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Classical Mechanics & Laboratories - PHY00029C

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  • Department: Physics
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Jing Wu
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

Classical mechanics remains one of the best theories for explaining the macroscope world, and indeed the Universe. In this module, you will grow in your understanding of this foundational theory of physics, developing the skills required to solve problems across a broad range of topics. The mechanics covered here will allow you to investigate systems ranging from stabilising gyroscopes in lifeboats, to the motion of planets around stars, including our own. The accompanying laboratory sessions will build your practical experimental skills as well as help you understand how data analysis and record-keeping can aid your growth as a professional physicist.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The aim of this module is to begin the development of core competencies and knowledge that are required of any physicist.

Classical mechanics is one of the cornerstones of physics. It provides methods for calculating the position, velocity, acceleration and other properties of the motion of point particles and extended bodies as function of time, if the forces acting are known. Classical mechanics is an important subject in its own right but it also forms the basis of several other branches of physical science; indeed many of the ideas incorporated in quantum theory have their origin in classical mechanics. This module commences with the study of translational motion in systems containing one or fewparticles. It then deals with rotational motion. Some of the central concepts of physics – such as momentum, force, energy, work, angular momentum and key conservation laws will be introduced.

The first year laboratory course is aimed at building on the skills learned at school or college by developing the core experimental competencies required of a physicist. In addition, the experiments will support topics in the first year lectures, which will help to reinforce ideas presented in these modules. In the first semester laboratory you will learn how to use equipment which plays a key role in a wide range of experiments.

Module learning outcomes

Classical Mechanics:

  • Understand how the postulates of Newtonian mechanics allow problems to be mathematically formulated

  • Understand how to apply concepts such as force, torque, energy, work, momentum, angular momentum, acceleration, mass, and moments of inertia to formulate equations describing the motion of both linear and rotating systems

  • Solve mechanics problems using both kinematic and dynamic approaches for a range of linear and rotating systems


  • Demonstrate effective experimental practice, including the planning, execution, recording, appraisal and discussion of the data

  • Identify, assess, analyse, and decrease experimental uncertainties, applying the properties of the normal distributions where appropriate

  • Write a scientific report using the accepted structure and style

Module content

Classical mechanics:

  • One-dimensional kinematics: displacement, instantaneous/average velocity and acceleration, motion under constant acceleration and free-fall.

  • Two-dimensional kinematics: position-, velocity- and acceleration-vectors, resolving into components, projectile motion, relative velocity in one and two dimensions.

  • Circular motion: angular frequency, centripetal acceleration and uniform circular motion.

  • Forces and Newton’s Laws: fundamental forces and interactions, Newton’s laws of motion and their applications, free-body diagrams, reaction forces, static and kinetic friction, dynamics of circular motion.

  • Work and energy: definition of work, sign of work, the work-energy theorem, work with a constant force, work with a variable force, power, conservative forces, work and potential energy, force and potential energy.

  • Momentum and collisions: Momentum and impulse, conservation of momentum, elastic and inelastic collisions, centre of mass, rocket propulsion.

  • Rotational kinematics: Angular velocity and acceleration, comparison with linear motion, energy and rotation, moments of inertia, calculation of moments of inertia for simple systems, perpendicular and parallel axis theorems and their derivation.

  • Rotational dynamics: Angular momentum, torque, relationship between torque and angular momentum & angular velocity and angular acceleration,conservation of angular momentum and its consequences, and dynamics of simple systems with rotational and translational motion.


  • Methods for plotting experimental data

  • Properties of Normal distributions and the standard error

  • Identification, analysis and minimisation of experimental uncertainties

  • Experimental activities based around provided laboratory scripts

  • Maintenance of a laboratory notebook

  • Scientific report writing

Of the 50% weighting for the laboratory component, 30% is attributed to the laboratory notebooks and 20% to the formal report.


Task Length % of module mark
Closed/in-person Exam (Centrally scheduled)
Classical Mechanics & Laboratories
1.5 hours 40
Laboratory Notebooks & Formal Report
N/A 50
Physics Practice Questions
N/A 10

Special assessment rules




Module feedback

'Feedback’ at a university level can be understood as any part of the learning process which is designed to guide your progress through your degree programme. We aim to help you reflect on your own learning and help you feel more clear about your progress through clarifying what is expected of you in both formative and summative assessments.

A comprehensive guide to feedback and to forms of feedback is available in the Guide to Assessment Standards, Marking and Feedback. This can be found at:

The School of Physics, Engineering & Technology aims to provide some form of feedback on all formative and summative assessments that are carried out during the degree programme. In general, feedback on any written work/assignments undertaken will be sufficient so as to indicate the nature of the changes needed in order to improve the work. Students are provided with their examination results within 25 working days of the end of any given examination period. The School will also endeavour to return all coursework feedback within 25 working days of the submission deadline. The School would normally expect to adhere to the times given, however, it is possible that exceptional circumstances may delay feedback. The School will endeavour to keep such delays to a minimum. Please note that any marks released are subject to ratification by the Board of Examiners and Senate. Meetings at the start/end of each semester provide you with an opportunity to discuss and reflect with your supervisor on your overall performance to date.

Our policy on how you receive feedback for formative and summative purposes is contained in our Physics at York Taught Student Handbook.

Indicative reading

H D Young and R A Freedman: University Physics with Modern Physics ****

The Feynman Lectures on Physics: Volume 1 (Addison Wesley) **

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.