PHYSICS 1101 - Physics for the Life and Earth Sciences IA

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2014

This course provides an introduction to physics at university level for students who wish to major in biological or earth sciences (Physics IA/B and Mathematics IA/B are recommended for students interested in Biophysics or Geophysics ). It includes significant material not in SACE Stage 2 Physics. The emphasis is on physics concepts and their application to relevant problems in the earth and biological sciences rather than on the more theoretical or mathematical development of the concepts. It includes a study of forces and equilibrium, mechanical stress, energy, fluids, heat and DC electricity. Applications to biology and physiology will be emphasised. Practical problem solving.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code PHYSICS 1101
    Course Physics for the Life and Earth Sciences IA
    Coordinating Unit School of Chemistry & Physics
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 7 hours per week
    Prerequisites SACE Stage 2 Physics Subject Achievement grade of at least B- (under review)or equivalent, Mathematical Studies - other students may apply to Head of Physics for exemption
    Incompatible PHYSICS 1100, PHYSICS 1008, PHYSICS 1501 & PHYSICS 1508
    Course Description This course provides an introduction to physics at university level for students who wish to major in biological or earth sciences (Physics IA/B and Mathematics IA/B are recommended for students interested in Biophysics or Geophysics ). It includes significant material not in SACE Stage 2 Physics. The emphasis is on physics concepts and their application to relevant problems in the earth and biological sciences rather than on the more theoretical or mathematical development of the concepts. It includes a study of forces and equilibrium, mechanical stress, energy, fluids, heat and DC electricity. Applications to biology and physiology will be emphasised. Practical problem solving.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Associate Professor Andrew MacKinnon

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    1 demonstrate a working knowledge of the physical principals that describe mechanics, fluids, electricity and thermal physics;
    2 use algebraic methods to make qualitative and semi-quantitative predictions about the behaviour of the aforementioned systems;
    3 apply an understanding of physical principals to familiar and unfamiliar situations in the life and earth sciences;
    4 make appropriate use of standard measurement and data analysis techniques;
    5 identify random and systematic uncertainties in experiments;
    6 draw non-trivial and quantitatively precise conclusions from experimental results;
    7 work cooperatively in a team to complete a task in a limited time;
    8 confidently communicate results about the physical world both orally and in writing.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Knowledge and understanding of the content and techniques of a chosen discipline at advanced levels that are internationally recognised. 1, 2, 5
    The ability to locate, analyse, evaluate and synthesise information from a wide variety of sources in a planned and timely manner. 2, 6
    An ability to apply effective, creative and innovative solutions, both independently and cooperatively, to current and future problems. 2, 3
    Skills of a high order in interpersonal understanding, teamwork and communication. 7, 8
    A proficiency in the appropriate use of contemporary technologies. 4
    A commitment to continuous learning and the capacity to maintain intellectual curiosity throughout life. 3, 6
    A commitment to the highest standards of professional endeavour and the ability to take a leadership role in the community. 4
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources

    Urone, P. and Hinrichs, R. (2013) College Physics (OpenStax College): This is a free open-source textbook that can be downloaded as a pdf, epub or viewed directly on the web from

    Giancoli, D. C. (2005) Physics Principles with Applications, 6th ed. (Pearsons/Prentice Hall)

    Recommended Resources

    Kirkup, L. (1994) Experimental Methods, (Wiley)

    OpenStax textbook home page: 

    Giancoli textbook home page: 

    School home page: 

    Online Learning

    MyUni: Teaching materials and course documentation will be posted on the MyUni website (

  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes

    This course will be delivered by the following means:

    • 3 lectures of 1 hour per week
    • 1 tutorial of 1 hour per week
    • 1 practical of 3 hours per fortnight

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    A student enrolled in a 3 unit course, such as this, should expect to spend, on average 12 hours per week on the studies required. This includes both the formal contact time required to the course (e.g., lectures and practicals), as well as non-contact time (e.g., reading and revision).

    Learning Activities Summary

    The course content will include the following:

    Coursework Content

    • Mechanics (50%)
      • Dynamics overview: force and Newton's laws of motion; some everyday forces; isolating the system of interest; constructing force diagrams.
      • Vectors - adding, subtracting, resolving.
      • Managing errors in measurement: random and systematic errors; errors in measurement; combining errors.
      • Kinematics overview: motion diagrams for linear motion; graphical representation of linear motion; representing motion in two dimensions
      • Dynamics applications: linear motion of a simple object with constant acceleration; linear motion of connected objects with constant acceleration; circular motion with constant speed; projectile motion.
      • Rotational motion and statics: centre of mass; torque; conditions for equilibrium; levers in the human body; applications of statics.
      • Mechanics of solids: elasticity, stress and strain; loading and fracture.
      • Work, heat and energy: transformation and transfer of energy; kinetic and potential energy; work, power, efficiency and metabolic rate; conservative and dissipative forces; collisions.
    • Fluids (20%)
      • Fluid statics: definition of a fluid; density and specific gravity; pressure (atmospheric, gauge, absolute); Pascal's principle; buoyancy; Archimedes' principle; floating objects.
      • Fluid dynamics: streamlines; turbulence; continuity; Bernoulli principle and its applications; viscosity; Newtonian fluids; Poiseuille's equation; surface tension; cohesion; adhesion; wetting; capillarity; Laplace's law; the heart and blood pressure.
    • Thermal Physics (16%)
      • Atomic theory of matter: Brownian motion; phases of matter.
      • Temperature: thermometers and temperature scales; constant volume gas; thermal equilibrium; thermal expansion; thermal stress.
      • Gas laws: equation of state; Boyle's law; Charles's law; Gay-Lussac's law; ideal gas law; the mole and Avogadro's number.
      • Kinetic theory: Maxwell distributions; real gasses; phase diagrams; evaporative cooling; vapour pressure; boiling; partial pressure; relative humidity; diffusion; Fick's law; osmosis.
      • Heat, work, and energy: internal energy; temperature; heat capacity and specific heat; latent heat of fusion and vaporization; heat transfer by conduction, convection and radiation.
    • DC Electricity (14%)
      • Electrostatics: electric charge; polar molecules; conductors and insulators; the electric field.
      • Electric potential: potential and potential energy; electric potential and electric field; equipotentials; batteries; capacitors; dielectrics; storage of electric energy.
      • Electric currents: electric cells; batteries; current; Ohm's law; resistance; resistivity; electric shock; electric power in resistors; fuses and circuit breakers; alternating current (AC); RMS voltage; RMS power.
      • DC circuits: circuit symbols; resistors in a circuit; conservation of charge; resistors in series and in parallel; current through circuits; equivalent resistances; emf and internal resistance; capacitors in a circuit; RC Circuits; AC Circuits; Kirchhoff's rules.

    Practical Work Content

    • Computer based experiment, carried out individually:
      • Reaction time
    • Experiments carried out in groups of three students:
      • Measurement of the Density of Brass
      • Statics
      • Fluid flow
      • Voltage divider
    Specific Course Requirements

    A Science Notebook, consisting of alternating lined and graph pages is required for the practicals. A 64 page book should be adequate

  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment task Type of assessment Percentage of total assessment Hurdle
    Yes or No #
    Outcomes being assessed/achieved
    Tutorial preparation and participation Formative & Summative 10% No 1, 2, 3, 7, 8
    Practical work Formative & Summative 20% Yes
    (30% in each practical and 40% overall)
    1 – 8
    In – Semester Tests Formative & Summative 10-30% No 1, 2, 3, 8
    Written Examination Summative 40-60% No 1, 2, 3, 8
    Assessment Related Requirements

    To obtain a grade of Pass or better in this course, a student must total 50% and also achieve a result of at least 30% in each practical and an overall result of 40% for the practical component.

    Assessment Detail

    Tutorial preparation and participation (10% of the total course grade)
    Tutorials are held weekly, starting in the second week. The grade for the tutorial is based on the student’s preparation and participation during the tutorial. Poor tutorial results can be partly replaced by a better performance in the final exam.

    The tutorials are compulsory. The grade for the tutorial will be based on the student’s preparation and participation during the tutorial as assessed by the tutor.

    Practical work (20% of the total course grade)
    All Practicals/experiments are compulsory and contribute equally to the practical component of the grade. For each laboratory practical, the student must obtain a satisfactory result in the preparatory work, attend the practical session and submit the logbook for assessment. A practical catch-up session is held at the end of the teaching semester to allow students to catch up any missed practicals.

    In – Semester Tests (10% -30% of the total course grade)
    Up to 5 tests will occur throughout the semester. Poor results in the tests can be partly replaced by a better performance in the final exam. This is achieved by varying the contribution of this task towards the total assessment to optimise the final result for each student.

    Examination (40 - 60% of the total course grade)
    The end-of-semester examination is based primarily on lecture/tutorial material.


    Submission of Assigned Work
    Coversheets must be completed and attached to all submitted work. Coversheets can be obtained from the School Office (room G33 Physics) or from MyUNI. Work should be submitted via the assignment drop box at the School Office.

    Extensions for Assessment Tasks
    Extensions of deadlines for assessment tasks may be allowed for reasonable causes. Such situations would include compassionate and medical grounds of the severity that would justify the awarding of a supplementary examination. Evidence for the grounds must be provided when an extension is requested. Students are required to apply for an extension to the Course Coordinator before the assessment task is due. Extensions will not be provided on the grounds of poor prioritising of time. The assessment extension application form can be obtained from: 

    Late submission of assessments
    If an extension is not applied for, or not granted then a penalty for late submission will apply.  A penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment for each calendar day that the assignment is late (i.e. weekends count as 2 days), up to a maximum of 50% of the available marks will be applied. This means that an assignment that is 5 days late or more without an approved extension can only receive a maximum of 50% of the marks available for that assignment.

    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.