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VCE Science

Physics Unit 3 - How Do Fields Explain Motion and Electricity?


Students are advised to complete Physics Units 1 and 2 before undertaking Physics Unit 3. Mathematical Methods is strongly recommended.

Course Description

In this unit students explore the importance of energy in explaining and describing the physical world. They examine the production of electricity and its delivery to homes. Students consider the field model as a construct that has enabled an understanding of why objects move when they are not apparently in contact with other objects. Applications of concepts related to fields include the transmission of electricity over large distances and the design and operation of particle accelerators. They explore the interactions, effects and applications of gravitational, electric and magnetic fields. Students use Newton’s laws to investigate motion in one and two dimensions, and are introduced to Einstein’s theories to explain the motion of very fast objects. They consider how developing technologies can challenge existing explanations of the physical world, requiring a review of conceptual models and theories. Students design and undertake investigations involving at least two continuous independent variables.

Areas of Study

How do things move without contact?

In this area of study students examine the similarities and differences between three fields: gravitational, electric and magnetic. Field models are used to explain the motion of objects when there is no apparent contact. Students explore how positions in fields determine the potential energy of an object and the force on an object. They investigate how concepts related to field models can be applied to construct motors, maintain satellite orbits and to accelerate particles.

How are fields used to move electrical energy around?

The production, distribution and use of electricity has had a major impact on human lifestyles. In this area of study students use empirical evidence and models of electric, magnetic and electromagnetic effects to explain how electricity is produced and delivered to homes. They explore magnetic fields and the transformer as critical to the performance of electrical distribution systems.

How fast can things go?

In this area of study students use Newton’s laws of motion to analyse relative motion, circular motion and projectile motion. Newton’s laws of motion give important insights into a range of motion both on Earth and beyond. At very high speeds, however, these laws are insufficient to model motion and Einstein’s theory of special relativity provides a better model. Students compare Newton’s and Einstein’s explanations of motion and evaluate the circumstances in which they can be applied. They explore the relationships between force, energy and mass.


Outcomes Assessment Tasks Marks Allocated
(school-assessed coursework)

Analyse gravitational, electric and magnetic fields, and use these to explain the operation of motors and particle accelerators and the orbits of satellites.

At least one task selected from the following (approximately 50 minutes or not exceeding 1000 words for each task):

  • Annotations of at least two practical activities.
  • a practical logbook.
  • A report of a student investigation.
  • A report of a physics phenomenon.
  • Data analysis.
  • Media analysis/response.
  • Design, building, testing and evaluation of a device.
  • An explanation of the operation of a device.
  • A proposed solution to a scientific or technological problem.
  • A response to structured questions.
  • A reflective learning journal or blog related to selected activities or in response to an issue.
  • A test (short answer and extended response).
Analyse and evaluate an electricity generation and distribution system. Analysis and evaluation of stimulus material. At least one task (which is different from the task/s selected for Outcomes 1 and 3) selected from the list in Outcome 1. 30
Investigate motion and related energy transformations experimentally, analyse motion using Newton’s laws of motion in one and two dimensions, and explain the motion of objects moving at very large speeds using Einstein’s theory of special relativity. Analysis and evaluation of stimulus material. At least one task (which is different from the task/s selected for Outcomes 1 and 2) selected from the list in Outcome 1. 30
Total Marks 90