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VCE Physics provides students with opportunities to explore questions related to the natural and constructed world. The study explores selected areas within the discipline including atomic physics, electricity, fields, mechanics, thermodynamics, quantum physics and waves. Students examine classical and contemporary research, models and theories to understand how knowledge in physics has evolved and continues to evolve in response to new evidence and discoveries. An understanding of the complexities and diversity of physics leads students to appreciate the interconnectedness of the content areas both within physics, and across physics and the other sciences. An important feature of undertaking VCE Physics is the opportunity for students to engage in a range of inquiry tasks that may be self-designed, develop key science skills and interrogate the links between theory and practice.

Unit 1     What ideas explain the Physical World?

In this unit students undertake three comprehensive areas of study. These are 1: How can thermal effects be explained? This topic investigates thermodynamic principles related to heating and cooling, including concepts of temperature, energy and work. 2: How do electric circuits work? This includes practical investigations of circuits, conceptual models to analyse electricity and electrical safety. 3: What is matter and how is it formed? Students will explore the nature of matter, the origins of atoms, time and space (the big bang theory) and how energy is derived from the nucleus (fission and fusion).

Unit 2     What do experiments reveal about the physical world?

In this unit students will undertake two core areas of study and one detailed study. 1: How can motion be described and explained? This topic covers force, Newton’s laws, centre of mass, momentum, work and energy. 2: Practical Investigation. The students will plan and carry out their own experimental investigation relating to appropriate physics concepts. 3: Detailed study. The students will undertake a detailed study on topics such as stars, the solar system, how objects fly, and nuclear energy as a viable energy source or how musical instruments work.

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.

Unit 4     How can two contradictory models explain both light and matter?

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.

Career Options

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