As a physics tutor Melbourne, I try to give students a overall understanding of the development of physics. This help students understand this subject better.
Physics is one of the most fundamental and fascinating experimental sciences. It studies the structures and behaviours of the universe, from the smallest particles to galaxies in vast distance. Scientists from all disciplines use concepts and theories of physics, such as chemists who study chemical reactions, palaeontologists who try to reconstruct how dinosaurs walked, even biomedical scientists and physicians who care about the well being of people. Physics is also the foundation of all engineering and technology. No engineer could design a flat-screen TV, an interplanetary spacecraft, or even a better mousetrap without first understanding the basic laws of physics.
Physics is usually divided into classical physics and modern physics. Classic physics deals with motion of matters, transferring heat and energy, mechanic waves and electromagnetic waves, electricity and magnetism, and electromagnetism. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the scientific revolution took place in Europe. Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, proposed a heliocentric model of the solar system, which signified the start of classical physics. Sir Isaac Newton is considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist. His laws for motions and gravitation laid the foundation of classic physics, from which electromagnetism, thermodynamics, mechanic wave and electromagnetic wave theories developed. From Newtonian mechanics came the idea of predictability in which the universe is deterministic and knowable. Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism described the behaviour of electric charge and unified light and electricity, while thermodynamics described the relation between heat and work and described how the natural processes increase disorder in the universe.
However, when human started to investigate the behaviours of atoms and basic particles, the theories of classical physics failed to explain the phenomenon observed, such as Maxwell’s theories of waves could not explain the interaction of radiation with matter. In 1900, the German physicist Max Planck was attempting to explain the spectrum for the light emitted by a hot object (called a black-body radiator). To do this, he developed the idea that light energy is not continuous (as in the wave model), but is delivered in tiny, discrete bundles called photons or quanta. This led the development of quantum mechanics. Modern physics focuses on relativity, atomic structure, condensed matter, nuclear physics, elementary particles, and cosmology and astrophysics.
More recently, developments in chaos theory, in which it is now realized that small changes in the initial conditions of a system can lead to completely unpredictable outcomes, have led to a fundamental rethinking in thermodynamics.
VCE, IB and University Physics
VCE physics aims to balance between classical and modern physics. Units 1&2 consist nuclear physics & radioactivity, electricity, motion, wave-like properties of light, one of six detailed studies: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Energy from the nucleus, Investigations: Flight, Investigations: Sustainable energy sources, and Medical physics. Units 3&4 consist motion in one and two dimensions, Electronics & photonics, electric power, interactions of light and matter, and a detailed study is to be chosen from six detailed studies: Einstein’s special relativity, Materials and their use in structures, Further electronics, Synchrotron and its applications, Photonics, and Sound. However, VCE physics does not address thermal dynamics well.
IB physics standard level (SL) and higher level (HL) introduce all the aspects of physics to students. The syllabus is divided into three parts: the core, the additional higher level (AHL) material and the options. The core consists mechanics, thermal physics, waves, electricity & magnetism, and atomic and nuclear physics. The options for SL students are normally mechanics extension, quantum physics & nuclear physics, and energy extension. The options for both SL and HL students are normally biomedical physics, astrophysics, relativity and optics. The topics for additional higher level study include measurements and uncertainties, mechanics, thermal physics, wave phenomena, electromagnetism, quantum physics and nuclear physics.
University physics normally introduces calculus in the formula deduction. Different departments and universities address the different areas of physics by the interest of different courses.