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Physics

Why should you study physics?
To me, there are four main reasons:
  1. Physics is a creative subject - The concepts in physics do not come easily. Someone has to come up with a theory to begin with. This is just as much a creative process as composing music, or writing a novel. Where physics and science in general, differ from the Arts is that no one will accept your theory unless it fits with observed evidence, and you have some way of testing its validity. Experimental physicists often have to be enormously creative in coming up with methods of testing theories and measuring things in the world around them. For example, how do you tell that there is a planet orbiting a star that is so far away that it appears as nothing more than a speck of light in even the most powerful telescopes?
  2. Physics gives you a new appreciation of the world around you – for example, you can look a rainbow and say "Wow, pretty colours!", or you can marvel at the interactions between photons and electrons that come together in that particular way when light from the sun strikes spherical water droplets in the sky.
  3. Physics is an intellectually challenging subject, and it is very rewarding when you succeed at something that everyone agrees is difficult.
  4. Physics provides a good route into employment, and many of these areas are not those traditionally associated with physics. For example: Jessica James is a physics graduate. She is Vice-president of the strategic risk management advisory group at the First National Bank of Chicago in London.
    "I design trading strategies for the bank and advise external clients. The whole of finance is to do with probabilities and that is very physics-y. A lot of equations of physics are absolutely applicable on the stock market."
What is the 'A' Level Pyhsics like at Saint Felix?

The specification chosen for the study of physics at AS and A2 level is the Edexcel specification (8PH01/9PH01).
The AS and A-level physics course, in common with biology and chemistry, aims especially to foster imaginative and critical thinking and incorporate a number of themes. The AS physics course is made up of three units:

Unit 1 Physics on the Go
Rectilinear motion; forces; energy and power; fluid flow and viscosity; properties of materials and Young’s modulus.
External exam; 80 min; 40% of AS; 20% of full A level

Unit 2 Physics at Work
Waves; refraction; polarisation; diffraction; standing waves; Doppler effect; current electricity; photons; wave particle duality.
External exam; 80 min; 40% of AS; 20% of full A level

Unit 3 Exploring Physics
Either a case-study of an application of physics or a physics based visit (1200–1400 words), both with a related practical.
Internally marked; 20% of AS; 10% of full A level.
In the second year of the course, leading to A-level, a further 3 units are studied.

In addition to the themes above, these units also cover:

Unit 4 Physics on the Move
Momentum; circular motion; electric and magnetic fields; capacitors and discharge; particle physics; Standard Model; de Broglie.
External exam; 95 min; 20% of full A level.

Unit 5 Physics from Creation to Collapse
Thermal energy; specific heat; ideal gas equation; Boltzmann constant; nuclear decay; oscillations; SHM; astrophysics; gravitational fields; cosmology; fusion.
External exam; 95 min; 20% of full A level.

Unit 6 Experimental Physics
Plan (in advance), carry out an experiment, record measurements, analyse their own results and draw conclusions – no longer than two hours.
Internally marked; 10% of full A level.

Physics A level study is a requirement for many professions including architecture, all engineering disciplines and many medical branches - particularly radiography. As the most general of the sciences, Physics is a useful contrasting subject for students intending to study mainly the humanities or the performing arts.

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