Contemporary science issues
The VCE Physics Study Design enables students to engage with contemporary science-related issues by building their capacities to explain phenomena scientifically, design and evaluate scientific investigations, and draw evidence-based conclusions. Students see how science works as a process by undertaking their own scientific investigations that involve generating, collecting and analysing data and exploring the nature of evidence.
Teachers are advised to provide students with learning opportunities that allow students to critically evaluate the stories, claims, discoveries and inventions about science they hear and read in the media and to examine the relevance of science in their everyday lives.
The following table shows how students can draw links between scientific concepts studied across Units 1 to 4 and their applications in relation to issues discussed in the media.
|Unit ||Concept ||Issues |
|1 ||Thermodynamic principles|
- Determination of energy ratings of home appliances and fittings
- Global warming
- Bushfire prevention strategies
|2 ||Acceleration, force and momentum|
- Effectiveness of car safety features, for example, seat belts, child restraints, air bags, automatic braking systems
- Safe speed limits
- Development of buoyancy vests and swimming aids for young children
|3 ||Magnetic fields|
- Development of high speed trains, for example Maglev trains
- Effects of electromagnetic fields on human health, for example, high voltage power lines
- Safety of personal electromagnetic devices, for example, WiFi and mobile phone links to cancer
|4 ||Properties of light|
- Optical ratings of polarising lenses
- Effects of exposure to ‘blue light’ emitted by electronics and energy-efficient light bulbs
Sourcing contemporary science issues
Contemporary physics issues, discussions, reports, research and debates are accessible through the media or the internet. In particular, access to up-to-date information enables selection of topics for the student-selected thermodynamics issue in Unit 1, Area of Study 1, and background research into the practical investigations in Units 2 and across Units 3 and 4. Teachers may also adapt research scenarios and reports to create assessment tasks (see
Suggested approaches to assessment tasks), for example data analysis, explanation or evaluation of a device or physical model, media analysis/response or a reflective blog/learning journal in response to an issue, where students are expected to apply their understanding of physics concepts in unfamiliar situations. Although original physics research reports are accessible, many require subscription and most are written for a research audience. For secondary school purposes, teachers and students may access reports, videos and summaries of contemporary physics research and expert commentary through popular science journals (for example, Cosmos), online general interest resources such as The Conversation and science media outlets where areas of interest can be filtered (for example
Australian Science and