• Offered by Physics Education Centre
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Physics
  • Areas of interest Physics
  • Academic career Undergraduate
  • Course convener
    • Dr Benjamin Buchler
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2017
    See Future Offerings

The course begins with an introduction to Fourier theory that underpins much of the course.  We then discuss harmonic motion and shows how simple models of single and coupled oscillators can be used to find useful descriptions of many physical systems.  We also introduce the Lagrangian as a tool for solving mechanical problems. Wave motion is then covered and expanded into a discussion of electromagnetic radiation and optical systems.  We cover aspects of optics including polarisation, interference, interferometry and Fourier optics.  The course material is supported throughout by examples taken from recent research on mechanical systems, nano-optics, atomic physics, biological systems and laser physics. Computer models provide an opportunity to explore various concepts presented in lectures, including coupled linear oscillators and chaotic dynamics in driven non-linear oscillators. Complementing the lectures, this course contains a laboratory component.  Some experiments are essentially qualitative and support lecture material, while others allow development of important skills in quantitative experimental physics.

Learning Outcomes

On satisfying the requirements of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

1. Understand systems of single and multiple harmonic oscillators and appreciate the role of driving, damping and coupling of harmonic systems.
2. Identify systems that can be understood using simple models of harmonic oscillation and thereby understand a range of physical systems with a single unified model.
3. Understand the role of the wave equation and appreciate the universal nature of wave motion in a range of physical systems.
4. Understand optical phenomena such as polarisation, birefringence, interference and diffraction in terms of the wave model.
5. Understand a diffraction and imaging in terms of Fourier optics and gain physical and intuitive insight in a range of physics via the spatial Fourier Transform.
6. Through the lab course, understand the principles of measurement and error analysis and develop skills in experimental design.

Indicative Assessment

Assessment will be based on:

  • Four assignments  (20%; LO 1-5)
  • Laboratory work (30%; LO 6)
  • Final exam (50%; LO 1-5)

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


Approximately twenty-four lectures, up to twelve tutorials and twenty-four hours of laboratory work, plus individual study.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed PHYS2013 and PHYS2016. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed PHYS2017.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Band 2
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2017 $3444
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2017 $4590
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings and Dates

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery
7913 24 Jul 2017 31 Jul 2017 31 Aug 2017 27 Oct 2017 In Person

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