Science Student - Stephen Smith

Can you do my homework 2?

• 11 Dec 06, 05:25 PM

Following the huge interest in and bitter disputes over the last lot of homework I posted on this public forum, I present the sequel: Can you do my homework 2?

1. The Earth has a radius of 6,400 km. What is the speed of Edinburgh at a Latitude 56º?

(a) 465 ms-1
(b) 386 ms-1
(c) 260 ms-1

Use the equation for kinetic energy Ek=1/2mv2 and change in gravitational potential energy Ep=mgh for the following questions.

2. A car of mass 850 kg which is moving at a speed of 10 ms-1 is acted upon by a braking force of 1500 N for a distance of 20 m. Calculate the final speed of the car.

(a) 3.81 ms-1
(b) 5.42 ms-1
(c) 7.98 ms-1

3. A 3 kW motor is used to lift a mass of 700 kg a height of 6.5 m. The operation takes 20 seconds. Calculate the efficiency of the motor lift.

(a) 74.3%
(b) 68.2%
(c) 49.9%

c, b, a?

• 2.
• At 07:28 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• John wrote:

For question 3, we should have been given the acceleration due to gravity.

• 3.
• At 07:34 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Tom wrote:

You assume acceleration due to gravity to be 9.81m/s unless told otherwise...

• 4.
• At 07:43 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Richard Brook wrote:

Acceleration due to gravity is usually given as 9.81 if I remember correctly from my physics A level. Some round it up to 10. Nothing to stop you now!

c)
b)
a)

• 6.
• At 07:53 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Bernard Graham wrote:

This is A level?
I thought (or hoped) that Physics was immune from general grade inflation.

A bit rusty since I took my Matriculation in 1946, and my career was in biology, but using first principles gave the answers
c)
b)
a)

• 8.
• At 08:00 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Bernard Graham wrote:

Post 3-Incorrect units for acceleration. Should be m/s/s

• 9.
• At 08:06 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Bernard Graham wrote:

Post 3
Incorrect units for acceleration-should be m/s/s

• 10.
• At 08:30 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Jeff wrote:

c, b, a is what I get too. I enjoyed doing these at A level and still do now. I agree with previous comments that education for its own sake is no longer valued and the "market value" of qualificatons is increasingly emphasised. And all those people who think Physics is boring should keep their mouths closed, because impressionable kids hear this from perceived authority figures and role models and it prejudices them. The image of the mathematical sciences and maths itself has been damaged by a public perception that they are boring and difficult and it is somehow ok to accept that and make no effort to appreciate or enjoy it. No-one would ever be heard to say "Oh I can't read at all" but people are all too ready to say "I'm rubbish at maths" or "Physics is boring". No wonder no-one wants to teach it and few people want to learn it.

• 11.
• At 09:20 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Prof. Humpage wrote:

I remeber when g = 32ft/sec/ square bushel !!

Question 2:

PE = 700 x6.5 * 9.81 (agree ?) = 44635.5 watts

i.e 44635.5/20
= 2331watts

input = 3000 watts

2331/3000 = 74%

quad errat demonstrandum ...(if you can remember what that stans for... suckers)

sorry folks: poor typing, the first part should pan out to be joules, not watts.

Prof

• 14.
• At 09:56 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Eric Le Boënnec wrote:

Well, quite some time I have not solved such issues. But I feel confortable to reply C, b and a.
As I could recall my much younger age, it is crucial to figure out first your units. So, how to express a newton and a watt in the international metric system? The rest is simple reasoning.

Cheers

• 15.
• At 09:59 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Stephen D wrote:

c,b,a too

question 1 is only referring to rotational speed about the earth's axis - it should have made that clearer.

I did my A level in 1984 and those questions would have been considered easy for O level. They are no more than basic manipulation of some of the simpler equations.

• 16.
• At 10:13 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Eddie Ward wrote:

Learn to speak English first,what are KG,MS,M,N etc? Gravity is 32 feet per second per second,reaching a max speed of 132 MPH in free fall.Many regards.

• 17.
• At 11:19 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Simon wrote:

I got them all wrong !!! Is there any chance that I can get some private, as in 1-on-1, tuition with the gorgeous & yummy Kathy Sykes? PLEASE ? I'll do anything...

• 18.
• At 11:20 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Safwaan Zamakda wrote:

Why choose to do a science?! I did a science as a AS subject and got a D. I got A grade in law, politics, sociology and english! Just shows how incompetent teachers are now!
*cough* grade inflation is a myth!

• 19.
• At 11:23 PM on 11 Dec 2006,

And why shouldn't the marketability of the subjects be stressed?

When you apply for a mortgage in the future, the mortgage company are going to want to look at your bank balance, not your academic interests!

A high bank balance is achieved by doing marketable subjects - not the most interesting ones!

Of course, it's great if you can combine a marketable and and an interesting subject but that isn't always the case.

In my opinion, all the Sciences are interesting - but their average pay is pitiful.

Pay the scientists the same wages footballers get paid and I promise you - more and more students will take up science.

It's all about money at the end of the day.

• 20.
• At 11:26 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• tehmenzies wrote:

This is indeed A-level work. I should know, I'm taking it at the moment. C, B, A is my sequence of answers, as posted by everyone else.

Jeff, pure mathematics is definitely perceived to be very boring, at least at A-level. It's the mechanics modules of the maths course which most of us tolerate, simply because we're at the stage of our careers where we prefer "real-world" problems.

• 21.
• At 11:28 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Jasper Kent wrote:

Everyone knows that Ep = mgh and Ek = 1/2mv2, (apologies for not having superscript or supscript).

However, it's always seemed to me that the question of whether efficiency is defined as useful energy/wasted energy or useful energy/expended energy is rather more arbitrary. This is the sort of thing that needs to be defined in the question.

(I do know the answer in practice, but philosophically I pretend not to.)

• 22.
• At 11:31 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Jeff wrote:

"Quod ERAT demonstrandum" or QED translates into "Quite easily done!"

• 23.
• At 11:33 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Craig Crennell wrote:

Pay physics teachers MORE !!!!
Simple!

& get me to actually do a, (with respect), informative report about Physic; what it actually is & why its continuation is so important- essential in fact!

Granted, you have shown many of the technological/ industrial aspects etc. which use the application of physics.

However the important aspect to realise about Physics & indeed fundamental scientific research all together is that we need it to develop new understanding, which will bring to us the spin-off applications & technologies to keep us all; warm, alive & of course entertained.

Craig Crennell
MPhys / Teacher / Frustrated Physics Enthusiast

• 24.
• At 11:37 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• mark brown wrote:

Bernard Graham MUST be a physics teacher, only physics teachers are so pedantic.

However the question setter needs to look to their rounding of answers

Answer 3a should be 74.4 (74.39 rounded to 1dp)not 74.3

Guess I could be a physics teacher?

• 25.
• At 11:37 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Simon G wrote:

Question 1 is sloppy - speed of Edinburgh with respect to what? If (as you seem to wish to imply) with respect to an observer fixed at the centre of the Earth then the answer is (c). But the Earth goes around the Sun in a period of 1 year so the speed of Edinburgh with respect to the Sun is (on average) about 30 km/s! The speed of Edinburgh with respect to Betelgeuse is again something different. It's all relative!

• 26.
• At 11:37 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Stuart Wilson wrote:

1.C.

2.b.

3.a

Yes humpage, correct.

Gotta say, how I miss easy A level Physics but theres nothing quite like Maxwells equations and electrodynamics for bedtime reading...

• 27.
• At 11:38 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Francis wrote:

Yeah, they were okay (13 years after graduating in Physics :). As it's multiple choice, it doesn't matter if you pick 9.81 m/s2 or 10 m/s2, as you get close enough.

As far as Jeff's comments go, I've thought about teaching but a) the money's not THAT good b) I'm not sure I'm the person to keep a classroom under control. If there was a way to teach in a classroom on a one-off basis (with the teacher supervising), I'm sure they could get a lot of keen Physics graduates into school, with lots of real-world experience to boot.

• 28.
• At 11:40 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Matt Deaves wrote:

You know, I found this article quite astounding. It claimed time and again that there is a shortage of skilled scientists in the UK and yet my own experiences would suggest there is significantly more farse than honesty in this.
I have a Bachelors in "Chemistry with Management & Economics", a Masters in "Industrial & Applied Chemistry" and a PhD in "Green Chemistry & Clean Technology" and to date I am yet to find a job that will even come close to making use of my skills. In fact, I'm delighted to have been given the opportunity to take my skills to the other side of the world where, in Brisbane Australia, I am set to be adequately rewarded (and remunerated) for the last 10+ years of dedication to my studies.
The current climate mocks my hard work and devalues the time, effort and money I have invested - an investment I thought one day could be used by the supposedly progressive scientific community for the good of the country and the world as a whole.
Please don't tell me there are no skilled scientists in the UK when there is nothing to indicate any company, institution or political persuasion is inclined to offer any justification for the gaining of qualifications such that I, and a great number of my compatriots, have struggled for. It disappoints me that so many of us need to leave in order to ply our trade.

• 29.
• At 11:40 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Colin Watters wrote:

Am I the only one that thinks Q3 is a bit odd? I would have thought a lift motor would run at a near constant speed rather than a constant power output.

A better question might have been..

A 5KW rated motor draws an average of 10A from a 300VDC supply while lifing a mass of 700 kg a height of 6.5 m. The operation takes 20 seconds. Calculate the efficiency of the lift motor.

or what do you think?

• 30.
• At 11:41 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Pedant 1 wrote:

Strictly speaking, on question 1 the frame of reference should be stated. Bear in mind that the Earth itself is not only rotating, but is also moving through space at a considerable velocity. Similarly you cannot base the calculation on the time it takes the Earth to return to the same position relative to the Sun as the Earth will have moved on by then.

Sadly, I fear that relegating Physics to mere applied maths problems (and applied technology in some of the current A levels) is what is killing interest in the subject in our schools.

• 31.
• At 11:47 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Andrew Caruana wrote:

according to my calculations the answers are C,B,A. I am a first year physics student at loughborough uni, and i am glad to see an emphasis on getting more people in to physics there is a lack of us about and our country needs them. This was also a nice set of warm up questions for my mechanics revision that i need to start for my module exam in january.
cheers

• 32.
• At 11:50 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Lozzer wrote:

c,b,a is correct.
These might feature in an Alevel exam, but it would be very simplistic to assume that they represent A level standard. There will be easier questions as well, but I guess most of the A level generation from 30 years ago would struggle with questions about quarks or boltzmann factor which they might get in a current paper.

• 33.
• At 11:59 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
• Trevor Clarke wrote:

Yes, I agree - c,b,a are the answers. Aren't these old 'O' level GCE standard questions though, rather than 'A' level?

• 34.
• At 12:03 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
• Mark wrote:

c,b,a.

(I thought the most difficult bit was trying to remember if latitude 0 was the equator or the pole.)
But I think you're doing the wrong exam. This must be the GCSE surely ? Please tell your reporter to do the A-level ?
PS - how about he tries the Physics O-level (not A-level) from 1970 afterwards, and sees which one he finds harder ? I think this would be a very useful comparison.

Also what is the obsession with numbers?
E.g. for question 1, if the earth has a radius of "r" metres, and a town T is at latitude theta degrees, what is the linear velocity ?
No calculators required.

Oh - and please get rid of the multi-choice answers too ! I have a 33.3% chance of getting each question right without even understanding it ?

So how long is it before decent schools drop the maths A-level and everyone is doing STEP instead ?

• 35.
• At 12:09 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
• James wrote:

Re post 10: that public perception is amplified by media that are populated, with a few notable exceptions, by people who found maths and science too difficult or boring. And as for engineers... don't they wear brown overalls and operate presses? Or do they repair washing machines? The overloading of the word and the consequent trivialisation of the role of engineers and scientists in creating the technologies, products and services we all take for granted makes me despair.
Would have been nice if Stephen Smith's visit to Siemens could have touched on what a typical physicist there might do.

Oh, sorry, that would be Horizon.

Whoops, I nearly forgot: Horizon no longer assumes its audience's attention span is longer than 30 seconds

The answers are c,b,a but there are some extra things that you need to assume to answer the questions (perhaps the fashion now is to teach these things rather than have them clear in the question?).
BTW Question 'a' is not very well constructed - the earth spins on its axis, but it also moves through space.

Not very taxing, but fun.
This doesn't seem tough enough for A-level: I covered things like atomic theory, black body radiation and special relativity in mine.

Dan

• 37.
• At 12:29 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
• Mr Rob wrote:

Muhammed - agreed. A friend of mine who got her degree in electronic engineering just two years ago has recently given up her job in radio-frequency engineering to take a higher paid job with a national newspaper.

Eddie & Prof. Humpage - I was born into the metric age, but working out the above problems in Imperial units would perhaps make the A-level questions a more worthy challenge to the metric kids.

• 38.
• At 12:36 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
• clive robinson wrote:

Interested to see the comments - Qu 1 is just elementary trig, Qu 2 uses the equations of uniformly accelerated motion, Qu 3 needs you to know what potential energy is. When I was at school, if I couldn't have done these questions by the start of the 4th year (ie, the year before O level), I'd have been worried (my A level was 1974). Is this seriously meant to be A level? How the hell is anyone supposed to move from this kindergarden stuff to Maxwell's equations, quantum mechanics etc etc in a year or so? I feel really sorry for those of today's kids who might actually be interested in physics

• 39.
• At 01:30 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
• Colin W wrote:

A minor error in question 1:

As others have noted (e.g posts #15 & #25) the question appears to refer only to the rotational speed of the earth about its axis. However, the earth rotates on its axis in about 23 hours and 56 minutes (the extra 4 minutes in a day is accounted for by the earth’s rotation about the sun).

Using 23:56 instead of 24:00 hours gives an answer closer to 261 ms-1 (and not 260 ms-1).

• 40.
• At 01:47 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
• steven wrote:

I am a medical student, i studied physics at A level and got an A. It is not as hard as you are making it look. the problem is that steve together with Paxman and makers of newsnight probably never touched Physics or maths or any other sciency subjects with a barge pole in school.No wonder you guys make it look like rocket science on newsnight. Actually it is easier than writing an english essay. it is the fear of the unknown. Once you know how to solve an equation you will get to enjoy physics very much.

• 41.
• At 01:55 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
• steven wrote:

I am a medical student, i studied physics at A level and got an A. It is not as hard as you are making it look. the problem is that steve together with Paxman and makers of newsnight probably never touched Physics or maths or any other sciency subjects with a barge pole in school.No wonder you guys make it look like rocket science on newsnight. Actually it is easier than writing an english essay. it is the fear of the unknown. Once you know how to solve an equation you will get to enjoy physics very much.

• 42.
• At 01:58 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
• Livid wrote:

For variation I answered the questions in reverse and obtained: a,b,c :D
Other pedantic points: the Earth is an oblate spheroid and so latitude has to be modified blah blah blah. (You get extra points for blahing)

Do modern A-level Physics courses just focus on mechanics up until Christmas?

Where are the beloved Electricity problems?

• 43.
• At 04:25 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
• Ian Fryatt wrote:

How do you mark the student who says that, as the earth is 150E+9 m approx for the sun, so orbiting the sun at a speed little under 30E+3 m/s therefore all the answers to the speed of Edinburgh are a little low relative to the sun and is not the galaxy rotating too.

Also would not yesterday’s ball have to been thrown in a vacuum

• 44.
• At 08:30 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
• Rory Hammond wrote:

Question 1 would have been a typical Oxbridge scholarship question in the 1950s. You would have been expected to explore articulately, and numerately, several of the endless possibilities for an answer that the question poses. It is in the same league as an actual question of the time (Oxford, I think) which asked "If a drawer with two handles is pulled out by one handle, when does jamming commence?"
Multiple choice, of course, makes a nonsense of the whole thing.

• 45.
• At 08:36 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
• Liz wrote:

Colin no! If you run up a hill using the same effort the whole way and you are as unfit as me, you will probably be crawling (and going much slower) by the time you get to the top. If the motor works at constant power as it's 'work' increases (i.e. as it moves the block higher and works harder against gravity) then it will slow down.

Q1) Should it be speed? Doesn't the earth have direction and therefore velocity or rather rotational velocity? Or perhaps I'm over complicating and if we use speed we can remove vectors and it's easier. Yes ok. Sorry.

I am amazed by the number of middle aged (hmm perhaps 'middle' is polite?) with absolute accurate recollections of A levels taken in 1974 and O levels taken 2 yrs previously.

Although these do seem quite simple, they are just homework aren't they? and isn't the point of that to demonstrate understanding of basic principles and work up confidence? They are preparation for A level, not necessarily A level standard yet.

• 46.
• At 10:50 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
• Chris wrote:

Please tell me this the homework from your very first lesson. No wonder universities are dumbing down their curriculum. When I left university they were talking of offering Physics without either A level maths or Physics as a prerequisite. No wonder, when this is the standard of A levels these days.

• 47.
• At 11:02 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
• Stephen D wrote:

Liz almost has a fair point. They could be of preparation standard, but only for O levels. The skills required are very basic, you do not even need to analyse the problems to sort out which topics are being examined and which equations you should be using (from memory). We were doing (expected to do?) all of those at O level, without multiple choice.

But maybe it is best to wait and see how the curriculum and work develops. I remember my 1st year at maths in Uni it started off at the basics - almost o level stuff - but had covered most of the A level syllabus in under 3 weeks and then went into tough stuff like partial differential equations and fourier analsyis and i went into law school pdq.

• 48.
• At 02:00 PM on 12 Dec 2006,
• Brennan wrote:

cba.

Une,ployed Physics graduate (after 5 years)... maybe I should contact those nice fellows at Siemens.

Doesn't QED translate as 'as previously shown'?

• 49.
• At 10:53 PM on 12 Dec 2006,
• Will wrote:

Just to point out (as someone who recently took Physics A level) that the actual exam is not multiple choice, and there is a fairly large chunk of questions which begin "Explain why..." or "Discuss...", and they usually carry a lot more marks. It annoys me to read posts by those older than myself mocking the simplicity of the A Level, when they base the structure of the entire thing on a few fun questions offered by Newsnight.

• 50.
• At 11:14 AM on 13 Dec 2006,
• David M wrote:

Firstly, those questions are actually harder in my mind than most of the calculations in both AS and A level papers as you might actually have to think but (although you didn't have to describe any experiments/processes ie. learn what the mark scheme wants you to say.)

Secondly, in relation to Physics not having grade inflation, in my mind it is THE WORST subject for this. Here is a gem from one of our mock Module 3 papers: "True or false, does a photon have charge?" oh and there was another one where we had to draw a line from a list of boxes to their corresponding answers. Also, the only thing we learn about relativity is E=mc^2 in the whole course and get questions like, if an object of 3kg was raised by 100m, how much more mass would it have.

Anyway, thirdly, there are two reasons why there aren't good physics graduates: a number of mathematicians that could take physics don't because they are put off by teachers or the course at GCSE (I know people applying to Oxford for Maths saying they don't GET physics), and the other reason is that they've made the course so easy it's not challenging and people get bored easily.

Sorry that was a bit long, but it just annoys me!

>> Secondly, in relation to Physics not having grade inflation, in my mind it is THE WORST subject for this.

>> why there aren't good physics graduates ... is that they've made the course so easy it's not challenging and people get bored easily.

In my opinion this is the core of the problem with physics... The powers that be have decided that, since there are so desperately few people taking physics A-level, the problem is that it's too difficult and challenging, therefore they have to make the syllabus easier and less taxing in order to attract people into the subject. Whereas, the reality is that people are being put off physics A-level *because* it's so trivial, boring and pointless.

The sooner the Institute of Physics realises this and starts pushing for (correct) reform in physics teaching, the better. Unfortunately, at the moment, I think the IoP might be part of the problem.

btw, this is speaking as a 1st year physics post graduate (having just finished a physics degree) who completed my A-levels four years ago...

• 52.
• At 05:35 PM on 13 Dec 2006,
• peter wrote:

Slight correction:On Monday in you piece where you visited the Siemens factory - manufacturing magnets for MRI scanners. The director tried to explain a fundamental electronics rule which he got the wrong way round. He said ( or words to this effect), the fingers indicate the direction of current and the thumb pointing upwards indicates magnetic field. If he was referring to Fleming's right hand rule which I think he was, then it should be the other way round. A bit pedantic I know, but to mis-inform is to mislead. I suppose if my comments are published, you would also get linquists bemoaning about my grammar!

• 53.
• At 02:16 AM on 14 Dec 2006,
• Mark Goodall wrote:

The answers are c, b, a.

But I am not impressed with the quality of the questions; they are sloppy. I presume they were written by the physics teacher who demonstrated poor understanding, poor coummunciation skills and very poor English. The lack of a definition of efficiency and the lack of a specification for the velocity of Edinburgh were poor.

I am appalled by the quality of the teaching and if that class is indicative of modern English classes I am not surprised European students are a year ahead at the same age.

I've really enjoyed this discussion. Let's face it science, and in particular physics, will never have the mass appeal of other subjects such as media studies etc (in which you only have to spell your name correctly to get top marks).

It's a pity, but a fact of life.

• 55.
• At 01:30 PM on 14 Dec 2006,
• Matt wrote:

> If he was referring to Fleming's right hand rule which I think he was, then it should be the other way round. A bit pedantic I know, but to mis-inform is to mislead.

It wasn't Fleming's right hand rule, it was the Right-hand grip rule. If you grip a wire (with your right hand) so that your thumb points in the direction of conventional current, then magnetic field lines will circle the wire in the direction of your wrapped fingers.

By applying this to a current element in a winding on an electromagnet (solenoid), you can show that the Right hand grip rule can similarly describe the magnetic field from the end of an electromagnet; the thumb will point in the direction of the field (emerging from the end of the solenoid, or running through it's core) if the curled fingers point in the direction of the current running through it.

Fleming's Right (and left) hand rule(s) are for relating the direction of forces acting on moving charges (currents) through a magnetic field.

>> Let's face it science, and in particular physics, will never have the mass appeal of other subjects

But it could still have a lot more appeal than it does now, if only the exams boards would have the courage to design a meaningful A-level syllabus (or if physics teachers had the courage to go beyond the exam specification and *teach* a meaningful syllabus).

• 56.
• At 09:33 PM on 14 Dec 2006,
• Jeff wrote:

Re. post 55: Physics teachers and teachers in general often do not have the freedom to go off the syllabus in the time allowed. The pressures of the National Curriculum and the GCSE/A level Syllabi are such that it would be tantamount to professional irresponsibility to fly solo and offer enrichment during class time. Some teachers in some schools may be able to achieve this, but in general the system is not conducive to it. Teachers are often blamed for the subject being boring, but the current climate implicitly promotes teaching to the test and explicitly promotes focussing on assessment criteria rather than promoting a passion for the subject. As well as this, there are a number of new subjects that are ostensibly more interesting and have an automatic wider appeal. This broadening of the education system is to be welcomed, but it should be recognised that as a consequence, interest in the more traditional and less obviously engaging subjects will dwindle. The brute fact is that academia and high achievement in the traditional subjects is no longer so clearly valued by those with the loudest voices. This goes a lot deeper than the simplistic notion that Physics teachers are boring or incompetent - they are in the main dedicated professionals with a love for their subject, and attempting against all the odds to teach a subject that is undervalued by students, the media and contemporary celebrity culture. It is absurd that the blame should lie at the feet of those people who give their careers to attempting to educate a generation that are conditioned to have preconceptions about science and maths. Educational values need to be promoted from an early age, and this is the responsibility of everyone. Any ideas how we could do this?

• 57.
• At 10:35 PM on 14 Dec 2006,
• Chris wrote:

Pedant1, Physics is a branch of maths (some people, rightly or wrongly call it applied).

"Sadly, I fear that relegating Physics to mere applied maths problems is what is killing interest in the subject in our schools."

What else is there to use it on?

If you're considering TV science documentary type content, you have to realise they're for the layman, and are not designed to train the learner to be any more than just that.

• 58.
• At 12:56 AM on 15 Dec 2006,
• Matt wrote:

>> Physics teachers ... often do not have the freedom to go off the syllabus in the time allowed ... it would be tantamount to professional irresponsibility to ... offer enrichment during class time.

Sorry, I don't believe you. As I have mentioned above, I sat A-level four years ago. I was bored stiff because the lessons had no content in them. I remember spending literally weeks going over suvat and suvat questions (see "Can you do my homework" 1) that were a waste of time anyway because we'd done it all in maths Mechanics. I'm not talking about introducing rafts of new material, re-writing the syllabus from scratch. I'm just talking about going marginally further than the one-liners in the A-level specification and teaching to the text books.

> they are in the main dedicated professionals with a love for their subject, and attempting against all the odds to teach a subject that is undervalued by students

Just because they're passionate doesn't necessarily mean that they're any good. I thought we had a shortage of physics teachers? Does that mean we're left with all the good ones, and it's only the mediocre physics graduates who are abandoning teaching as a profession?

Has A-level physics syllabus content decreased or increased over the years? I was under the impression that it had decreased. (I don't mind being corrected if this is wrong.) However, if so, has the length of the school day (or, at least, the proportion of it handed over to physics lessons) similarly, propotionately, decreased? Hmmm... Possibly not? Out of the three subjects I did at A-level (maths, physics, chemistry) I felt physics was pitifully devoid of content. Really, honestly empty compared to the others. Bearing in mind that---I think---there was still stuff on A-level that we'd already studied for GCSE? (I'm thinking basic electricity, energy stuff). A bit like how we spent an entire semester, in one module, in the first year of my physics degree learning angular dynamical equations, even though it's just the same as linear dynamics but with the symbols swapped over.

> but the current climate implicitly promotes teaching to the test and explicitly promotes focussing on assessment criteria rather than promoting a passion for the subject

I don't understand this 'teaching to the test'. I mean, I know that we *were* "taught to the test", but by limiting the taught subject to the prescribed curriculum, and no further. It's not that "all of their time is spent teaching to the test". They just don't bother with the rest of it. "Teaching to the test" means an absence of work, not extra effort. I specifically remember, as a related example, my chemistry teacher whinging about all the material that the exam board had removed from our syllabus. What was he going to teach in the gaps and in the free time that had opened up? Nothing, he just didn't bother. Maybe I'm missing something. What, actually, is this "climate" and what, functionally, is it doing to "promote focussing on assessment criteria rather than promoting a passion for the subject"?

I can think, specifically, of so many occasions when my physics teacher put-off explanations and refused to discuss details---after being asked by us students---just because we "didn't need to know" and it wasn't on the curriculum. What a ridiculous attitude. Teachers like to whinge a lot about the dictation from the exam boards, but, from my memory, in practise, they'll just roll over and accept it all without question. Why is that?

I dunno... Maybe I'm just a miserable old fart already.

c, b, a sounds right.

• 60.
• At 11:45 PM on 15 Dec 2006,
• Gav wrote:

As a current A-level Physics student...can I make one point quite clear right now...THESE ARE NOT TYPICAL A-LEVEL QUESTIONS. For a start, A-level Physics questions are very rarely multiple choice and they usually are much longer than this.

A typical A-level question would now usually start off by asking the student to define some quantity by means of an equation (or in some cases will be asked to derive it given a starting point), the question usually then procedes in a fairly logical manner asking students to do various calculations relating to the information given, with each section of the question getting gradually harder, then there is usually either quite a tricky numerical problem to finish the question or a question requiring more qualitative knowledge and the ability to construct an argument based on the physics you've just done. this is usually to test who really understands the concepts, and who just crunches the numbers.

I admit that this is probably still easier than the 'old' A-level Physics, but the modular framework of A-levels is now partially to blame since there is only room to test the relations between different concepts of physics (the jargon for this being Synoptic Assessment) towards the end of the second year in an exam that typically counts for roughly 20% of the marks. I think getting rid of the modular system would help the exams to become more challenging again, more interestng problems could be set and solved. However, the point I initially wanted to make is that Stephen's questions are NOT typical A-level problems! :)

• 61.
• At 07:47 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
• Tony Burleton wrote:

I couldn't possibly comment on the questions; way beyond my limited knowledge of Maths, but I was surprised to see my name and e mail address already entered in the space above. Tony Burleton

• 62.
• At 07:49 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
• Tony Burleton wrote:

I couldn't possibly comment on the questions; way beyond my limited knowledge of Maths, but I was surprised to see my name and e mail address already entered in the space above. Tony Burleton

• 63.
• At 10:17 AM on 10 Jan 2007,
• Semantics wrote:

Some thirty years ago my daughter told me that QED meant Quite Easily Done (Post 22). I thought it was a good joke but she was serious. Possibly a teacher had told her. The meaning given at Post 48 is also incorrect, the literal translation being "which was to be proved".

With regard to the view that physics is a branch of mathematics and is only useful for applied mathematics problems (Post 57), physics is a study of the the behavior of the physical universe. Mathematics should be regarded as the language of physics. Boundaries between disciplines do become blurred at some points, for example at the nuclear level between physics and chemistry. Applied mathematics is a branch of physics along with the classical branches of heat, light, sound, properties of matter, electricity and magnetism etc.

Any child who wishes to gain insight into why physical things, such as a rainbow, happen as they do, rather than just accepting them, will be inspired to study physics. Of course, the initial stages may seem dull and uninteresting, like a long gentle trek at the start of a mountain climb, but the there should be the encouragement of a site of the uplands to maintain enthusiasm. That is the job of the teacher.

c, b, a is correct if I still remember my A-levels :)

Seems c, b, a is correct. Where are the plans to make a-levels harder?

• 66.
• At 05:03 PM on 20 Mar 2008,
• jibran lagan wrote:

A boy has made a model ship with a mass of 1.1Kg and a volume of 900 cm3.Will it float on water[Density of water is 1000 Kg/m-3]Explain?

This post is closed to new comments.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites