Modern physics (2015/2016)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Francesca Monti
Francesca Monti
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
II semestre dal Mar 1, 2016 al Jun 10, 2016.

Lesson timetable

II semestre
Day Time Type Place Note
Monday 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM lesson Lecture Hall M  
Friday 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM lesson Lecture Hall M  

Learning outcomes

Aim of this course is to introduce the basic concepts of the Special Theory of Relativity and of Quantum Mechanics and their application to Atomic and Nuclear Physics, to enable students to project and develop teaching activities on these subjects at high-school.

A part of the course will also be devoted to cover basic and advanced concepts of Thermodynamics.

Students should have knowledge of the status of Physics at the end of the 19th century, namely Newton’s laws of motion and theory of universal gravitation, laws of electricity and magnetism as described by Maxwell equations, theory and properties of electromagnetic waves.



- the Zeroth law: thermal and thermodynamic equilibrium; thermodynamic processes; empirical temperature; temperature scales
- the First law: work, heat,internal energy
- the Second law: Kelvin-Planck and Clausius statements; equivalence of Kelvin-Planck and Clausius statements; Carnot’s theorem; Carnot cycle; absolute thermodynamic temperature; Clausius theorem; entropy and energy degradation
- the Second law: microscopic approach; basic concepts of statistical mechanics; negative absolute temperatures; violation of the Kelvin-Planck statement
- the Second law: order and disorder
- the Third law
- the ideal gas: ideal gas law; ideal gas processes: isobaric, isochoric, isothermal and adiabatic processes; Carnot cycle for the ideal gas


- blackbody radiation and the Planck hypothesis, the photoelectric effect, the Compton effect, particle-like nature of electromagnetic waves, atomic spectra of gases, Bohr’s model of Hydrogen atom, the Stern-Gerlach experiment, intrinsic angular momentum and spin, the exclusion principle and the periodic table, wave-like nature of particles, the De Broglie hypothesis, the Davisson-Germer experiment
- introduction to atomic and nuclear physics
- wave-particle duality, uncertainty principle, wave mechanics
- states, physical quantities, measurements, state superposition principle, sequential Stern-Gerlach experiments
- formal requirements, Hilbert space, observables and self adjoint operators
- postulates of quantum mechanics
- representation of operators and states, the Dirac formalism
- quantum-mechanical angular momentum and spin formalism
- composite quantum systems, factorizable and non-factorizable systems, entanglement, completeness and non-locality, the EPR paradox, the Bell’s inequality, the Aspect experiment


- postulates of Galilean relativity; Galilean velocity transformation equations
- experimental results on the constancy of light speed
- non-Galilean invariance of Maxwell equations
- the Michelson-Morley experiment
- postulate of the special theory of relativity
- Lorentz space-time transformations
- time dilation, simultaniety and causality, length contraction, space-time paradoxes
- relativistic dynamics: linear momentum, kinetic energy, mass-energy equivalence
- space-time quadrivectors

Assessment methods and criteria

A written examination concerning all the arguments of the course.