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Key concepts: Physics

Key concepts are the big ideas and understandings that we hope will remain with our students long after they have left school.

The following are key concepts/big ideas in physics:

The universe is made of matter and energy

At the smallest level, matter is made of elementary particles which have mass and charge. On a large scale, matter ranges from everyday objects to vast galaxy super-clusters. Energy has many different forms.

The universe evolves by means of interactions

All interactions involve matter and energy and take place through forces, fields, and energy transformations.

Some quantities are conserved

Underlying these interactions and transformations are laws of conservation – energy and charge cannot be created or destroyed. This means that overall they remain unchanged by an interaction or transformation.

There are four fundamental forces

All interactions originate in four fundamental forces of nature. The force of gravity acts between all bodies and depends on their masses. The electromagnetic force acts between charged particles or between magnetic poles and is responsible for electric and magnetic fields and electric currents. The strong and weak nuclear forces operate between protons and neutrons in the nuclei of atoms, holding them together and sometimes resulting in radioactive decay.

Waves carry energy

Energy propagates through materials and space by means of various types of waves, for example, sound waves in air, seismic waves through the earth, electromagnetic waves, including light that may travel through materials or empty space.

Last updated May 23, 2012