What you will study
Physics and space takes much of the physical science content from the broader introductory science module – Science: concepts and practice (S112) – and presents it in a similar structure. To begin, you’ll develop your understanding of different scales – particularly those that are much larger or smaller than will be familiar to you. Through the nine topics, you’ll then meet concepts and principles in classical and quantum physics and the space sciences. Alongside each topic, you’ll practise your maths skills, applying them to problems in physical sciences.
Topic 1 – Forces around you
You’ll explore the types of forces encountered in everyday life, including elastic and frictional forces, as well as gravitational and electromagnetic forces.
Topic 2 – An introduction to energy
You’ll meet the concept of energy and the idea of energy conservation. You’ll learn about some of the different forms that energy can take, including kinetic energy and potential energy, as well as the notions of work and power.
Topic 3 – Material worlds
You’ll examine how the microscopic structure of materials – at the level of atoms, ions, and electrons – explains some of the ways in which materials behave, through the concept of chemical bonding.
Topic 4 – The quantum realm
This topic will introduce you to the world of quantum phenomena, including the uncertainty principle, wave-particle duality and quantum numbers in atoms – leading to an understanding of the periodic table.
Topic 5 – Energy in society
You’ll expand on what you learn in ‘An introduction to energy’: you’ll meet other forms of energy and explore further examples of conservation laws.
Topic 6 – Nuclei and particles
You’ll learn about the subatomic components of the world around us, including radioactivity and the fundamental particles of matter, as well as the processes that govern their interactions.
Topic 7 – Components of the Universe
You’ll explore the galaxies, stars and planets that make up the Universe and understand how astronomers are able to study objects that are very distant from Earth, including exoplanets and dark matter.
Topic 8 – Exploring the Solar System
You’ll discover for yourself how the various planets, moons, asteroids and comets of our Solar System are explored using landers and remote-sensing spacecraft.
Topic 9 – How the Universe works
You’ll learn about the expansion and cooling of the Universe, how it evolved from the Big Bang to the present day, and its likely future.
Some topics include home-based experiments, which you’ll carry out using everyday items. You’ll also conduct two online practical activities: based on data from a weather station and using a radioactive particle detector called a cloud chamber. The online activities provide you with opportunities for collaborative teamwork with your fellow students.
You’ll also be introduced to computer coding, using the Python programming language. Throughout your learning, in a series of dedicated study weeks, you’ll develop your understanding of coding and apply your newly developed skills writing simple programs to solve physical science problems.
You will learn
You’ll learn key physics, astronomy and planetary science concepts and develop your own scientific thinking. You’ll learn fundamentals of computer programming relevant for applications in physical sciences and practice applying your mathematical skills to problems in physical sciences. You’ll also develop your skills for learning online.
While exploring a variety of interesting topics, you’ll develop your problem-solving abilities and improve your computing, mathematical and communication skills. These are valued in all work contexts, but particularly in jobs requiring a precise and quantitative approach.