- Physics with Labview
The module will teach Labview software, and allow students to experiment with instrumentation and basic electronics. These skills will be useful in further years of study, particularly with regard to the Level 3 and 4 projects. These skills are also useful in future employment in both academic and industrial science and engineering where being able to develop laboratory instrumentation to solve experimental problems will be highly desirable.10 credits
- Topics in Political Philosophy
This module will investigate a broad range of topics and issues in political philosophy and through doing so provide students with a broad understanding of those. It will include both historical and foundational matters and recent state of the art research.20 credits
- Problem Solving and Advanced Skills in Physics
This half-module seeks to provide insight and support to the Level 3 Physics programme as a whole. Lectures and tutorials will build upon previous skills developed involving data analysis and errors, information retrieval and scientific writing. Problem classes are directed to impart a broad, coherent and critical grasp of the fundamentals of Physics. Students are encouraged to attempt unfamiliar problems, extract the essentials, and so obtain quick, rough but sound solutions. The module involves group work and is assessed by means of class tests and written examinations. The latter are designed to test basic concepts of Physics and the ability to apply them to unrehearsed situations.10 credits
- Ancient Chinese Philosophy
This course will introduce students to ancient Chinese Philosophy through a study of some of it classical texts.20 credits
Is anybody out there? In this module we explore how we hope to find alien life in the near future and discuss what this might be like and where we should be looking. We critically examine ideas about the frequency of life, advanced life, and technological civilisations in the universe.10 credits
- Free Will & Religion
This module focuses on philosophical questions about the relationship between free will and theistic religions. It has often been claimed that adherents of these religions have significant motivations to affirm an incompatibilist conception of free will according to which free will is incompatible with determinism. Incompatibilist conceptions of free will, it has been argued, have benefits for the theist such as enabling them to better account for the existence of moral evil, natural evil, divine hiddenness, and traditional conceptions of hell. Yet, on the other hand, it has been argued that there is a significant tension between theistic religions and incompatibilist conceptions of free will. For example, there are tempting arguments that an incompatibilist conception of free will makes trouble for affirming traditional views about God’s omniscience, freedom, and providence. We will engage in a critical examination of these and related arguments.20 credits
- Global Justice
What are the demands of justice at the global level? On this module we will examine this question from the perspective of analytic Anglo-American political philosophy. We will start by looking at some debates about the nature of global justice, such as whether justice demands the eradication of global inequalities. We will then turn to various questions of justice that arise at the global level, potentially including: how jurisdiction over territory might be justified; whether states have a right to exclude would-be immigrants; whether reparations are owed for past international injustices such as colonialism; and how to identify responsibilities for combatting global injustice.20 credits
- Industrial Group Project in Physics
PHY346 provides students with an industrial project where team working, planning, time management; presentation and report writing are integrated with science problem solving. The industrial client poses a problem that a group work on over two semesters to resolve. Interim and final presentations are made to the client and academic supervisors. Project work may use laboratory measurement and computational approaches as well as referencing leading research literature.20 credits
- Language, Speakers and the World
This module explores in depth some of the most important notions in 20th and 21st century Philosophy of Language, an area of study which has often been seen as central to analytic philosophy more generally. As well as examining theories of central elements of language, such as names and descriptions, it investigates potentially puzzling phenomena such as fiction and the vagueness of language. And it explores issues in Applied Philosophy of Language including questions about lying and misleading, about forms of silencing, and about language and power. Language is at the heart of much distinctively human activity, and so study of language provides insight into us – its users/speakers – and also into how we relate to each other and to the world.20 credits
- Topics in Social Philosophy
This module will introduce students to some contemporary issues in social philosophy.20 credits
- Microscopy and Spectroscopy Laboratory
This module will develop transferrable skills that will be useful in further experimental project work and industrial science and technology roles. Students will gain hands-on experience using a range of sophisticated experimental techniques to explore physics research and real world context-based questions. Atomic force microscopy (AFM), optical and gamma-ray spectroscopies, as well as associated techniques such as ellipsometry will be used. Students will undertake a series of experiments, supported by lectures, in semester one and conduct an open-ended project utilising the techniques in semester two.20 credits
- Moral Theory and Moral Psychology
This course examines the relationship of moral theory and moral psychology. We discuss the relationship of science and ethics, examine the nature of self-interest, altruism, sympathy, the will, and moral intuitions, explore psychological arguments for and against familiar moral theories including utilitarianism, virtue ethics, deontology and relativism, and confront the proposal that understanding the origins of moral thought ¿debunks¿ the authority of ethics. In doing so, we will engage with readings from historical philosophers, including Hobbes, Butler, Hume, Smith, Kant, Mill, Nietzsche and Moore, as well as contemporary authors in philosophy and empirical psychology.20 credits
- Pain, Pleasure, and Emotions
Affective states like pain, pleasure, and emotions have a profound bearing on the meaning and quality of our lives. Chronic pain can be completely disabling, while insensitivity to pain can be fatal. Analogously, a life without pleasure looks like a life of boredom, but excessive pleasure seeking can disrupt decision-making. In this module, we will explore recent advances in the study of the affective mind, by considering theoretical work in the philosophy of mind as well as empirical research in affective cognitive science. These are some of the problems that we will explore: Why does pain feel bad? What is the relation between pleasure and happiness? Are emotions cognitive states? Are moral judgments based on emotions? Can we know what other people are feeling?20 credits
This module introduces students to Phenomenology - a philosophical tradition in continental European philosophy, which is closely related to Existentialism. Phenomenology seeks to understand the human condition. Its starting-point is everyday experience, where this includes both mundane and less ordinary forms of experience such as those typically associated with conditions such as schizophrenia. Whilst Phenomenology encompasses a diverse range of thinkers and ideas, there tends to be a focus on consciousness as embodied, situated in a particular physical, social, and cultural environment, essentially related to other people, and existing in time. (This is in contrast to the disembodied, universal, and isolated notion of the subject that comes largely from the Cartesian tradition.) There is a corresponding emphasis on the world we inhabit as a distinctively human environment that depends in certain ways on us for its character and existence. Some of the central topics addressed by Phenomenology include: embodiment; ageing and death; the lived experience of oppression; human freedom; our relations with and knowledge of, other people; the experience of time; and the nature of the world. In this module, we will discuss a selection of these and related topics, examining them through the work of key figures in the Phenomenological Movement, such as Edmund Husserl, Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Frantz Fanon, and Edith Stein.20 credits
- Philosophical Project 1
A variety of topics will be set. For each topic, a short list of key readings is provided. Having chosen a topic, a short list of key readings is provided. Having chosen a topic, students are expected to master the readings, and the supplement them with at least two other pieces of relevant literature and they have used the available library and web resources to uncover. They then, having agreed a title with a tutor assigned to them for the module, write an extended essay that identifies the central issue (or issues) under discussion, relates the various responses to that issue found in the literature, evaluates those contributions, and goes some way to identifying a satisfactory resolution of the issue.20 credits
- Philosophical Project 2
A variety of topics will be set. For each topic, a short list of key readings is provided. Having chosen a topic, students are expected to master the readings, and to supplement them with at least two other pieces of relevant literature that they have used the available library and web resources to uncover. They then, having agreed a title with the tutor assigned to them for the module, write an extended essay that identifies the central issue (or issues) under discussion, relates the various responses to that issue found in the literature, evaluates those contributions, and goes some way to identifying a satisfactory resolution of the issues.20 credits
- Philosophy of Cognitive Science
Cognitive science is the multidisciplinary study of the mind. It involves contributions from philosophy, psychology, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, and other fields. This module will investigate a number of topics within the cognitive sciences themselves as they attempt to understand the mind and some of the philosophical issues that arise when we reflect on the cognitive sciences as a scientific discipline. Some of the questions to be investigated include: how do we adjudicate disagreements in theory and methodology between the branches of the cognitive sciences, how does biology and neuroscience influence our thinking about the mind, and what is the relationship between observation and theory in the cognitive sciences. This module will address these topics by focusing on historical and current literature on specific topics. Representative topics include: what is the self, what is memory, how does consciousness fit in the biological world, and is the mind a computer. This module is equal parts cognitive science, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science20 credits
- Philosophy of Law
Law is a pervasive feature of modern societies and governs most aspects of our lives. This module is about some of the philosophical questions raised by life under a legal system. The first part of the module investigates the nature of law. Is law simply a method of social control? For example, the group calling itself Islamic State issued commands over a defined territory and backed up these commands with deadly force. Was that a legal system? Or is law necessarily concerned with justice? Do legal systems contain only rules or do they also contain underlying principles? Is “international law” really law?20 credits
The second part of the module investigates the relationship between law and individual rights. What kinds of laws should we have? Do we have the moral right to break the law through acts of civil disobedience? What is the justification of punishment? Is there any justification for capital punishment? Are we right to legally differentiate between intended crimes (like murder) and unintended crimes (like manslaughter), or does this involve the unjustified punishment of “thought crime”? Are we right to legally differentiate between murder and attempted murder, despite the fact that both crimes involve the same intent to kill?
- Philosophy of Psychology
This course provides an in-depth look at a selection of issues in contemporary philosophy of psychology. Philosophy of psychology is concerned with such questions as : What is the structure and organisation of the human mind? Is the mind one big homogenous thing, or is it made up of smaller interacting components? If it has components, what sort are they and how are they interrelated? What aspects of our minds are uniquely, or distinctively human? What is the cognitive basis for such capacities as our capacity for language, rationality, science, mathematics, cultural artefacts, altruism, cooperation, war, morality and art? To what extent are the concepts, rules, biases, and cognitive processes that we possess universal features of all human beings and to what extent are they culturally (or otherwise) variable? Do infants (non-human) animals, and individuals with cognitive deficits have minds, and if so, what are they like? To what extent are these capacities learned as opposed to innately given? How important is evolutionary theory to the study of the mind? What is the Self? What are concepts? Is all thought conceptual? Is all thought conscious? What is consciousness? This course will discuss a selection of these and related issues by looking at the work of philosophers, psychologists, and others working within the cognitive sciences more generally.20 credits
- Physics Education and Outreach
This 20-credit Extended Project unit is intended primarily for students considering a career in teaching, but may also be of interest to those wishing to pursue careers in science communication in general. The first half of the unit will introduce a range of topics including theory of learning and teaching, skills such as video editing, physics in the National Curriculum, and a range of hands-on exercises in science teaching and communication. Students will undertake a range of assignments related to the taught material, which may include lesson observations in schools, making videos or podcasts, radio broadcasts, writing popular articles or creating resources for schools. The second half consists of a 10-credit project: a wide range of schools and outreach-related topics are available.20 credits
Note that admission to this unit is subject to an interview and a DBS check. This is because parts of the unit require students to visit schools and interact with pupils.
- Plato's Symposium
The Symposium is a vivid, funny and moving dramatic dialogue in which a wide variety of characters - orators, doctor, comic poet, tragic poet, soldier-cum-statesman, philosopher and others - give widely differing accounts of the nature or erotic love (eros) at a banquet. Students should be willing to engage in close textual study, although no previous knowledge of either ancient philosophy or ancient Greek is required. We will be exploring the origins, definition, aims, objects and effects or eros, and asking whether it is viewed as a predominantly beneficial or harmful force. Are some manifestations or eros better than others? Is re-channelling either possible or desirable, and if so, how and in what contexts? What happens to eros if it is consummated? We will in addition explore the issues that the dialogue raises about relations between philosophy and literature, and the influence it has had on Western thought (e.g. Freud). The edition we will use is Rowe, C . J., 1998, Plato Symposium. Oxford: Aris and Phillips Classical texts.20 credits
- Troublesome Forms of Knowledge
Certain forms of knowledge are particularly philosophically puzzling, because otherwise attractive metaphysical accounts of the sorts of facts at issue make it hard to see quite how being like us could know facts of the relevant types. How do we know about what is merely possible – that there could be talking donkeys and the like, for example - given that we only directly experience the actual world? And how do we know truths about numbers – even basic truths like 2+2=4 – given that numbers seem to be radically different to the objects that that we directly encounter? The course will introduce students to central philosophical theories about various epistemologically challenging areas, by examining arguments and ideas that have been developed to shed light on these sorts of problems.20 credits
- Philosophical Problems II
The detailed content of this course will vary from year to year depending upon the member of staff teaching it. For details contact the Department of Philosophy.20 credits
- Utopia, Reform and Democracy
Humanity faces a recurrent political challenge: the task of steering itself towards a sustainable and just future. A crucial part of this challenge involves developing a vision of change, of an achievable good society: a vision of the harbour we are aiming for as we sail through these troubled waters. But how are those visions to be enacted in the world? What theories of change lay at the heart of various philosophical visions? This module will introduce students to some of the major schools of thought - historical and contemporary - regarding the relationship between social theory and political practice.20 credits
- Advanced Programming in Python
Python is a widely-available programming language that can be used to design powerful computer programmes suitable for scientific applications. Python is also used widely in the computing industry and in research. This module builds on the basic introduction provided in PHY235/PHY241 by introducing advanced concepts such as defensive programming, classes, program design and optimisation. This teaching will be underpinned with a series of projects which will furnish the students with the ability to design complex Python scripts to address a wide variety of problems including those involving analysis of `big data with emphasis on presentation of results using advanced visualisation methods.10 credits
- Atomic and Laser Physics
This module covers the physics of atoms and lasers at an intermediate level. The course begins with the solution of the Schrodinger equation for the hydrogen atom and the atomic wave functions that emerge from it. It then covers atomic selection rules, spectral fine structure and the effects of external fields. The spectra of selected multi-electron atoms are described. The basic operation of the laser is then covered by introducing the concepts of stimulated emission and population inversion. The course concludes with a description of common lasers and their applications.10 credits
- Dark Matter and the Universe
Dark matter, though still unidentified and not yet directly detected, is established as a major constituent of the universe according to modern cosmology. In this course, we will review the astrophysical and cosmological evidence for the existence of dark matter, critically assess the various candidates that have been put forward, and discuss direct detection methods for the two most popular candidates: WIMPs and axions. The course has a multidisciplinary flavour combining work in astronomy, particle physics, solid state physics, detector technology and philosophy, encouraging development of skills in all these.10 credits
- Further Quantum Mechanics
This module builds on the quantum mechanics learned in the perquisites PHY250 and PHY251. The Heisenberg matrix formulation of the theory is developed from the Schrodinger wave picture. Approximately methods (perturbation theory and variational method) are derived and applied. Methods for solving time dependent problems are developed. Problems involving magnetic fields and spin are treated. Many particle wavefunctions for fermions and bosons are introduced.10 credits
- History of Astronomy
The module aims to provide an introduction to the historical development of modern astronomy. After a brief chronological overview and a discussion of the scientific status of astronomy and the philosophy of science in general, the course is divided into a series of thematic topics addressed in roughly chronological order. We will focus on the nature of discovery in astronomy, in particular the interplay between theory and observation, the role of technological advances, and the relationship between astronomy and physics.10 credits
- Introduction to Cosmology
Cosmology is the science of the whole Universe: its past history, present structure and future evolution. In this module we discuss how our understanding of cosmology has developed over time, and study the observed properties of the universe, particularly the rate of expansion, the chemical composition, and the nature of the cosmic microwave background, can be used to constrain theoretical models and obtain value for the parameters of the now-standard Hot Big Bang cosmological model.10 credits
- Mathematical Physics
Linear algebra: matrices and vectors; eigenvalue problems; matrix diagonalisation; vector spaces; transformation of basis; rotation matrices; tensors; Lie groups; Noether's theorem. Complex analysis: analytic functions; contour integration; Cauchy theorem; Taylor and Laurent series; residue theorem; application to evaluating integrals; Kronig-Kramers relations; conformal mapping; application to solving Laplace's equation.10 credits
- Nuclear Astrophysics
The aims of this Level 3 Astronomy module are:10 credits
1) To examine the evidence for the present distribution of the chemical elements in the Universe.
2) To study the various nuclear processes that have led to the evolution of these elemental abundances.
3) To discuss the possible astrophysical sites where these elements are produced.
- Nuclear Physics
This half-module Level 3 Physics course aims to study the general properties of nuclei, to examine the characteristics of the nuclear force, to introduce the principal models of the nucleus, to discuss radioactivity, to study nuclear reactions, in particular fission and fusion, and to develop problem solving skills in all these areas. The motivation is that nuclear processes play a fundamental role in the physical world, in the origin of the universe, in the creation of the chemical elements, as the energy source of the stars and in the basic constituents of matter - plus the best of all motives - curiosity.10 credits
- Particle Physics
This Level 3 Physics half module introduces students to the exciting field of modern particle physics. It provides the mathematical tools of relativistic kinematics, enabling them to study interactions and decays and evaluate scattering form factors. Particles are classified as fermions - the constituents of matter (quarks and leptons) - or as bosons, the propagators of field. The four fundamental interactions are outlined. Three are studied in detail: Feynman diagrams are introduced to describe higher order quantum electrodynamics; weak interactions are discussed from beta decay to high energy electroweak unification; strong interactions, binding quarks into hadrons, are presented with the experimental evidence for colour. The role symmetry plays in the allowed particles and their interactions is emphasised.10 credits
- Physical Computing
Digital circuits underpin our modern lives, including the acquisition and processing of data for science. In this course we will study the fundamental building blocks of digital processing circuits and computers. We will learn to describe circuits using the language VHDL, and how to program computers using the hardware-oriented high level language C. We will build interesting and useful digital architectures, and apply the skills we have acquired in laboratory exercises.10 credits
- Research project in Physics
The aim of this 20 credit module is to provide an opportunity for students to exercise and develop their skills and ability to undertake independent, albeit closely supervised, research in physics. A very wide selection of projects is provided, often arising from current research in the Department. Many are practical, others are essentially theoretical or interpretative or require the development of and running of computer programmes designed to simulate a variety of physical phenomena. Most projects are collaborative and encourage students to work in pairs. Assessment is based on individual written reports and oral examinations. These provide exercise in presentational skills.20 credits
- Quantum Information Laboratory
This predominantly laboratory-based module provides a foundation in quantum optics experiments and associated theory. The quantum nature of light will be studied in core experiments involving single photon generation and detection, measurements of photon statistics and photon interference. Experimental activities will be supported by a series of lectures and problems classes. The link with quantum information research is made through research seminars from university research groups and companies, plus a 'journal club' where key scientific papers are presented and discussed. Transferable skills acquired will prepare students for higher study and employment in industries involving quantum technologies.20 credits
- Physics in an Enterprise Culture
"This is a seminar and workshop based course with a high level of student centred learning. The unit will introduce students to the methods and skills associated with innovation, business planning, costing and marketing. It will broaden students understanding of the mechanics of project planning and research commercialisation. The course is divided into two components:10 credits
Part 1: Coming up with ideas. Students will take part in guest lectures and workshop classes to explore different ideas for business. They will learn about the innovation process and what makes a sucessful business. They will finish part 1 by submitting a draft business proposal that will be reviewed by academic staff and student peers and feedback will be given.
Part 2: Armed with the feedback from part 1 students will refine thier ideas and work towards a final pitch for thier business. Further support will be given to students to develop a costing of the idea."
- Semiconductor Physics and Technology
This module builds on the core solid state physics modules to provide an introduction to semiconductor electronic and opto-electronic devices and modern developments in crystal growth to produce low dimensional semiconductor structures (quantum wells, wires and dots). Band structure engineering, the main physical properties and a number of applications of low dimensional semiconductor structures are covered.10 credits
- Solid State Physics
This is the final core solid state physics module. It covers the classification of solids into the three types - conductors, semiconductors and insulators, the free electron model, the origin of electronic band structure, the fundamental properties of conductors and semiconductors, carrier statistics, experimental techniques used to study carriers in a solid, the classification and physics of the principal types of magnetism.10 credits
- Statistical Physics
Statistical Physics is the derivation of the thermal properties of matter using the under-lying microscopic Hamiltonians. The aims of this course are to introduce the techniques of Statistical Mechanics, and to use them to describe a wide variety of phenomena from physics, chemistry and astronomy.10 credits
- The Physics of Soft Condensed Matter
Soft condensed matter is a generic name for a class of materials that play a crucial role in technology as well as providing fascinating and timely scientific problems. These complex materials are typified by polymers, gels and colloidal dispersions, whose properties often seem intermediate between ordinary liquids and solids. Familiar examples from everyday life include plastics, soaps and detergents, foodstuffs, and indeed the material from which living organisms are constructed. Only relatively recently has it been realised that despite the complexity of these materials elegant and simple physical principles often underlie their behaviour; this course provides an introduction to these principles.10 credits
- Philosophical Problems 1
The detailed content of this course will vary from year to year depending upon the member of staff teaching it. For details contact the Department of Philosophy.20 credits
- The Radical Demand in Logstrup's Ethics
The biblical commandment 'to love your neighbour as yourself' still has great resonance with people, as does the story of the Good Samaritan who helps the injured traveller he encounters on the road. But what exactly does this love require, and what it its basis? Do we have an obligation to care for others, or is it beyond the call of duty? How can love be a matter of obligation at all? If you help the neighbour, can you demand something in return? Should we help them by giving them what they want, or instead what they need? How far do our obligations to others extend - who is the 'neighbour', and might it include 'the enemy' ? And does the requirement to help the other come from God's command, or from some sort of practical inconsistency given we all need help ourselves, or from their right to be helped - or simply from the fact they are in need? But can our needs be enough on their own to generate obligations of this sort?20 credits
We will consider these sorts of questions in relation to the work of K.E. Logstrup [1905-1981], a Danish philosopher and theologian, who discussed them in his key work The Ethical Demand  in which he characterized this relation between individuals as involving a 'radical demand' for care, involving important commitments about the nature of life, value, and human interdependency. We will compare his ideas to related themes in Kant, Kierkegaard, Levinas, and contemporary care ethics.
- Advanced Political Philosophy
This module will investigate a broad range of topics and issues in political philosophy and explore these questions in some detail. It will include both historical and foundational matters and recent state of the art research.20 credits
The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.
Learning and assessment
You'll learn through lectures, small group tutorials and seminars, programming classes, practical sessions in the lab and research projects.
This tells you the aims and learning outcomes of this course and how these will be achieved and assessed.
With Access Sheffield, you could qualify for additional consideration or an alternative offer - find out if you're eligible
The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
including Maths and Physics
The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
including Maths and Physics
A Levels + additional qualifications | ABB, including Maths and Physics + B in a relevant EPQ ABB, including Maths and Physics + B in a relevant EPQ
International Baccalaureate | 34, 6, 5 in Higher Level Maths and Physics 34 with 6,5 in Higher Level Mathematics & Phsyics
BTEC | Not accepted Not accepted
Scottish Highers + 2 Advanced Highers | AAABB + AB in Maths and Physics AAABB + AB in Maths and Physics
Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels | B + AA in Maths and Physics B + AA in Maths and Physics
Access to HE Diploma | 60 credits overall in Science with Distinctions in 39 Level 3 credits (all in Mathematics and Physics), and Merits in 6 level 3 credits 60 credits overall in Science with Distinctions in 36 Level 3 credits (all in Mathematics and Physics), and Merits in 9 level 3 credits
Mature students - explore other routes for mature students
You must demonstrate that your English is good enough for you to successfully complete your course. For this course we require: GCSE English Language at grade 4/C; IELTS grade of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component; or an alternative acceptable English language qualification
Students must have passed the practical element of any science A Level taken
If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Scientists in the Department of Physics and Astronomy are working on topics such as how to build a quantum computer, the search for dark matter and ways to combat antimicrobial resistance. They run experiments on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, and help to map the universe using the Hubble Space Telescope. They’ll guide you through the key topics in physics and give you a huge range of optional modules to choose from.
The department is based in the Hicks Building, which has recently refurbished undergraduate teaching laboratories with all the equipment you need for your physics and astronomy training, as well as classrooms, lecture theatres, computer rooms and social spaces for our students.
There are also telescopes and a solar technology testbed on the roof, state-of-the-art laboratories for building super-resolution microscopes and analysing 2D materials, and the UK’s first Quantum Information Laboratory, where students can study the fundamental science behind the next technological revolution. It’s right next door to the Students' Union, and just down the road from the 24/7 library facilities at the Information Commons and the Diamond.
Our students are trained in newly refurbished teaching laboratories and can access a range of specialist technologies, from the telescopes on our roof to our state-of-the-art Quantum Information Laboratory.
In their final year, MPhys students are based in a specialist research laboratory where scientists are studying technologies such as 2D materials, photovoltaic devices and advanced microscopy tools.
Department of Philosophy
We pride ourselves on the diversity of our modules and the high quality of our teaching. Our staff are among the best in the world at what they do. They're active researchers so your lectures and seminars are informed, relevant and exciting. We'll teach you how to think carefully, analytically and creatively.
Our staff and students use philosophy to engage with real world issues. You will be able to use what you learn to make a difference in the community, through projects like Philosophy in the City, an innovative and award-winning programme that enables students to teach philosophy in schools, homeless shelters and centres for the elderly.
Our students run a thriving Philosophy Society and the only UK undergraduate philosophy journal. Our Centre for Engaged Philosophy pursues research into questions of fundamental political and social importance, from criminal justice and social inclusion to climate ethics, all topics that are covered in our teaching.
Philosophy changes our perspective on the world, and equips and motivates us to make a difference.
The Department of Philosophy is based at 45 Victoria Street at the heart of the University campus. We're close to the Diamond and the Information Commons, as well as Jessop West, which houses our fellow Arts & Humanities departments of History, English and Languages & Cultures.
Why choose Sheffield?
The University of Sheffield
A Top 100 university 2021
QS World University Rankings
Top 10% of all UK universities
Research Excellence Framework 2014
No 1 Students' Union in the UK
Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2019, 2018, 2017
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Research Excellence Framework 2014
Department of Philosophy
National Student Survey 2019
National Student Survey 2019
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Our physics students develop numerical, problem solving and data analysis skills that are useful in many graduate jobs, including computer programming, software engineering, data science, and research and development into new products and services. Their expertise can be applied to many of the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, from developing renewable energy technologies and improving medical treatments to creating quantum telecommunications systems and exploring outer space.
Students who want to work as a physics researcher often do a PhD, which can lead to a career at a top university or a major international research facility such as CERN.
The University of Sheffield is part of the White Rose Industrial Physics Academy. This partnership of university physics departments and technical industries can set up collaborations between our students and industrial partners through internships, year in industry placements, final year projects and careers activities. WRIPA also organises the UK’s largest physics recruitment fair, where our students can meet potential employers.
Department of Philosophy
Studying philosophy will develop your ability to analyse and state a case clearly, evaluate arguments and be precise in your thinking. These skills will put you in a strong position when it comes to finding employment or going on to further study.
Our graduates work in teaching, law, social work, computing, the civil service, journalism, paid charity work, business, insurance and accountancy. Many also go on to study philosophy at postgraduate level.
MPhys or BSc?
Our BSc courses focus on core knowledge and skills. The MPhys courses have an additional element of research work experience and more opportunity to study topics in greater depth. If you plan to follow a career as a research scientist, an MPhys degree would be most appropriate.
A built-in insurance offer
If you firmly accept as your first choice an offer for our MPhys courses, but your A Level grades are AAB, you're guaranteed a place on the BSc.
Fees and funding
The annual fee for your course includes a number of items in addition to your tuition. If an item or activity is classed as a compulsory element for your course, it will normally be included in your tuition fee. There are also other costs which you may need to consider.
Funding your study
Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for a bursary, scholarship or loan to help fund your study and enhance your learning experience.
Use our Student Funding Calculator to work out what you’re eligible for.
University open days
There are four open days every year, usually in June, July, September and October. You can talk to staff and students, tour the campus and see inside the accommodation.
At various times in the year we run online taster sessions to help Year 12 students experience what it is like to study at the University of Sheffield.
If you've received an offer to study with us, we'll invite you to one of our applicant days, which take place between November and April. These applicant days have a strong department focus and give you the chance to really explore student life here, even if you've visited us before.
Campus tours run regularly throughout the year, at 1pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Apply for this course
Make sure you've done everything you need to do before you apply.
The awarding body for this course is the University of Sheffield.
Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.