Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 8

SCIENCE 10 - Probing the Physical World

Module 1
THE PHYSICAL WORLD: AN OVERVIEW

Introduction

Where do we come from? What are we made of? How did life on earth start? These are some
of the questions regarding our existence that science has been pondering for centuries. An-
cient people tried to answer these questions by formulating theories that could explain our
existence. With the advancement of mathematics, science, and technology, these theories
have been tested through scientific discoveries and experiments. Science 10 introduces you to
these widely accepted theories regarding the origin of the universe and life here on earth,
from the fields of physics, chemistry, and geology. It should be noted, however, that these
validated theories may still not be the absolute answers to questions regarding our existence
as science continues to advance and currently accepted theories are tested further.

In this module, we begin the course by defining the physical world and finding out how it is
being studied by physics, chemistry, and geology. We will also discuss the importance of
studying and understanding our physical world.

Learning Outcomes

After studying the module, you should be able to:


1. Define the physical world or explain what is meant the term ‘physical world’ refers to;
2. Describe how it is studied in physics, chemistry, and geology; and
3. Explain why it is important to study and understand the physical world.

1.0 What is the physical world?

—————————————————————————————————————
Activity 1

Read Chapter 3 - What is Reality? of the book The Grand Design by Hawking and Mlodi-
now (a copy of the reading is available at the SCIENCE 10 course site on your VLE) and an-
swer the following study questions:

1. How did classical science define the physical world?


2. What is the limitation of this definition of the physical world?
3. How did modern science expound on the definition of the physical world?
4. What are the elements of a good model?
—————————————————————————————————————

Page 1
! of 8
!
SCIENCE 10 - Probing the Physical World

In classical science, the physical world was considered real (it exists) to the extent that it
could be perceived through the senses. This is based on the philosophical concept of realism.
Thus, based on this definition, all of the things that we can see with the naked eye are part of
the physical world. This definition of the physical world, however, excludes things that are
invisible or that cannot be seen by the naked eye.

Modern science reconfigured this definition by introducing a concept called model-dependent


realism. This concept makes use of models or representations of objects to define their physi-
cal properties (such as dimensions, mass, density, etc.) and explain their interactions with
other objects (which will consequently reveal their other properties, such as chemical proper-
ties.). With this definition of the physical world, things that are not seen with our naked eye,
such as atoms and molecules, can now be represented by models or representations that will
aid us in studying their properties and interactions. In turn, these models or representations
help us to better interpret and understand the wholeness of the physical world.

Basically, the physical world refers to the inanimate objects in the universe. The components
of the physical world range from elementary particles to light and heavy elements, stars, gal-
axies, and planetary systems; from molecules to supramolecules; and from the earth to its
spheres — geosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere.

2.0 How do we study the physical world?

—————————————————————————————————————
Activity 2

Read the articles listed below and answer the study questions indicated for each (a copy of
each reading is available at the SCIENCE 10 course site on your VLE).

Chapter 1 - The Cosmic Calendar in Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan


1. What is a cosmic calendar?
2. How were they able to date important cosmic events?

Chapter 1.3 - The Structures of the World in Basic Physics edited by Kenneth W. Ford
1. What are the parts of the physical world as explained in this reading?
2. Which parts of the physical world are studied by physics? by chemistry? by geology?

Chapter 1.5 - Theory and Experiment in Science in Basic Physics edited by Kenneth W.
Ford
1. How does experiment complement theory?
2. How does scientific knowledge develop?
—————————————————————————————————————

Page 2
! of 8
!
SCIENCE 10 - Probing the Physical World

The physical world can be classified using temporal and spatial scales. The temporal scale
presents the chronological order of the formation of the components of the physical world.
This can be best presented with the cosmic calendar, which gives us an idea of the time inter-
vals within which these physical components of the universe were created (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Timeline of the birth of the universe (Source: https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/images/736107main_pia16876b_full.jpg)


NOTE: The labels in the picture are too small. Please visit the site in order to see a better resolution of the picture.
!

On the other hand, the spatial scale classifies components of the physical world according to
its dimensions — i.e. from the submicroscopic scale to the cosmological scale. This type of
classification also provides information about which field of science studies a corresponding
component of the physical world (see Table 1) and how these fields are interconnected. As
shown in Table 1, Physics deals with the elementary particles, atomic nucleus, atoms, stars,
galaxies, and the known part of the universe; Chemistry deals with the elements, compounds,
and supramolecules (or aggregates); and Geology deals with the earth and its spheres.

Page 3
! of 8
!
SCIENCE 10 - Probing the Physical World

Table 1. The structure of the physical world in terms of its spatial scale (adapted from Ford, 2016)

Object Size Special Associated Branch of Science

Elementary Particles 10-13 cm or less Particle Physics

Atomic Nucleus 10-12 cm Nuclear Physics

Atom 10-8 cm Atomic Physics

Molecule 10-7 cm Chemistry

Supramolecule 10-5 cm Chemistry

Plants, Animals (Man) 10-5 to 104 cm Biology

The Earth and its spheres 109 cm Geology

Star 109 to 1014 cm Astrophysics

Galaxy 1022 cm Astronomy

Galactic Cluster 1025 cm Astronomy

The known part of the 1028 cm Cosmology


universe

All three fields of science make use of probes in studying the physical world. These probes
are in the form of theories and technologies. A number of theories have been formulated to
explain and develop a better understanding of our physical world. These theories are tested
through scientific discoveries and experiments which can either reject or support them. For-
mulating a theory and doing an experiment are part of what we know as the scientific
method. Recall that the scientific method, which provides a logical and systematic way of
doing scientific investigations, includes the following:

1. Gathering facts
2. Observing to identify laws (patterns or regularities) tying the facts together
3. Making a hypothesis
4. Testing the hypothesis against known facts
5. Predicting new facts and further tests
6. Formulating a theory
7. Elaborating and applying the theory

The sequence of these steps in the scientific method may be modified in accordance with the
goals or objectives of scientific investigations. Moreover, it should be noted that all fields of
science, whether applied, natural, or social, use the scientific method to probe natural and so-
cial phenomena, which results in scientific progress.

Page 4
! of 8
!
SCIENCE 10 - Probing the Physical World

For a further discussion of how we study the physical world, refer to the following learning
resources:

• Powers of Ten Video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fKBhvDjuy0


• From the Big Bang to the End of the Universe: The Mysteries of Deep Space Timeline -
https://www.pbs.org/deepspace/timeline/
• The Big Bang - https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/10128
• Chapter 3 - The Nature of Scientific Theory in Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawk-
ing (https://brieferhistoryoftime.com/chapters/3)
• Chapter 9 - The Origin of the Universe in Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other
Essays by Stephen Hawking (1994)
• Chapter 1 Section 1 - Prospect of the Subject to be Treated in Theory of the Earth by
James Hutton (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12861/12861-h/12861-h.htm)

3.0 Why is it important to study and understand the physical world?

—————————————————————————————————————
Activity 3

Read Chapter 4 - Public Attitudes towards Science in Stephen Hawking’s Black Holes and
Baby Universes and Other Essays and answer the following study questions:

1. How does science affect society?


2. What are the contributions of science to society?
3. What are the attitudes of society towards science and what accounts for these attitudes?

—————————————————————————————————————

The advancement of science and technology have brought drastic changes to how we live in,
think about, and relate to our physical world. Our current living conditions and our way of
thinking and making decisions are influenced by scientific and technological advancements.
However, because of the lack of understanding of our physical world from the perspective of
science, there is a tendency to misuse technological advancements, resulting in effects that
are detrimental rather than beneficial to us.

The lack of understanding of our physical world may be traced to how science is being taught
in our schools. Science is usually presented in a dry and uninteresting manner, so much so
that we do not see its relevance to our daily lives. Science may be perceived by most of us as
just a subject full of equations that quantitatively define our physical world, without due ap-
preciation of its experimental and exploratory character. This creates a gap between the theo-
ries and technologies for explaining and understanding our physical world on the one hand,

Page 5
! of 8
!
SCIENCE 10 - Probing the Physical World

and the physical world itself on the other hand, which in turn gives rise to many misconcep-
tions about the physical world.

There is a need to bridge this gap by “laymanizing” scientific ideas or theories without losing
their essence in explaining and understanding the physical world. This could spark the inter-
est of non-scientists in learning the science of the physical world. This spark could lead to a
desire to further explore and investigate the physical world and ultimately, our existence.

For further discussion of “laymanizing” scientific ideas and theories, refer to the following
resources:
• Delivering effective science communication: advice from a professional science commu-
nicator - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1084952117301933
• The Power of Science Communication - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/
pii/S1877042814050010

—————————————————————————————————————
Activity 4

Science’s quest for answers to existential questions has produced many technologies that we
are currently benefitting from.

1. Visit the NASA site at https://homeandcity.nasa.gov.


2. Explore and identify the technologies that we are currently using in our everyday lives.
3. Pick three of the technologies you identified that you most frequently use, and trace their
original uses in the scientific study of our physical world.
—————————————————————————————————————

Conclusion

The physical world includes the inanimate objects in the universe, which range in scale from
the submicroscopic to the cosmological. These include elementary particles, light and heavy
elements, stars, galaxies, and planetary systems; molecules and supramolecules and aggre-
gates; and the earth and its spheres — the geosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere.

Our knowledge of the physical world comes from the application of the scientific method in
physics, chemistry, and geology. This knowledge consists of various concepts, theories, and
models, a fuller understanding of which will enable us to better appreciate and relate to our
physical world.

Now that we have discussed the scope of the physical world, we should be ready to answer
the “existential” questions from the perspective of physics, chemistry, and geology, beginning
with the next module on the birth of our universe.

Page 6
! of 8
!
SCIENCE 10 - Probing the Physical World

—————————————————————————————————————
Activity 5

Map in the graph below the following components of the physical world according to their
appropriate temporal and spatial scales.

Earth Life Quarks Galaxies

Protostars Geosphere Light Elements Hydrosphere

Solar System Atmosphere Heavy Elements Protons

Neutrons Electrons Atoms

Components of the Universe in their


Spatial and Temporal Scales

Spatial Scale

Temporal Scale
!

Module 1 Alternate Activity: Benefits to You


—————————————————————————————————————
Science’s quest for answers to our existence has produced lots of things (technology) that we
are currently benefitting from. We may have seen or used these things without knowing that
they are fruits of science’s never ending quest for answers of our origins.

Instructions:

1. Now, visit the NASA site, https://homeandcity.nasa.gov.

2. Explore and identify the technologies that we are currently using in our everyday lives.

3. With the technologies that you have identified, pick three of those that you most frequently
use and trace back their original uses in the quest through our physical world.

Key Text References:

Ford, K. (2016). Basic physics. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Company

Hawking, S., & Mlodinow, L. (2010). The grand design. New York: Bantam Books.

Hawking, S., & Hawking, S. (1992). Stephen Hawking's A brief history of time: A reader's
companion. New York: Bantam Books.

Hawking, S., & Mlodinow, L. (2005). A briefer history of time. New York: Bantam Books.

Page 7
! of 8
!

Hawking, S. (1993). Black holes and baby universes and other essays. London: Bantam Press.

SCIENCE 10 - Probing the Physical World

References

Required Module Readings

Ford, K. (2016). Basic physics. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Company

Hawking, S. & Mlodinow, L. (2010). The grand design. New York: Bantam Books.

Hawking, S. & Hawking, S. (1992). Stephen Hawking's A brief history of time: A reader's
companion. New York: Bantam Books.

Hawking, S. & Mlodinow, L. (2005). A briefer history of time. New York: Bantam Books.

Hawking, S. (1993). Black holes and baby universes and other essays. London: Bantam
Press.

Sagan, C. (1977). The dragons of Eden: Speculations on the evolution of human intelligence.

Supplemental Resources

Books
Feynman, R.P., Leighton, R.B., & Sands, M.L. (1963). The Feynman lectures on physics.
Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.

Hutton, J. (2010). Theory of the earth. New York: Classical Books International

Videos
Power of Ten - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fKBhvDjuy0
Timeline of the Universe - https://www.pbs.org/deepspace/timeline/
Timeline of the Universe - https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/10128
NASA Home and City - https://homeandcity.nasa.gov

Journal Articles
Illingworth, S. (2017). Delivering effective science communication: advice from a profes-
sional science communicator. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semcdb.2017.04.002

Jucan, M.S. & Jucan, C.N. (2014). The power of science communication. DOI: https://
doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.08.288

Page 8
! of 8
!