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PHYS3C24 Nuclear and Particle Physics

An introductory course in atomic physics, such as PHYS2B24, and an introductory course in quantum physics, such as ASTR2B11, PHYS2B22, or their equivalents in other departments.

Aim of the Course

The aim of the course is to provide an introduction to the physical concepts of nuclear and particle physics and the experimental techniques which they use.

After completing the course, students should:

  • Understand the basic ideas and techniques of the subject, including the description of reactions in terms of amplitudes and their relation to simple measurable quantities.

    Specifically in nuclear physics, students should:

  • Know the basic phenomena of nuclear physics, including the properties of the nuclear force, the behaviour of binding energies as a function of mass number, and nuclei shapes and sizes and how these are determined;
  • understand the interpretation of binding energies in terms of the semi-empirical mass formula of the liquid drop model;
  • know the systematics of nuclear stability and the phenomenology of a , b and g decays and spontaneous fission;
  • understand how a wide range of nuclear data, including spins, parities and magnetic moments, are interpreted in the Fermi gas model, the shell model and the collective model;
  • understand the theory of nuclear b -decay;
  • understand the physics of induced fission, how fission chain reactions occur and how these may be harnessed to provide sources of power, both controlled and explosive;
  • understand the physics of nuclear fusion and its role in stellar evolution, and the difficulties of achieving fusion both in principle and in practice;

    Specifically in particle physics, students should:

  • appreciate the need for antiparticles;
  • understand the relationship between exchange of particles and the range of forces;
  • know how to interpret interactions in terms of Feynman diagrams;
  • know the roles and properties of each of the three families of particles (quarks, leptons and gauge bosons) of the standard model of particle physics;
  • know the properties of hadrons and understand their importance as evidence for the quark model;
  • understand the principles of the interpretation of the fundamental strong interaction via quantum chromodynamics (QCD), including the roles of the colour quantum number, confinement and asymptotic freedom;
  • understand the evidence for QCD from experiments on jets and nucleon structure;
  • understand the spin and symmetry structures of the weak interactions and tests of these from the decays of the m , p and K0 mesons;
  • understand how unification of the electromagnetic and weak interactions comes about and the interpretation of the resulting electroweak interaction in the standard model;

    Specifically in experimental methods, students should:

  • Know the principles of a range of particle accelerators used in nuclear and particle physics;
  • know the physics of energy losses of particles with mass interacting with matter, including losses by ionisation, radiation and short range interactions with nuclei, and the losses incurred by photons;
  • know the principles of a range of detectors for time resolution, measurements of position, momentum, energy and particle identification, and how these are combined in modern experiments.

    Methodology and Assessment
    The course consists of 30 lectures supplemented by 3 lecture periods for coursework problems and other matters as they arise. Assessment is based on an unseen written examination (90%) and the best 4 of 5 coursework problem papers (10%).


    Core texts:
    Nuclear Physics; Principles and Applications – J Lilly (Wiley) Particle Physics (2nd Edn) – B R Martin and G Shaw (Wiley) Particles and Nuclei (2nd Edn) –B Povh, K Rith, C Scholz and F Zetsche (Springer)

    Other useful texts:
    An Introduction to Nuclear Physics – W N Cottingham and D A Greenwood (Cambridge) Nuclear and Particle Physics – W S C Williams (Oxford) Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics – A Das and T Ferbel (Wiley) Introduction to High Energy Physics (4th Edn) – D H Perkins (Cambridge)

    The course is divided into eight sections. The approximate assignment of lectures to each is shown in brackets.

    1. Basic Ideas (3)
    History; the standard model; relativity and antiparticles; particle reactions; Feynman diagrams; particle exchange – range of forces; Yukawa potential; the scattering amplitude; cross-sections; unstable particles; units: length, mass and energy

    2. Nuclear Phenomenology (4)
    Notation; mass and binding energies; nuclear forces; shapes and sizes; liquid drop model: semi-empirical mass formula; nuclear stability; b –decay: phenomenology; a –decay; fission; g -decay

    3. Leptons, Quarks and Hadrons (4)
    Lepton multiplets; lepton numbers; neutrinos; neutrino mixing and oscillations; universal lepton interactions; numbers of neutrinos; evidence for quarks; properties of quarks; quark numbers; hadrons; flavour independence and hadron multiplets

    4. Experimental Methods (5)
    Overview; accelerators; beams; particle interactions with matter (short-range interactions with nuclei, ionisation energy losses, radiation energy losses, interactions of photons in matter); particle detectors (time resolution: scintillation counters, measurement of position, measurement of momentum, particle identification, energy measurements: calorimeters, layered detectors)

    5. Quark Interactions: QCD and Colour (3)
    Colour; quantum chromodynamics (QCD); the strong coupling constant; asymptotic freedom; jets and gluons; colour counting; deep inelastic scattering: nucleon structure

    6. Electroweak Interactions (5)
    Charged and neutral currents; symmetries of the weak interaction; spin structure of the weak interactions; neutral kaons; K0 - K 0 mixing and CP violation; strangeness oscillations; W ± and Z0 bosons; weak interactions of hadrons; neutral currents and the unified theory; The Higgs boson

    7. Structure of Nuclei (4)
    Fermi gas model; the shell model: basic ideas; spins, parities and magnetic moments in the shell model; excited states in the shell model; collective model; b -Decay; Fermi theory; electron momentum distribution; Kurie plots and the neutrino mass

    8. Fission and Fusion (2)
    Induced fission – fissile materials; fission chain reactions; power from nuclear fission: nuclear reactors; nuclear fusion: Coulomb barrier; stellar fusion; fusion reactors.

    3C24 Summary Lecture Notes :

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