Physics BSC206

Physics is a subject that underpins so much of what we do in our daily lives

  • It relates to everything we hear and see; and every movement we make or cause to be made.
  • Understanding physics allows us to do our work better: from making and moving things to using tools and equipment

Learn to Understand Motion

Examining objects in motion and understanding the concepts of displacement, velocity, speed and acceleration is a great way to understand how physics work. It is the study of motion which began since 400 years that gave birth to the science of physics, and is often known as “kinematics”. There are only a few mathematical equations that you need to know in this section and they are relatively simple and straight forward and easy to remember.

What are Waves?
Simply put waves are a form of energy travelling from one place to another; for example think of the sun, it is very far away yet its light and heat reaches earth, think of hitting a snare drum; the sound travels to your ears. These are only two examples of waves but there are many more. Unfortunately sound waves and radio waves can’t really be seen, this makes them hard to describe, however one can visualize how waves behave when dropping a stone into water.

What are Electrostatics?
Over the past few decades, people’s dependency on electricity has witnessed an exponential growth, compared with the past century where people only used a few electric lights. However, scientists began to study and research electricity long before electric lamps were invented. These studies and observations date back to the days of ancient Greeks when they observed that rubbing amber would allow it to attract smaller objects such as feathers. To better understand electricity, we need to start with understanding electrostatics which is the study of electric charges at rest.

Understanding Energy
The energy of an object can be defined as the potential of that object to do work. This has relevance to kinetic energy, potential energy and other energy types such as chemical, electrical, nuclear and thermal energy. To further understand the concept of energy, consider a ball rolling on the ground. If you apply a force to the ball and increase its rolling speed, you are actually doing work on the ball which results in an increase in the ball’s energy. So as you can see, work and energy are inter-related and in this lesson you will learn how to calculate the work done on an object as well as the amount of potential and kinetic energy that object possesses at any point in time.

Learn more about things like this by studying this course; starting any time, and working through it at a pace that suits your own abilities.

Course Content

There are 10 lessons in this course:

1. Review of Basic Algebra

  • Introduction
  • Equations and formulae
  • Variables
  • Quadratic equations
  • Graphing
  • Geometry
  • Triangles
  • Basic formulae
  • Quadrilaterals
  • Angles and radians
  • Logarithms and exponentials
  • Trigonometry

2. Introduction: Scope and Nature of Physics

  • Observing, measuring, modeling, predicting
  • Units of measurement
  • Converting between units
  • Precision of measurements and identifying significant digits

3. Forces and Mechanics

  • Physics and motion
  • Displacement
  • Speed and velocity
  • Acceleration
  • Force
  • Force of gravity
  • Work
  • Power
  • Energy

4. Waves

  • What are waves
  • Properties of waves: longitudinal waves, transverse waves
  • Wave terminology
  • Relationship of frequency or period
  • Wave speed
  • Electromagnetic radiation and waves
  • Sound waves
  • Sound spectrum
  • Measuring sound
  • Speed of sound
  • Doppler effect
  • Standing waves and resonance

5. Electricity and Magnetism

  • Electrostatics
  • Conductors and insulators
  • How to make an electroscope
  • Coulomb's law
  • The electric field
  • Electricity and electric circuits
  • Current
  • Voltage
  • Resistance
  • Power
  • Ohm's law
  • Circuits: series, parallel
  • Magnets
  • Magnetic forces
  • Ferromagnetism
  • Creating magnets
  • Earth's magnetic field
  • Geomagnetic reversal
  • Electromagnetism
  • Electromagnetism and solenoids
  • Electric motors
  • Magnetic force
  • Right hand rule
  • Inductors
  • Lenz's law

6. Energy and Work

  • What is energy
  • Mechanical energy
  • Potential energy
  • Kinetic energy
  • Conservation of total energy and mechanical energy
  • Converting kinetic energy into potential energy
  • Work and force
  • Conservative and non conservative forces
  • Conservation of mass energy

7. Fundamentals of Thermodynamics

  • Temperature measurement units
  • Fahrenheit
  • Celsius
  • Kelvin
  • Converting between units
  • What is heat
  • Heat transfers: thermal equilibrium
  • Thermal expansion and thermal contraction

8. Light and Optics

  • What is light
  • Reflection
  • Refraction
  • Demonstration of refraction
  • Index of refraction
  • Diffraction
  • The electromagnetic spectrum
  • How a rainbow forms
  • What are mirrors
  • Flat mirrors
  • Convex mirrors
  • Concave mirrors
  • Lenses
  • Converging lenses
  • Diverging lenses

9. Nuclear Physics and Radioactivity

  • Structure of matter
  • The periodic table
  • What is radioactivity
  • Alpha radiation
  • Beta radiation
  • Gamma radiation
  • Radioactivity applications
  • Nuclear medicine -diagnostic and therapy
  • Radioactive tracers in agriculture
  • Food irradiation
  • Archeological and geological dating
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • Half life
  • Power generation
  • Radiation effects and injuries
  • Cancer and burns caused by radiation

10. Astronomy, Cosmology and Astrophysics

  • What is astronomy
  • The pioneers of astronomy
  • The branches of astronomy
  • Sub fields of astronomy
  • Astronomy in our daily life
  • The most important discoveries in astronomy
  • What is Cosmology
  • How did cosmology evolve
  • Hubble's law
  • Cosmological principle
  • Calculate the age of the universe using the Hubble constant
  • What is astrophysics


Develop a Broad Understanding of all the main Sectors of Physics

In the world of physics, almost every concept, discovery or theory has originated from some form of observation. When you make an observation, you would generally want to use some measurements to be able to describe your observation. There are various components and variables to be measured in the world of physics, the most important ones are time measurement, length measurement, weight measurement, speed measurement, etc. If you are able to obtain accurate measurements for the elements in your observation, you should then be able to model your observation. This means that you can build a model to represent your observation, and be able to use this model to display the elements that you observed and their interaction with each other. And finally, if you study your model carefully enough and if you manage to understand how the different components interact with each other, you might be able to predict how it will behave in a future point in time. You should normally base the predictions on mathematical calculations, as well as laws and theories of physics.

To understand how this works, let’s consider a practical example: weather forecasts. For many people and businesses nowadays, weather forecast plays an important role in their daily lives because it allows them to better plan their days out, schedules, major events, holidays, etc. Have you ever thought about how weather predictions began? Even before having super computers, ancient civilizations were able to predict the weather by observing the weather patterns, measuring an approximate value of the temperature, wind speeds and cloud density. Based on their observations, they were able to come up with models to represent the current state of the weather, and by studying the models and comparing how each model evolved, they were able to understand what generally caused a rainy day or a sunny day or a windy day, etc., and this is how humans began with their weather predictions.
Today, weather forecasts are a lot more accurate than how they were before, and they keep improving because the measurements are more accurate and there is more data that computers can analyse in order to predict the weather for the next few hours and next few days.

Throughout this course you will learn about far more than just weather though. Physics is a science that is underpinned by laws, theories and hypotheses. These things relate to all parts of the physical universe - from weather to the movement of a car or formation of a landscape.

Law (Scientific)

A law is a generalized body of knowledge that no exceptions have be found to apply.  It may tell you what to expect but not why. It can often be expressed mathematically.


A theory summarises hypothesis about why something occurs.  A theory may be disproved.


A hypothesis is an educated guess about why something occurs, it may be disproved.


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