PHYSICS 121 : Advancing Physics 2


2021 Semester Two (1215) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

For students progressing in physical science. Key topics are electrostatics, electromagnetism, circuits, optics, relativity and quantum mechanics. This is a calculus based course, focusing on fundamental principles, problem solving and hands-on exercises. Prerequisite: PHYSICS 120, or 24 credits in the Mechanics (91524), Electricity (91526), Differentiation (91578), Integration (91579) standards in NCEA Level 3 at merit or excellence, or equivalent with departmental approval

Course Overview

PHYSICS 120 and PHYSICS 121 together provide the essential knowledge and skill base for further studies in physics and other physical sciences at the University of Auckland. Both courses are offered in Semesters One and Two, 2021. PHYSICS 120 is a required course for students majoring in Physics, Applied Physics, and Geophysics; PHYSICS 121 is a prerequisite for core second-year physics courses.

In PHYSICS 121, students are introduced to physical phenomena, their underlying principles, and selected technological applications related to electromagnetism, optics, and modern physics. Further emphasis is placed on developing awareness in knowledge construction and also proficiency in modelling, practical laboratory skills, data analysis, and scientific communication. A range of teaching and learning approaches are used, such as direct and interactive instruction, laboratories, collaborative exercises, and independent study.

PHYSICS 121 assumes and builds on knowledge equivalent to NCEA Level 3 Physics and Mathematics, and students are advised to take recommended mathematics courses concurrently with this course.

Course Requirements

Restriction: PHYSICS 150

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Articulate the big ideas from each topic (electricity, magnetism, wave and ray optics, relativity and quantum mechanics), indicating that they have understood the core concepts. (Capability 1)
  2. Translate a physical description of a first-year physics problem to a mathematical formulation, using sketches or diagrams where appropriate. (Capability 1, 2 and 4)
  3. Evaluate the process and outcomes of an experiment qualitatively and quantitatively. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  4. Solve analytical and numerical problems, and complete practical tasks that require application of core concepts to new situations. (Capability 2, 3 and 5)
  5. Solve basic physics problems using a computer program (e.g. Python). (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  6. Justify , in written and verbal form, their approaches to solving a problem or completing a practical task. (Capability 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  7. Check the validity of the solutions they have reached by methods such as dimensional analysis, order of magnitude, literature review, etc. (Capability 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  8. Take responsibility for their own learning by consulting available resources, reflecting and asking questions, seeking challenging opportunities and taking action to overcome difficulties. (Capability 3, 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 15% Individual Coursework
Practicals 25% Individual Coursework
Tests 40% Individual Test
Final Exam 20% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Final Exam
To achieve an overall pass in this course, students must obtain:
  • a pass in practicals (including programming in physics assignments and laboratories),
  • sufficient overall marks and sit the final exam.


Key Topics

Electricity (12 classes): Electric charge and electrostatic force; electric field; field lines; force on a charged particle in a field; Gauss’ Law and applications; charge on a conducting surface; electric potential energy and potential; electric dipole; capacitance; capacitors in series and parallel; energy stored in capacitors; dielectrics; conductors; drift velocity; current density; Ohm’s Law; resistors; electric power; resistors in series and parallel; Kirchhoff’s Laws; RC circuits.

Magnetism (7 classes): Magnetic fields; force on a charged particle moving in a magnetic field; combined E and B, cyclotron; magnetic force on a current, current loop, torque; Biot-Savart’s law; field due to a long wire, field on axis of loop; force between two current-carrying wires; Ampere’s law; solenoid; magnetic flux through a loop; induced currents; Faraday’s Law; Lenz’s law; EMF and electric field; generators, motors, eddy current; inductance; LC circuits; Maxwell’s Equations; introduction to EM waves.

Wave and ray optics (6 classes): Huygens’ Principle: diffraction, interference; Snell’s Law: reflection and refraction, dispersion, total internal reflection; optical instruments: mirrors, lenses; magnification, image formation, microscopes, telescopes.

Relativity (4 classes): Galilean transformation; Michelson-Morley experiment; Einstein postulates; simultaneity; time dilation; proper time; length contraction; Lorentz transformation; addition of velocities; relativistic momentum; force, work, kinetic energy; mass-energy and momentum.

Quantum physics (6 classes): Blackbody radiation; Planck’s law; photoelectric effect; quantum hypothesis; Compton effect; energy and momentum; Bohr atom, energy levels; de Broglie waves; wave packets, uncertainty; wave functions, Schrödinger’s equation; particle in a box; quantised energy levels; quantum tunnelling; atomic spectra, Balmer series; hydrogen wave function; electron spin, spin quantum number; electronic shells, periodic table.

Special Requirements

Two evening tests are held from 6.05 to 7.35 pm in Semester Two, 2021. Dates and locations are to be advised in class and on Canvas. 

To achieve an overall pass in this course, students must obtain:
  • a pass in practicals (including programming in physics assignments and laboratories),
  • sufficient overall marks and sit the final exam.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect a weekly average of 6 hours of classes, 2 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 2 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Students need to enrol and participate in one stream in this course: M/W/F 9 - 11 am or M/W/F 1 - 3 pm. The class meets three times a week in the Physics Teaching Laboratory (303-G03). Please ensure that there is no timetable clash with any of the three weekly meeting times for the stream that you enrol in.

Mini lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities will not be available as recordings.  

Attendance on campus is required for the labs and tests.  

The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Required text

Knight, R. (2016). Physics for Scientists and Engineers: A Strategic Approach with Modern Physics (4th edition). Pearson. [Global edition].
The required text is available in hard copy and as an electronic textbook (eText). Hard copies are available for lending at the university library and for purchase -- second-hand or new -- at “ubiq”, the bookshop on campus, and elsewhere. The eText can be purchased online. This textbook is used in both Physics 120 Advancing Physics I and Physics 121 Advancing Physics II in 2021.

Other course texts are listed in the Reading List ( and can be freely accessed online.

Drop-in tutoring

Daily drop-in tutoring is available between 10 - 11 am and 2 - 3 pm on weekdays from Week 2 to Week 12 (excluding public holidays, mid-semester break, and the last day of the semester). More details will be updated on Canvas. This learning support supplements regular classes and lecturers' office hours.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

The Academic Integrity Course is available online (link below), and enrolled undergraduate students should complete the online course by the end of their first semester of study.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University Website for information about how to proceed.

Level 1: Delivered normally as specified in 'Delivery Mode' above.
Level 2: You will not be required to attend in person. All teaching and assessment will have a remote option.
Level 3 / 4: All teaching activities and assessments are delivered remotely.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 30/07/2021 10:36 a.m.