Measurements and their errors
Content in this section is a continuing study for a student of physics. A working knowledge of the specified fundamental (base) units of measurement is vital. Likewise, practical work in the subject needs to be underpinned by an awareness of the nature of measurement errors and of their numerical treatment. The ability to carry through reasonable estimations is a skill that is required throughout the course and beyond. Before you do any practical work you should make sure that you revise this unit. Also, you will need to make reference to the units and prefixes content as you work through other units.
Particles and radiation
This section introduces you both to the fundamental properties of matter, and to electromagnetic radiation and quantum phenomena. This is a fascinating and often mind blowing part of the course that will expand your awareness of the fundamental strangeness of the universe.Through a study of these topics, you will become aware of the way ideas develop and evolve in physics. You will come to appreciate the importance of international collaboration in the development of new experiments and theories in this area of fundamental research.
In nature there are two fundamental means of transferring energy. Particles is one and waves is the other. In this section we will look at the nature of waves and how they behave. This is a unit where you will be amazed to find that often very different phenomena behave in identical ways.
Mechanics and Materials
Vectors and their treatment are introduced, followed by development of your knowledge and understanding of forces, energy and momentum. The section continues with a study of materials considered in terms of their bulk properties and tensile strength.
This section builds on and develops earlier study of these phenomena from GCSE. It provides opportunities for the development of practical skills at an early stage in the course and lays the groundwork for later study of the many electrical applications that are important to society.
A Level Only
Further Mechanics and Thermal Physics (A-level only)
The earlier study of mechanics is further advanced through a consideration of circular motion and simple harmonic motion (the harmonic oscillator). A further section allows the thermal properties of materials, the properties and nature of ideal gases, and molecular kinetic theory to be studied in depth.
Fields and Their Consequences (A-level only)
The concept of field is one of the great unifying ideas in physics. The ideas of gravitation, electrostatics and magnetic field theory are developed within the topic to emphasise this unification. Many ideas from mechanics and electricity from earlier in the course support this and are further developed. Practical applications considered include: planetary and satellite orbits, capacitance and capacitors, their charge and discharge through resistors, and electromagnetic induction. These topics have considerable impact on modern society.
Nuclear Physics (A-level only)
This section builds on the work of Particles and Radiation to link the properties of the nucleus to the production of nuclear power through the characteristics of the nucleus, the properties of unstable nuclei, and the link between energy and mass. You will become aware of the physics that underpins nuclear energy production and also of the impact that it can have on society.
Astrophysics (A-level only)
Fundamental physical principles are applied to the study and interpretation of the Universe. You will gain a deeper insight into the behaviour of objects at great distances from Earth and discover the ways in which information from these objects can be gathered. The underlying physical principles of the devices used are covered and some indication is given of the new information gained by the use of radio astronomy. The discovery of exoplanets is an example of the way in which new information is gained by astronomers.