Unit 1: How is energy useful to society?

In this unit students examine some of the fundamental ideas and models used by physicists in an attempt to understand and explain energy. Models used to understand light, thermal energy, radioactivity, nuclear processes and electricity are explored. Students apply these physics ideas to contemporary societal issues: communication, climate change and global warming, medical treatment, electrical home safety and Australian energy needs.

Area of Study 1: How are light and heat explained?

Area of Study 2: How is energy from the nucleus utilised?

Area of Study 3: How can electricity be used to transfer energy?

Unit 2: How does physics help us to understand the world?

In this unit students explore the power of experiments in developing models and theories. They investigate
a variety of phenomena by making their own observations and generating questions, which in turn lead to experiments.

In Area of Study 1, students investigate the ways in which forces are involved both in moving objects and in keeping objects stationary and apply these concepts to a chosen case study of motion.

In Area of Study 2, students choose one of eighteen options related to climate science, nuclear energy, flight, structural engineering, biomechanics, medical physics, bioelectricity, optics, photography, music, sports science, electronics, astrophysics, astrobiology, Australian traditional artefacts and techniques, particle physics, cosmology and local physics research. The selection of an option enables students to pursue an area of interest through an investigation and using physics to justify a stance, response
or solution to a contemporary societal issue or application related to the option.

A student-adapted or student-designed scientific investigation is undertaken in Area of Study 3. The investigation involves the generation of primary data and draws on the key science skills and key knowledge from Area of Study 1 and/or Area of Study 2.

Area of Study 1: How is motion understood?

Area of Study 2: Options- How does physics inform contemporary issues and applications in society?

Eighteen options are available for selection in Area of Study 2. Each option is based on a different observation of the physical world. One option is to be selected by the student from the following:

  • How does physics explain climate change?
  • How do fusion and fission compare as viable nuclear energy power sources?
  • How do heavy things fly?
  • How do forces act on structures and materials?
  • How do forces act on the human body?
  • How is radiation used to maintain human health?
  • How does the human body use electricity?
  • How can human vision be enhanced?
  • How is physics used in photography?
  • How do instruments make music?
  • How can performance in ball sports be improved?
  • How can AC electricity charge a DC device?
  • How do astrophysicists investigate stars and black holes?
  • How can we detect possible life beyond Earth’s Solar System?
  • How can physics explain traditional artefacts, knowledge and techniques?
  • How do particle accelerators work?
  • How does physics explain the origins of matter?
  • How is contemporary physics research being conducted in our region?

Area of Study 3: How do physicists investigate questions?

Unit 3: How Do Fields Explain Motion and Electricity?

In this unit students explore the importance of energy in explaining and describing the physical world. They examine the production of electricity and its delivery to homes. Students consider the field model as a construct that has enabled an understanding of why objects move when they are not apparently in contact with other objects. Applications of concepts related to fields include the transmission of electricity over large distances and the design and operation of particle accelerators. They explore the interactions, effects and applications of gravitational, electric and magnetic fields.

Students use Newton’s laws to investigate motion in one and two dimensions, and are introduced to Einstein’s theories to explain the motion of very fast objects. They consider how developing technologies can challenge existing explanations of the physical world, requiring a review of conceptual models and theories. Students design and undertake investigations involving at least two continuous independent variables.

  • Area of study 1: How do things move without contact?
  • Area of study 2: How are fields used to move electrical energy?
  • Area of study 3: How fast can things go?

Unit 4: How Can Two Contradictory Models Explain Both Light and Matter?

A complex interplay exists between theory and experiment in generating models to explain natural phenomena including light. Wave theory has classically been used to explain phenomena related to light; however, continued exploration of light and matter has revealed the particle-like properties of light.

On very small scales, light and matter – which initially seem to be quite different – have been observed as having similar properties. In this unit, students explore the use of wave and particle theories to model the properties of light and matter. They examine how the concept of the wave is used to explain the nature of light and explore its limitations in describing light behaviour.

Students further investigate light by using a particle model to explain its behaviour. A wave model is also used to explain the behaviour of matter which enables students to consider the relationship between light and matter.

Students learn to think beyond the concepts experienced in everyday life to study the physical world from a new perspective. Students design and undertake investigations involving at least two continuous independent variables. A student-designed practical investigation related to waves, fields or motion is undertaken either in Unit 3 or Unit 4, or across both Unit 3 and Unit 4, and is assessed in Unit 4, Outcome 3.

  • Area of study 1: How can waves explain the behaviour of light?
  • Area of study 2: How are light and matter similar?
  • Area of study 3: Practical investigation