What is Physics?
Physics is the study of how objects move and interact. We discuss questions such as these:
- How do you measure speed and acceleration?
- How do you know where something will be at some point in the future, or where is was at some point in the past?
- How much force is necessary to make something move at a certain speed?
- What will happen when two objects collide with each other?
- What is energy? Where does it come from? Where does it go?
- What is sound, and how do we hear?
- What is light, and how does it interact with our eyes to make colors?
- What makes a magnet magnetic?
- Why do some things feel hot and others feel cold?
- Why does a lightbulb make light when you turn on a switch?
- Why do objects have mass, and why do they pull on each other with gravity?
- What happens inside a black hole?
- What happens if you try to move faster than the speed of light?
These questions, and many MANY more, make up the study of physics.
Physics or AP Physics
Students often wonder if they should register for Physics or AP Physics. What's the difference? How should you choose?
The Physics course at Wilcox emphasizes conceptual understanding of physics concepts. Students will be able to describe what happens and why it happens. While some topics include mathematical analysis (i.e., problem solving), this is not the primary focus of the course. For these topics, students will need to apply algebra and some geometry skills. If you want to understand why a car will skid off a curve on a rainy day, but don't really want to calculate exactly how fast it can go before it skids, Physics is the right course for you.
The AP Physics course is aligned with the material that is tested on the College Board's AP Physics B test. This test, and therefore this course, emphasizes mathematical problem solving. You'll do story problems and LOTS of them. While a good understanding of the concept is necessary to solve any problem, we will focus on identifying variables and applying relevant equations to come to quantitative solutions. The math skills used in this course include algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Also, as a college-level course, much of the learning takes place OUTSIDE the classroom with regular reading assignments, practice problems, and occasional projects. If you enjoy tackling difficult problems and working through to the right answer, AP Physics may be the course for you.
Physics: You must have passed Biology with a "C" or better and passed Geometry with a "C" or better.
AP Physics B: You must have passed Biology with a "C" or better and passed Trigonometry with a "C" or better.
AP Physics C: You must have passed Physics or AP Physics B with a "C" or better and passed a calculus course with a "C" or better.
Preparing for Physics
As long as you have met the prerequisites, there are no summer assignments for Physics or AP Physics. However, if you would like to get a preview of what you will be learning about, there are several good sites and YouTube channels about physics. Here are some suggestions:
- Best overall introduction to physics: www.physicsclassroom.com
- Online physics textbook: www.physics.info
- Concept map and equation review: hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/hph.html
- Video presentation: www.khanacademy.org/science/physics
- Physics-related YouTube channels: lasseviren1, MinutePhysics, Veritasium, vSauce, SmarterEveryDay
AP Physics Learning Objectives
The College Board (they administer the Advanced Placement tests) has published a list of all the things that students should be able to do (i.e., that might be on the AP test) by the end of AP Physics B or AP Physics C. You can read through that list here.