YEAR 2 MODULE REVIEWS
In Year 2, you get some choice of modules which introduce you to different aspects of Physics. These are Physics of Fluids (core for Maths & Physics students), Hamiltonian Mechanics, Environmental Physics, Computational Physics, Stars and the Solar System.
Maths and Physics students also choose some more higher order maths concepts in Geometry, Linear Algebra, Groups and Rings, Theory to ODEs; Norms, Metrics and Topologies.
PX262 - Quantum Physics and its Applications
7.5 - ‘Fortunately it’s core’
A huge and challenging module, but well worth the effort. You’ll start with mainly formalisation in term 1, and go onto applications of quantum and condensed matter physics as the module progresses, which uses what you learn previously so try to ensure you keep up with the lectures. A deeper understanding is also needed to answer problems properly; the content is difficult to just skim and understand. Reading around the module can really help to fill in any gaps in your knowledge or anything the lecturer doesn’t explain too well. Unfortunately no proper online notes are given besides the handwritten ones in lectures, but those given last year still covered the content well.
PX275 - Mathematical Methods for Physicists (non-MathsPhys)
7.5 - ‘Fortunately it’s core’
A very useful module and obviously core for a reason. Plenty of first year maths will be assumed, and all that work with vectors will finally start to flow naturally. The first hald of the module includes vector calculus, multivariable calculus, and partial differentiation, all of which will be used in other modules in this year and in the physics course as a whole. The second half of the module brings in more applications of the maths being learned (e.g. fourier transforms) which help more to picture the theory. For revision, the recommended Riley, Hobson and Bence textbook is great for extra questions since the module’s content is of a similar level and there are a plethora of questions to choose from.
PX280 - Environmental Physics
6 - ‘Yes and no (superposition state)’
Kind of hit or miss - if you already know you enjoy learning about power generation (electricity/fission/fusion) and/or physical geography (climate models/tectonics/radiation/global warming and more), you'll enjoy the content. If those topics don't sound too interesting, then maybe think about whether you'd actually like to take the module.
There's quite a lot of content, especially in the second term (the physical geography part), and it requires you to remember a lot of facts. The maths isn’t too difficult in comparison to other modules, although first term can be more difficult in that area (equations relating to fission/fusion became quite hefty).
The teaching is ok, Anne-Marie Broomhall covered all the content well, although the teaching wasn’t too engaging. Michael Pounds teaches and explains well, and his lectures were quite memorable, if you're lucky you'll get shown random bird videos every lecture.
PX281 - Computational Physics
6.7 - ‘Highly recommended’
It takes a lot of time to do the assignments each week, but those coursework CATs are 100% worth it. Even if you don’t see coding as your forte, this module is still accessible as long as you're willing to put in the work. Yorck is very helpful and responsive to emails if you need coding hints, and the weekly workshops are incredibly useful if you're stuck. The people there are really willing to help you out and it's so much better than just struggling by yourself (which is an easy trap to fall into).
PX282 - Stars and the Solar System
6 - ‘Yes and no (superposition state)’
A lot of content, especially in the solar system section, though most found this part more interesting. Both sections introduce important concepts for future astronomy modules however. The stars part had no written notes provided so was difficult to follow at times. Knowing which parts were examinable and which were given for interest was therefore difficult to know.
PX284 - Statistical Mechanics, Electromagnetic Theory and Optics
8 - ‘Fortunately it’s core’
(This used to be two separate modules called Thermal Physics II (PX265) and Electromagnetic Theory and Optics (PX263)).
Statistical mechanics is very mathematical and links to quantum a lot, though allows you to see it from a different angle, which simultaneously allows you to understand quantum better. Paul Goddard is a very engaging lecturer and provides animations and diagrams which really aid learning. The lecture notes are also great and pretty comprehensive. With quizzes and worksheets given to complete too, you’ll be able to review the module over time.
Electromagnetism and Optics is very difficult but is arguably taught better than the first year E&M module. What you learn in first year (mathematical formalisms from maths and E&M) are used and built on here, so less of the content feels completely new. A lot of material is given however, and it can seem like it’s covered in too little lectures. Believe it or not, you’ll begin to appreciate Erwin’s harsh vector rules! If you remember Optics from A-level, the second part of the module is quite similar but with much, much more trig. Also remember your derivations! There's a fair few and they often come up in the exam.
PX285 - Hamiltonian and Fluid Mechanics
8 - ‘Recommended’
(This used to be two separate modules, Hamiltonian Mechanics (PX267) and Physics of Fluids (PX264)).
The Hamiltonian part doesn’t have too much content, but is interesting and useful in many other areas of physics, especially in later years. Finding and doing more questions is probably the most useful way to understand or revise this module as opposed to doing extra reading. This gives you a feel for different possible physical systems that could come up in the exam.
Fluid mechanics will be new, interesting, but fairly difficult. This may make it daunting at first because of the amount of new topics. The weekly sheets cover the content really well, and the lecturer reviews the previous lecture’s content at the start of each lecture, and does a full recap at the end of the module, which is great for remembering what you learned in preparation for revision. Lectures are engaging and funny thanks to Tony Arber too, and he’s happy to answer any questions you have.
PX262: Quantum Mechanics and it’s Applications, 2020-2021
This is the second year quantum mechanics module and for me this was the most intimidating module, but also the most interesting and probably my favourite module. Builds up from the stuff learnt in the first year quantum module and goes into way more detail. Gavin lectures Term 1, and Julie lectures Term 2. Gavin’s material was in the form of a Moodle book and mini-lectures each week (thanks to online learning), but it was a really effective way of learning and I personally found his content more interesting than Julie’s.
Term 1 is a lot of formal quantum mechanics, and recapping previously seen stuff, so there’s quite a lot of maths and new concepts to get your head around. Term 2 was lectured only with online lectures, and the content is relatively straightforward, but it’s quite a lot of condensed matter physics, which I find quite boring – that’s just me though! The module is assessed with 15% online Moodle quizzes which weren’t too difficult, and 85% exam. In general, just do all the problem sheets and the past papers, and if there are any topics that you find confusing (trust me, there will be), find a QM textbook in the library and have a quick read.
PX263: Electromagnetic Theory and Optics, 2020-2021
This was another intimidating module, but it’s lectured extremely well and the written notes that go along with the lectures are amazing. Nicholas lectured this year and his videos were top notch; nice explanations, nice layout, and decent length. The written notes are excellent and go well beyond the scope of the course. This module is assessed similarly to Quantum Mechanics, in that 15% is assessed with online Moodle quizzes (again, they weren’t too difficult), and 85% in the exam. For this, you need lots of vector identities and vector calculus, so make sure you’re up to date on that.
PX264: Physics of Fluids, 2020-2021
Fluids was such a great module, Tony is a brilliant lecturer. The lecture material seems really quite difficult but the exam papers aren’t nearly as bad. The problem sheets are handy for revision, and Tony does lots of recapping so you can stay caught up with everything really easily. At the end of the module, he also gives you a full set of equations and explains everything nicely. Fluids is assessed completely through the exam, and it was overall a great module!
PX265: Thermal Physics II, 2020-2021
Thermal Physics II concentrates on statistical mechanics and a little bit of thermodynamics. Stat mech seems quite daunting to most people but you’ll do this module in term 2, and by that time you’ll have finished term 1 quantum, and I think this really helped me understand stat mech more. There are a few similarities between them, i.e., measurements are probabilistic rather than deterministic, and there’s lots of simple harmonic oscillators used in thermal. I really liked the lectures, and the problem sheets and written notes are amazing, really good module overall. Papers can be a bit tricky but if you do all the problems and past exams you’ll be set. Also, 15% of the module is made up of online Moodle quizzes, which were a bit tricky, but a nice way to grab a few guaranteed marks! The rest is made up from the exam.
PX267: Hamiltonian Mechanics, 2020-2021
Hamiltonian was quite an intimidating module; everyone says you need to be amazing at maths for it and etc. but overall I really enjoyed it. It was a term 1 module, so come exam time, you’ll probably want to leave yourself a bit of extra time to prepare for it, since you’ll need to recap more. It is true that you need a fair bit of maths for this module, but it’s not too difficult, lots of differentiation, coordinate systems and algebra (I think there are a couple of amazing revision guides for those first two). This module is assessed completely through the exam, but the past papers weren’t too bad, and there are loads of practice problem sheets to do.
PX275: Mathematical Methods for Physicists, 2020-2021
The second year maths module was quite a tough module overall, but was still interesting and completely necessary for literally every other module. You do lots of vector calculus, multivariable calculus, partial differential equations, Fourier transforms, and you’ll use all of these techniques all the time throughout your degree. Lectures were good for both terms, and the lecturers are really helpful. This module is assessed 20% through coursework (homework and Moodle quizzes), and 80% through the exam. The homework and Moodle quizzes can be a really good way to get easy marks, and take a bit of pressure off the final exam. The final exam can be quite tricky, this is probably the only module where I’d recommend trying questions from a textbook, as well as using the problem sheets and past papers. Riley, Hobson and Bence is the best book possible for this, I’d recommend doing problems from the sections that you feel weakest in (this was multivariable calculus for me).
PX277: Computational Physics, 2020-2021
I liked this module, because it is all coursework and you can grab some nice marks here. This is the second year python module and is made up of 20% of Coderunner assignments (like in the first year), and the rest from Jupyter Notebooks. The latter will probably be completely new to everyone, but essentially, they’re long problems that you have to write a long program to solve. Lots of equation solving, and lots of graph plotting here. It’s not too difficult, the main things I recommend are to actually watch the lectures (I thought I’d get away without watching them), read the lecture notes well, and DO NOT leave the Jupyter assignments to the last minute. I think I wrote like 150 lines of python for one of the assignments, and you don’t want to be doing that right up to the end!
PX280: Environmental Physics, 2020-2021
Environmental was a new module for our year, and it is a combination of an old module, electrical power generation (EPG), and some new content about the environment and the climate. You do the EPG section in term 1 and the rest in term 2. EPG stuff is quite simple, you should have seen a fair part of it from A-Levels, but there are some new derivations and new equations that you’ll need to get your head around. The term 2 content is interesting; talks about climate models, global warming, and radiation. It’s assessed completely through the exam, and it might be a bit trickier to prepare for, only because of the lack of past papers for this module. I’d recommend doing the EPG papers (they should still be up on the Warwick Past Papers site), and doing all of the term 2 practice problems.