KC5029 - Space-Time and Electromagnetism

What will I learn on this module?

The theory of Electromagnetism and its relativistic foundation is at the heart of modern physics and provides a fundamental paradigm for understanding contemporary physical theories. This module will introduce you to the fundamental concepts of Special Relativity, and to the origins and properties of electric and magnetic fields. A research inquiry approach will bring you through the step-by-step processes that led to the discovery of the Maxwell equations and understanding their relativistic nature.

Electrostatics and Magnetostatics
Coulomb's law and the electric field; Electric flux and Gauss' law; Circulation and electric potential; Calculating the field from the potential (gradient); Gauss law in differential form (divergence); Circulation law in differential form (curl); Poisson's and Laplace's equations and their solutions. Polarization, multi-pole expansion, electric potential of a dipole.
Definition of magnetic field and calculation of the force; Calculating the B field: the Biot-Savart law; Circulation and Ampere's law in differential form; Magnetic flux and Gauss law in differential form; Magnetic vector potential. Equation of motion of a charge in a electromagnetic field; cycloid motion; cyclotron frequency.
Electrical and magnetic fields in materials; Electrostatic fields and conductors (method of images); Electrostatic fields in dielectrics; Magnetostatic fields in materials.

Maxwell’s Equations. Ohm’s Law in differential form; Electromotive force; Electromagnetic induction, Faraday's law in differential form; Ampere-Maxwell law in differential form; Maxwell's equations and their solutions.
Electromagnetic Waves. Derivation from Maxwell's Equations; speed of light; Energy flow, Poynting vector. Electromagnetic wave polarisation; Incident, reflected and transmitted waves at plane interfaces.

Special Relativity
Einstein's postulates; Time dilation; Length contraction; Lorentz transformations; Light cone; Relativistic velocity transformation, energy-momentum relation; Twin paradox. Relativistic invariance of charge; Lorentz transformation of electromagnetic fields; EM of moving charges.

How will I learn on this module?

The learning strategy of this module is based on a combination of lectures and seminars. Lectures give a formal introduction to physical and mathematical aspects to be applied in seminars for the solution of a wide range of problems addressing topics and methodologies also used in other areas of modern physics and its applications. Both lectures and seminars aim at strengthening your problem-solving skills, critical thinking and thus strengthen your potential for employability.

Summative assessment is composed of an assignment (30%) and a formal closed book examination (70%). The assignment will cover aspects of Special Relativity. The examination will cover all learning outcomes on Electromagnetism. Both assignment and examination will assess your knowledge of specific topics from the syllabus as well as your problem solving abilities.

Independent study is supported by further technology-enhanced resources provided via the e-learning portal.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Lectures and seminars will be the main point of academic contact, offering you with a formal teaching environment for core learning. Seminar sessions will provide you with opportunities for critical enquiry and exchanges.

Outside formal scheduled teaching, you will be able to contact the module team (module tutor, year tutor, programme leader) either via email or the open door policy operated throughout the programme.

Further academic support will be provided through technology-enhanced resources via the e-learning portal. You will have the opportunity to give feedback formally through periodic staff-student committees and directly to the module tutor at the end of the semester.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Solve problems in Special Relativity.
2. Demonstrate how the presence of matter affects electrostatics and magnetostatics and the ability to solve simple problems in these situations.
3. Explain how the laws of electromagnetism are altered with non-static electric and magnetic fields and be able to solve simple problems in these situations.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
4. Evaluate qualitative and quantitative relativistic effects.
5. Calculate electric and magnetic fields in various physical situations and geometric configurations of charges and current distributions.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
6. Increased awareness and curiosity through the formulation and solution of simple physical problems in Electrodynamics and Relativity.

How will I be assessed?

1. Assignment (30%) –1, 2, 4,6
2. Examination (70%) –1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

1. Seminar problems –1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Feedback is provided to students individually and in a plenary format both written and verbally to help students improve and promote dialogue around the assessment.





Module abstract

The theory of Relativity and Electrodynamics lie at the core of modern Physics and allow to explain several aspects of the most intimate nature of the Universe. At the same time they constitute the common ground for most of technological developments that revolutionised the Contemporary World: high speed telecommunications, optical fibers, global position systems (GPS), particle accelerators, X-Rays, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and similar medical diagnosis and treatment technologies. This module will introduce you to the fundamental notions providing you with the background and all necessary tools to proceed further in your career following your interests, attitudes and aspirations. You will acquire a modern perspective on a classical subject that will enhance your critical thinking and problem solving potential, research methods, qualitative and quantitative analysis skills. Your progresses will be assessed by an in-course test and a final examination through a path including specific training sessions and small group tutorials.

Course info

UCAS Code F300

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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