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    An undergraduate course in Science.

The physical world

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If you intend to take only one course in physics, it should be this one. It will give you an essential view of the whole subject. Physics is perhaps the most exciting intellectual adventure of our age – discoveries being made now will change your life, and learning physics will change the way you think about the world. This wide-ranging introduction to physics and its applications covers classical mechanics; thermal physics and fluids; fields, waves and electromagnetism; relativity; and quantum physics (including solids, atoms, nuclei and particles) – setting many of them in their historical context so that you can appreciate the evolution of the subject.

Modules at Level 2 assume that you are suitably prepared for study at this level. If you want to take a single module to satisfy your career development needs or pursue particular interests, you don’t need to start at Level 1 but you do need to have adequately prepared yourself for OU study in some other way. Check with our Student Registration & Enquiry Service to make sure that you are sufficiently prepared.

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Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£775.00
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Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£775.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1625.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£775.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1625.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£2632.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

An additional fee for the examination may apply.

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£775.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1465.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£2632.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£2632.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£775.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£2632.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

See below for information about part time tuition fee loans available for study towards a qualification.

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

*Fees may vary by country.

What you will study

Natural curiosity leads all of us to ask how the world works. Physics provides the deepest and most reliable scientific answers. This course makes physics very accessible. It will give you an appreciation of the wide relevance of physical principles to the natural and technological worlds. If your aim is to specialise, this is the most appropriate place to start, after you have completed a Level 1 course in science or maths or an appropriate technology course.

The text is presented in eight richly illustrated books, each supported by a video sequence and a few carefully designed computer activities, provided on DVD-ROM.

Book 1 The restless universe provides a non-mathematical overview of the course by bringing together the biggest ideas from every part of physics. The video sequence and DVD activities introduce the ‘big bang’ and give you some idea of the range of objects, from quarks to quasars, which physics tries to describe.

Book 2 Describing motion deals with the various forms of motion that arise in the physical world, and the quantitative methods used to describe them. The topics include the free-fall motion of micro-gravity test vehicles, the trajectories of long-jumpers, and the orbital motion of satellites and space probes. This book also covers, at some length, some essential mathematical tools that you will need later in the course.

Book 3 Predicting motion introduces force as the cause of change in the physical world, and asks how accurately the effect that forces have on the motion of a body can be predicted. Systems as diverse as colliding galaxies and decaying nuclei are considered, and essential concepts such as energy and momentum are explored. The book also has an optional section that discusses chaos and the limits of predictability.

Book 4 Classical physics of matter is concerned with the properties of matter that can be explained more or less directly in terms of classical physics. Among the topics are the principles of flight and the operation of engines and refrigerators. The discussion introduces ideas such as temperature, heat and entropy that will take you beyond Newtonian mechanics and into the realm of thermodynamics and statistical physics.

Book 5 Static fields and potentials describes two of the fundamental interactions in nature: gravity and electromagnetism. The associated fields, potentials and energies are introduced and the relationships between them explained. You will learn how these interactions manifest themselves in different ways, from the formation of stars to the operation of thunderstorms. You will also see how they are harnessed technologically in applications such as hydroelectricity, electrical circuitry and DNA fingerprinting.

Book 6 Dynamic fields and waves concentrates on electric and magnetic fields that vary with time, including light and other electromagnetic waves. Waves in general and light waves in particular are discussed, together with optical instruments such as telescopes and microscopes, and electrical devices such as generators and transformers. This book also explores Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which gives us our most basic insight into space and time.

Book 7 Quantum physics: an introduction guides you through the profound revolution in scientific thinking that overthrew classical physics in favour of quantum physics. You will learn the basic ideas of quantum physics and see their power in predicting the behaviour of matter on the atomic scale, including the emission of light by atoms (spectra) and the operation of lasers. You will also learn why the interpretation of quantum physics is still the subject of intense debate among scientists.

Book 8 Quantum physics of matter explores the way in which quantum physics determines the properties of materials. The quantum physics of solids, for example, dictates whether they are good insulators, semiconductors, conductors or even superconductors. At a deeper level, the quantum physics of nuclei and elementary particles determines the stability of matter and hence the range of substances that came into existence through the ‘big bang’ and the evolution of stars.

Entry

This Level 2 course offers a widely accessible route into physics, suitable for students from a range of backgrounds. However, to successfully complete the course you do need some basic scientific and mathematical skills. 

You should be familiar with basic algebraic manipulation (rearranging and combining equations etc.); addition and multiplication of fractions; scientific notation; logarithms; elementary geometry and trigonometry; vectors; and with scientific uses of statistics and probability. You should also be able to plot and interpret graphs, use a scientific calculator, and understand the use of unit (dimensional) analysis. A familiarity with the elementary concepts of calculus (differentiation) is also an advantage.

An appropriate level of mathematical and scientific knowledge can be obtained by studying the Level 1 courses, Maths for science (S151) or Essential mathematics 1 (MST124) (or the discontinued MST121), and Exploring science (S104).

It is essential that you establish whether or not your background and experience give you a sound basis on which to tackle the course, since students who are appropriately prepared have the best chance of completing their studies successfully. The Science Faculty has produced a booklet Are You Ready For S207? to help you to decide whether you already have the recommended background knowledge or experience to start the course or whether you first need to study appropriate Level 1 courses. This can be viewed as an interactive program for PC or printed as a PDF from the Are you ready for Science? website. 

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

The course utilises large numbers of coloured illustrations, video sequences and some computer activities, several of which cannot be fully described in words. It is possible to complete and pass the course without looking at the video sequences and computer activities, however students with impaired sight or colour perception may benefit from the support of a sighted assistant.

The printed study materials are available on audio in DAISY Digital Talking Book format or in comb-bound format. Transcripts are available for the audio-visual material. Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of the study material are available, however some components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical or scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Other formats may be available in the future. Our Services for disabled students website has the latest information about availability.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Services for disabled students website for more information, including:

  • help to determine your study requirements and how to request the support that you need  
  • Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
  • using a computer for OU study
  • equipment and other support services that we offer
  • examination arrangements
  • how to contact us for advice and support both before you register and while you are studying.

Study materials

What's included

Course books, other printed materials, DVD-ROMs.

You will need

Scientific calculator.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this course. It includes online activities – you can access using a web browser – and some course software provided on disk.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer running Windows since 2007 you should have no problems completing the computer-based activities.
  • A netbook, tablet or other mobile computing device is not suitable for this course – check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you have an Apple Mac or Linux computer – please note that you can only use it for this course by running Windows on it using Boot Camp or a similar dual-boot system.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information including the details of the support we provide.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the course. 

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with the OU before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this course can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

You will, however, be granted the option of submitting on paper if typesetting electronically or merging scanned images of your answers to produce an electronic TMA  would take you an unacceptably long time.

Future availability

The details given here are for the course that starts in October 2014 when it will be available for the last time.

Students also studied

Students who studied this course also studied at some time:

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Student Reviews

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Distance learning

The Open University is the world’s leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you’re at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you’ll be supported throughout your studies – your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information read Distance learning explained.

Are you already an OU student ? Go to StudentHome for information on choosing your next module.
Course facts
About this course:
Course code S207
Credits 60
OU Level 2
SCQF level 9
FHEQ level 5
Course work includes:
6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Computer-marked assignment (CMA)
7 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
Examination
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

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