This course aims at presenting the basic principles of physics. The principles are presented starting from natural phenomena and experiments aimed to highlight them and are deducted from their interpretation as the result of physical laws of the natural world. This course fits in the Philosophy of Science curriculum of the Philosophy Bachelor program as an optional course. The course aims at providing the students with first-hand experience on the scientific method and a broad-brush overview of some current research topics in the study of fundamental physics.

During the course the student will learn some of the basic principles of physics, how they can be deduced from observation, what path leads to their formulation and verification, or their reappraisal as a consequence of new observations or change of the underlying fundamental assumptions of physics. Furthermore, the exposure to some modern physics topics will put the student in position to understand qualitatively the basic questions that motivate some important topics of current research.

Students will apply the acquired knowledge and method in a series of exercises through which they will become able to carry out quantitative analyses of the natural world using the method of physics.

At the end of the course the student will be able to exlplain the qualitative link between particular phenomena and experiments and the laws of nature obtained with the methods of physics. The student will be able to supplement these links with quantitative argument in some selected cases. Thanks to the acquired knowledge and method the student will be able to learn new concepts in physics if they are presented to him in basic mathematical language. The student will be able to form a reasoned opinion about the qualitative aspects of the questions on the natural world that these new concepts in physics try to address. Furthermore, the student will be in position to judge the depth of the impact that these new concepts in physics have on our understanding of the natural world.


teacher profile | teaching materials


Topics are broadly divided into two sets: 1) general physics, which is useful to develop the basic methodology, 2) modern research topics, which are useful to illustrate current research topics and the attitude of physics researches in dealing with open questions in the study of the natural world. Each part of the course is given in about 18 hours of classes, including exercises in class and at the blackboard. Classes will present general physics subject: classical mechanics, gravitation, electrostatics, physics of waves and light. In the part on modern physics will be presented the following subjects: microscopic theory of thermodynamics, special relativity, quantum mechanics, the nature of antimatter, the issue of the dark matter of the universe.
A detailed listing of all topics and textbooks chapters followed for each topics is available on the web at the address http://webusers.fis.uniroma3.it/franceschini/iff.html

Core Documentation

Marion - Physics and the Physical Universe – Wiley (general and modern physics)
Feynman, Leighton, Sands - The Feynman Lectures on Physics Vol. 3 (quantum mechanics)
Born - Einstein's theory of relativity – Dover (mechanics, relativity)

Notes on the web http://webusers.fis.uniroma3.it/franceschini/iff.html

Reference Bibliography

Weinberg - To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science – Harper (method) March - Physics for poets - McGraw-Hill (general physics)

Type of delivery of the course

*) Lectures. All the topics are presented starting from the direct observation of natural phenomena (video-recorded and available online for all students, including those not attending class, at the website http://webusers.fis.uniroma3.it/franceschini/iff.html) *) Weekly exercises session all along the duration of the course (available online for all the students, including those not attending classes). Exercises sessions take place in the classroom and may be carried out by students at the blackboard as well. Exercises are also given as homework through the website https://filosofiacomunicazionespettacolo.el.uniroma3.it/course/view.php?id=108 Exercises are not taken into account for the final evaluation, but students are strongly encouraged to try them as a training for the written exam.

Type of evaluation

Written and oral exam. For the written exam the student is required to solve problems similar to those encountered in the weekly exercises sessions. The written exam lasts about 90 minutes and aims at testing the gained understanding of the methods of physics in the description of the natural world. Each problem requires to put at work the simplification and quantitative analysis skills acquired during classes and exercises sessions. The written exam comprises one or more problems about the topics of general physics. Each problem requires the student to read and interpret a real-life situation with the aim of simplifying it in order to carry out a quantitative analysis with the tools of physics. For each problem one or more quantitative answers to the questions are required. In the oral exam the student will be asked to discuss the thought process that goes from the observation of phenomena and experiments to the formulation of physical principles, as discussed during classes. The oral exam normally takes around 30 minutes.