Physics as an Optional Subject For UPSC

Physics is a science that deals with the structure of matter and the interactions between the fundamental constituents of the observable universe. UPSC civil service aspirants can choose Physics as their optional as syllabus of this optional subject is precise and static. The topics from the syllabus can be prepared easily and can be easily managed with other subjects. For this preparation of Physics as an optional the aspirants need to prepare a proper schedule and study plan.

Following is some of the tips to prepare for Physics Optional Paper: -

  1. Make a proper study plan.
  2. Understand the syllabus thoroughly
  3. Prepare notes of all the topics so as to get clarity and clear understanding of topics.
  4. Analyse the previous year question papers.
  5. Limit your sources for the preparation.
  6. Practice through as many mock test series.

Advantages of choosing Physics Optional: -

  1. The entire subject is transparent.
  2. It involves no concrete theories, methodologies, principles and doctrines.
  3. There is concise syllabus and easy to revise in this subject.

Disadvantages of choosing Physics Optional: -

  1. No linkages with General Studies.
  2. Topics in physics will rarely be helpful in the essay paper.

Physics Exam Pattern: -

Optional Subject consists of 2 papers. Each paper is 250 marks, making a total of 500 marks. Each paper is held for 3 hours.

 

Paper I Syllabus:

  1. (a) Mechanics of Particles :

Laws of motion; conservation of energy and momentum, applications to rotating frames, centripetal and Coriolis accelerations; Motion under a central force; Conservation of angular momentum, Kepler’s laws; Fields and potentials; Gravitational field and potential due to spherical bodies, Gauss and Poisson equations, gravitational self-energy; Two-body problem; Reduced mass; Rutherford scattering; Centre of mass and laboratory reference frames.

(b) Mechanics of Rigid Bodies :

System of particles; Centre of mass, angular momentum, equations of motion; Conservation theorems for energy, momentum and angular momentum; Elastic and inelastic collisions; Rigid Body; Degrees of freedom, Euler’s theorem, angular velocity, angular momentum, moments of inertia, theorems of parallel and perpendicular axes, equation of motion for rotation; Molecular rotations (as rigid bodies); Di and tri-atomic molecules; Precessional motion; top, gyroscope.

(c) Mechanics of Continuous Media :

Elasticity, Hooke’s law and elastic constants of isotropic solids and their inter-relation; Streamline (Laminar) flow, viscosity, Poiseuille’s equation, Bernoulli’s equation, Stokes’ law and applications.

(d) Special Relativity :

Michelson-Morely experiment and its implications; Lorentz transformations length contraction, time dilation, addition of relativistic velocities, aberration and Doppler effect, mass-energy relation, simple applications to a decay process. Four dimensional momentum vector; Covariance of equations of physics.

2. Waves and Optics :

(a) Waves :

Simple harmonic motion, damped oscillation, forced oscillation and resonance; Beats; Stationary waves in a string; Pulses and wave packets; Phase and group velocities; Reflection and refraction from Huygens’ principle.

(b) Geometrial Optics :

Laws of reflection and refraction from Fermat’s principle; Matrix method in paraxial optic-thin lens formula, nodal planes, system of two thin lenses, chromatic and spherical aberrations.

(c) Interference :

Interference of light -Young’s experiment, Newton’s rings, interference by thin films, Michelson interferometer; Multiple beam interference and Fabry Perot interferometer.

(d) Diffraction :

Fraunhofer diffraction - single slit, double slit, diffraction grating, resolving power; Diffraction by a circular aperture and the Airy pattern; Fresnel diffraction: half-period zones and zone plates, circular aperture.

(e) Polarisation and Modern Optics :

Production and detection of linearly and circularly polarized light; Double refraction, quarter wave plate; Optical activity; Principles of fibre optics, attenuation; Pulse dispersion in step index and parabolic index fibres; Material dispersion, single mode fibers; Lasers-Einstein A and B coefficients. Ruby and He-Ne lasers. Characteristics of laser light-spatial and temporal coherence; Focusing of laser beams. Three-level scheme for laser operation; Holography and simple applications.

3. Electricity and Magnetism :

(a) Electrostatics and Magnetostatics :

Laplace and Poisson equations in electrostatics and their applications; Energy of a system of charges, multipole expansion of scalar potential; Method of images and its applications. Potential and field due to a dipole, force and torque on a dipole in an external field; Dielectrics, polarisation. Solutions to boundary-value problems-conducting and dielectric spheres in a uniform electric field; Magnetic shell, uniformly magnetised sphere; Ferromagnetic materials, hysteresis, energy loss.

(b) Current Electricity :

Kirchhoff's laws and their applications. Biot-Savart law, Ampere’s law, Faraday’s law, Lenz’ law. Self-and mutual- inductances; Mean and rms values in AC circuits; DC and AC circuits with R, L and C components; Series and parallel resonance; Quality factor; Principle of transformer.

4. Electromagnetic Waves and Blackbody Radiation :

Displacement current and Maxwell’s equations; Wave equations in vacuum, Poynting theorem; Vector and scalar potentials; Electromagnetic field tensor, covariance of Maxwell’s equations; Wave equations in isotropic dielectrics, reflection and refraction at the boundary of two dielectrics; Fresnel’s relations; Total internal reflection; Normal and anomalous dispersion; Rayleigh scattering; Blackbody radiation and Planck ’s radiation law- Stefan-Boltzmann law, Wien’s displacement law and Rayleigh-Jeans law.

5. Thermal and Statistical Physics :

(a) Thermodynamics :

Laws of thermodynamics, reversible and irreversible processes, entropy; Isothermal, adiabatic, isobaric, isochoric processes and entropy changes; Otto and Diesel engines, Gibbs’ phase rule and chemical potential; Van der Waals equation of state of a real gas, critical constants; Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution of molecular velocities, transport phenomena, equipartition and virial theorems; Dulong-Petit, Einstein, and Debye’s theories of specific heat of solids; Maxwell relations and application; Clausius-Clapeyron equation. Adiabatic demagnetisation, Joule-Kelvin effect and liquefaction of gases.

(b) Statistical Physics :

Macro and micro states, statistical distributions, Maxwell-Boltzmann, Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac Distributions, applications to specific heat of gases and blackbody radiation; Concept of negative temperatures.

Paper II Syllabus:

  1. Quantum Mechanics :

Wave-particle duality; Schroedinger equation and expectation values; Uncertainty principle; Solutions of the one-dimensional Schroedinger equation for free particle (Gaussian wave-packet), particle in a box, particle in a finite well, linear harmonic oscillator; Reflection and transmission by a step potential and by a rectangular barrier; Particle in a three dimensional box, density of states, free electron theory of metals; Angular momentum; Hydrogen atom; Spin half particles, properties of Pauli spin matrices.

  1. Atomic and Molecular Physics :

Stern-Gerlach experiment, electron spin, fine structure of hydrozen atom; L-S coupling, J-J coupling; Spectroscopic notation of atomic states; Zeeman effect; Franck-Condon principle and applications; Elementary theory of rotational, vibrational and electronic spectra of diatomic molecules; Raman effect and molecular structure; Laser Raman spectroscopy; Importance of neutral hydrogen atom, molecular hydrogen and molecular hydrogen ion in astronomy.

Fluorescence and Phosphorescence; Elementary theory and applications of NMR and EPR; Elementary ideas about Lamb shift and its significance.

  1. Nuclear and Particle Physics :

Basic nuclear properties-size, binding energy, angular momentum, parity, magnetic moment; Semi-empirical mass formula and applications. Mass parabolas; Ground state of a deuteron, magnetic moment and non-central forces; Meson theory of nuclear forces; Salient features of nuclear forces; Shell model of the nucleus - success and limitations; Violation of parity in beta decay; Gamma decay and internal conversion; Elementary ideas about Mossbauer spectroscopy; Q-value of nuclear reactions; Nuclear fission and fusion, energy production in stars. Nuclear reactors.

Classification of elementary particles and their interactions; Conservation laws; Quark structure of hadrons : Field quanta of electroweak and strong interactions; Elementary ideas about unification of forces; Physics of neutrinos.

  1. Solid State Physics, Devices and Electronics :

Crystalline and amorphous structure of matter; Different crystal systems, space groups; Methods of determination of crystal structure; X-ray diffraction, scanning and transmission electron microscopies; Band theory of solids—conductors, insulators and semi-conductors; Thermal properties of solids, specific heat, Debye theory; Magnetism: dia, para and ferromagnetism; Elements of super-conductivity, Meissner effect, Josephson junctions and applications; Elementary ideas about high temperature super-conductivity.

Intrinsic and extrinsic semi-conductors- p-n-p and n-p-n transistors; Amplifiers and oscillators. Op-amps; FET, JFET and MOSFET; Digital electronics-Boolean identities, De Morgan’s laws, Logic gates and truth tables. Simple logic circuits; Thermistors, solar cells; Fundamentals of microprocessors and digital computers.