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Applied Mathematics Option II - MAT00037I

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  • Department: Mathematics
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Ed Corrigan
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20 to Summer Term 2019-20

Module aims

The Applied Module in Stage 2 aims to introduce some of the main ideas and theories of modern applied mathematics and mathematical physics, along with some of the main mathematical methods that are used to study and solve problems in these theories. Rather than present the methods in isolation, the aim is to encounter them in the context of applications, so that theory and technique progress in tandem. The overall aim is to lay the foundations for the further study of applied mathematics and mathematical physics in Stages 3 and 4.

As part of these broad aims, this module has the following components:

  • Newtonian Gravity and Special Relativity (Autumn Term) develops Newton’s theory of motion in vectorial form, leading up to the description of orbits in Newtonian gravity, before introducing Einstein’s theory of special relativity, and a first appearance of tensorial quantities. Newtonian mechanics is further developed in the Classical Dynamics and Waves and Fluids components, while special relativity will appear in modules on Electromagnetism, General Relativity and Quantum Field Theory in stages 3 and 4.

  • Classical Dynamics (Spring) presents a sophisticated form of Newton’s laws known as analytical mechanics, which also forms an important component of modern theories of both classical and quantum physics.

  • Waves and Fluids (Spring/Summer), exploring the the dynamics of continuous media, focusing on elementary fluid dynamics and the motion of waves. This lays the foundations for the full development of fluid dynamics in stages 3 and 4, as well as for modules on electromagnetism and quantum mechanics. The mathematical techniques of vector calculus are employed and further developed, as are Fourier methods.

Studying these three components alongside each other during the course of the year will allow students to see the many connections across different areas of Applied Mathematics; understanding these connections and being able to use ideas and techniques across many contexts is an essential part of the modern mathematician’s toolkit.

Module learning outcomes

Subject content

Newtonian Gravitation

  • Revision: Vectors, scalar and vector products and triple products, time-derivatives
  • Frames of reference, Galilean relativity, Newton's laws. Energy, momentum, angular momentum. Circular motion and angular velocity.

  • Many particles, two particles, Newton's law of gravity. Central forces and resulting planar motion in polar coordinates. The geometry of orbits: ellipses and Kepler's laws; parabolae, hyperbolae and scattering. Energy, effective potential, stability of orbits.

Special Relativity

  • Einstein's postulates, derivation of Lorentz transformations from Galilean limit. Relativity of simultaneity, time dilation, proper time, length contraction, addition of velocities. (If time permits: twin paradox, garage problem, causality.) Four-vectors and Minkowski spacetime, the Lorentz group.

  • Relativistic momentum and force; rest mass, kinetic and total energy. Conservation of energy-momentum, examples.

Classical Dynamics

  • Lagrangian mechanics. Constraints, generalized coordinates, Lagrange's equations, connection to Newton’s laws. Constants of the motion: ignorable coordinates and Jacobi's function. Qualitative analysis of systems with a single degree of freedom using Jacobi's function. Examples, including conservative central forces and the Lagrangian analysis of the spinning top.

  • Hamiltonian mechanics. Generalized momenta and the Hamiltonian. Derivation of Hamilton's equations from Lagrange's equations. Conservation results. Poisson brackets. Equations of motion and conservation laws in Poisson bracket form.

  • Phase-plane techniques. Trajectories and equilibria for conservative and damped systems.

  • Variational principles. Reformulation of Lagrangian mechanics (and Hamiltonian, if time permits) in variational form. Examples of other variational problems (e.g., brachistochrone, geodesics on a plane and sphere).

Introduction to Waves

  • The 1D wave equation, particularly vibrations of a string. Waves on an infinitely long string: characteristics, D’Alembert’s formula. Concepts: standing waves, the wave number, the wave energy, wave packets. Waves on a semi-infinite string: boundary conditions and reflection of waves. Vibrations of a finite string: Fourier methods.

  • The 2D wave equation. Vibrations of rectangular and circular membranes. Vector calculus: operators in curvilinear coordinates, particularly polar coordinates. (Limited statements on Bessel functions.)

  • Shallow water waves: the hydraulic jump.

Elementary fluid dynamics

  • Continuum fields: density, velocity. Particle paths, streamlines and streaklines. Eulerian and Lagrangian descriptions of a continuum medium. Conservation of mass, incompressibility. 2D motion and the streamfunction.

  • The Euler momentum equation, surface and volume forces, pressure. Bernoulli’s theorem and applications.

  • Vorticity, Kelvin circulation theorem, irrotational flow. Examples.

  • Kinematic and dynamic conditions at a free surface. Surface gravity waves. (Limited statements on potential flow.)

Academic and graduate skills

  • Mathematics graduates are problem solvers with an ability to work from first principles and to employ diverse and appropriate techniques. This module helps develop these essential skills; students will learn material and techniques with a wide range of applications in modern descriptions of physical phenomena.

  • The understanding of motion provided by Newton and Einstein has provided key insights into the physical universe, allowed technological progress through engineering, and has driven developments in mathematics including calculus and differential geometry.

  • Analytical mechanics provides a basis for many modern theories of physics and has also led to developments in geometry as well as the field of chaotic dynamics.

  • Fluid and wave phenomena are ubiquitous in nature and industry with important applications such as meteorology, ocean dynamics, biofuels, aeronautics, astrophysics, diseases of the cardiovascular system and the swimming of plankton and whales. Wave phenomena appear in many other systems, from musical instruments to tsunamis.


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam
Applied Mathematics: Classical Dynamics
N/A 33.33
Online Exam
Applied Mathematics: Waves and Fluids
N/A 33.33
University - closed examination
Applied Mathematics: Newtonian Gravity and Special Relativity
1.5 hours 33.34

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students only resit components which they have failed.


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam
Applied Mathematics: Classical Dynamics
N/A 33.33
Online Exam
Applied Mathematics: Waves and Fluids
N/A 33.33
University - closed examination
Applied Mathematics: Newtonian Gravity and Special Relativity
1.5 hours 33.34

Module feedback

Current Department policy on feedback is available in the undergraduate student handbook. Coursework and examinations will be marked and returned in accordance with this policy.

Indicative reading

M Lunn, A first course in Mechanics, (Oxford University Press (U1 LUN)

TWB Kibble and FH Berkshire, Classical Mechanics, Imperial College Press (U1 KIB)

R Fitzpatrick, Newtonian Dynamics, Lulu (U1.3 FIT)

R Douglas Gregory, Classical Mechanics Cambridge University Press (U1 GRE)

P Smith and RC Smith, Mechanics John Wiley and Sons (U1 SMI )

H Goldstein, Classical Mechanics, Addison-Wesley, (U1 GOL). [Later editions in conjunction with C Poole and J Safko]

LN Hand and JD Finch, Analytical Mechanics, Cambridge University Press (U1.017 HAN).

NMJ Woodhouse, Introduction to Analytical Dynamics, Oxford University Press, (U1.3WOO)
G F Simmons, Differential Equations, with Applications and Historical Notes, Tata McGraw-Hill (paperback) (S 7.38 SIM)

D. J. Acheson, Elementary Fluid Dynamics, Oxford Applied Mathematics & Computing Science Series, Clarendon Press 1990 (U 2.5)

G. K. Batchelor, An introduction to fluid dynamics, Cambridge University Press 1967 (U 2.5)

G. R. Baldock & T. Bridgeman, The mathematical theory of wave motion, John Wiley & Sons 1981 (U 1.33)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.