IDC4U - Physics Enrichment Program, Grade 12, University Preparation

Credit value: 1

General description
This course combines the expectations for Interdisciplinary Studies, Grade 12, University Preparation with selected expectations from two or more other courses (e.g., Advanced Learning Strategies: Skills for Success after Secondary School, Grade 12, Open; World History: The West and the World, Grade 12, University Preparation; Philosophy: The Big Questions, Grade 11, Open; College and Apprenticeship Mathematics, Grade 12, University Preparation; Computer and Information Science, Grade 12, University/College Preparation).

This course develops problem-solving skills in Physics at the level that exceeds the expectations of the Grade 12 curriculum. Problems that appear contradictory or paradoxical at first will be paid a particular attention to. Students interested in pursuing Physics studies at the University level will find the course of particular interest, as well as those interested in participating in Physics problem-solving competitions. The course provides in-depth coverage of a select group of topics, focusing on identifying and building connections across the discipline. An applied introduction to Calculus and a variety of topics on the historical evolution of scientific ideas and of the scientific method of inquiry are included. Students will learn strategies for appropriate use of computing and on-line resources. A variety of functional settings will be offered, including individual problem-solving and peer-group investigations, both theoretical and experimental. Students will have an opportunity for presenting their work publicly and for rigorous self-assessment, learning to defend and strengthen their ideas and solutions.

Prerequisites: any university/college preparation course; math competence at Grade 11 level is assumed.

Overall Expectations
By the end of this course, students will:
  • demonstrate skill at identifying and applying a variety of problem-solving skills to challenging problems in Physics;
  • demonstrate an understanding of deep connections across the various fields of Physics, and an ability to draw on these connections in practical contexts;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the different strategies and approaches used in selecting mathematical and computational methods that are appropriate for a given problem;
  • demonstrate an ability to communicate their solutions and ideas effectively to others, to identify weaknesses in their own arguments as well as those of others, and to pursue scientific inquiry with the highest degree of integrity.

Specific Expectations
In preparation.

Course Outline
In general, roughly half of the class time will be devoted to problem solving, with the balance being dedicated to mini-lectures on topics not covered in the standard curriculum, problem-based tutorials, and individual and group project work. A significant fraction of time will take the form of hands-on, experimental investigations.

The course outline below is tentative and will evolve over the course of the semester. Some topics already listed may not be covered, and some not listed yet will be added. Each of the topics below is intended for a 1-2 week discussion, but mathematical and other detours will arise, so this is only an approximation.

  • Dimensionality and an Introduction to Similarity Methods
    • Mixing letters and numbers
    • The world where everything has size = 1
    • If it walks like a duck... deriving equations from almost nothing
    • What a drag! From a bacterium to a Hollywood blockbuster
    • Experimental: a falling sphere viscometer
  • How to use a computer
    • In defence of a slide rule
    • The doodlings of a physicist: the importance of a good drawing
    • Casino royale for James, Monte-Carlo for the rest of us
    • Experimental: algorithmic programming
  • The BIG ideas of Mechanics
    • Why Calculus? Newton's legacy
    • Force or Potential Energy? Alternate descriptions of mechanics
    • Simple Harmonic Oscillators everywhere!
    • Experimental: box-cart integration and the Schlieren effect
  • Is everything a conservation law?
    • "Captain, the warp engines are still down, but we can escape with a slingshot maneuver!"
    • What exactly is conserved when a ball rolls down an inclined plane?
    • Not so obvious: what if conservation laws appear to contradict each other?
    • Spin and tumble: when CGI goes wrong
    • Do birds fly through clouds?
    • Why we never see the other side of the moon
    • Experimental: precession
  • Syphons, fountains and other tricks of the ancients
    • Hidden forces on a He balloon, on water in a sliding glass, on ...
    • Eureka! or what makes a Greek philosopher run naked through the streets
    • The fountains of Rome: making the water run upstream?
    • Experimental: fun with a garden hose
  • Loud and louder
    • Bels and tenths of bels
    • Can you warm up by a ... loudspeaker?
    • Eeee-awww... that's fast, man!
    • The sonic boom: so fast it's loud; so loud it's visible
    • Running fast to just stand still (and sound good!)
    • Sonoluminescence
    • Fourier series and transforms
    • Experimental: physics of musical instruments
  • Heat, energy, and the fate of the Universe
    • The meaning of never: monkeys and Shakespeare
    • Maxwell's demon
    • Black body radiation
    • The best way to move energy from place to place
    • Experimental: filament burnout
  • Rays and waves
    • The art of optical illusions: candle burning under water
    • Variational principle: a mechanistic view of optics
    • Men of Principle: Heron, Huygens, Fermat, Snell, Hamilton, Lagrange, Feynmann
    • Reflection and bending, and when to do which
    • Wavelength of light as a yardsick (Newton's rings, interferometry)
    • Experimental:
  • What does a time warp look like? - learning to think about relativity
  • "Physics is finished, young man" - the beginnings of Quantum Physics
    • A different kind of Christmas story: saving the world from UV catasrophe
    • "And some of the cannonballs came back!"
    • Atomic melodies
    • Wanted: a cat, needs to be available on short notice
    • If a tree falls down in a forest and nobody hears it...
    • Oh, what tangled webs we weave
    • Experimental: Franck-Hertz experiment, Faraday rotation

Grading criteria are available from the the Co-Op Education at SWC. They are, in turn, based on the guidelines of the Ontario Ministry of Education.