Some tips for dealing with the Nature Light

The nature of light. What an absolute killer.#


You either love it or hate it. Newton vs. Huygens, Malus’ Law, contemporary methods used to measure the speed of light, the UV catastrophe, the photoelectric effect, SPECIAL RELATIVITY – there’s so much! Coverage of Mod 7 is insanely difficult, and the concepts introduced in this module are of such a high order.


Luckily, there are strategies we can use to break it down.


At this stage, you’re still doing past papers and are probably (hopefully?) preparing for other exams. Keep working at those! Here’s some additional tips and ideas which can hopefully aid your studies.


Diagrams


I know, I briefly mentioned it last week – but do not underestimate the power of a well-drawn sketch! The marker would love to see something like this for describing how Fizeau measured the speed of light:



But notice how it’s quite clear how the apparatus works just from the diagram, and I haven’t even included the response! Mod 7 is full of opportunities for diagrams, including:


- Maxwell’s alternating electric and magnetic fields (perpendicular to each other)

- Malus’ Law and the polarisation of light

- Young’s double slit experiment

- Historical and contemporary methods used to measure the speed of light

- Set-up of the photoelectric effect

- Einstein’s thought experiments (time dilation, length contraction)

- Evidence to support special relativity


As you continue to tackle practice and past papers, try your hand at some diagrams. It’s a wonderful habit to adopt, and it makes you a much better Physicist.


Exam Conditions


At this stage, start shifting from doing past papers open book with unlimited time, to doing them under exam conditions. We want to simulate the HSC environment as best we can, and this is done by not looking at your notes, however tempting it might be! At this stage of the HSC process, I would set a timer on every practice paper I did. Feel pressured? That’s the idea. Imagine the stress that could creep up on you during the exam itself (but don’t worry about that now; we’ll deal with it next week).


The principle idea is this:


The more time you spend thinking before the HSC exam, the less time you’ll need to think during the HSC exam.


This is such a fundamental concept, and it grounded my motivation for studying for the HSC (not just for Physics too!). If you think about it, it’s fairly straightforward: a lot of the time in an HSC exam is spent reading the question, thinking about the theory, trying desperately to recall something in your notes, and planning. A surprisingly small fraction of the time is spent writing.


Reducing the thinking time in an exam means you increase the time you get to write. So, do the thinking before the exam (which is now!). Consider all possible questions they could ask, write as many practice paper responses as you can. Tackle as many multis as you can get a hold of, and watch as many videos as you need to truly understand the concepts.


Put in the hard yards now, so that future you can be grateful for it.


Hence, start to do practice papers under exam conditions. You can ease into it if you wish, and gradually get there over a few days. However, start to lose the dependence on notes, and begin to adapt to the conditions of the HSC.


Work Hard, Play Hard


Amongst all this study, it’s easy to feel demotivated. This happened to me. Please do not overlook the importance of resting! You can study all you want, but if you don’t allow yourself some relaxation or leisure every now and again, your body will break down.


With each past paper completed, treat yourself to an episode of TV. With every hour of study achieved, allow yourself to take a fifteen-minute break. Rest your mind – it’s putting in some really hard work!


Spend time with friends and family. Social interaction releases endorphins and dopamine, which have such positive effects for your brain and body. Try to be in high spirits, despite everything that is going on around you. It might sound existential, but these months can sometimes feel that way.


On that note, have a wonderful week. Study hard, but not too hard. Enjoy these last few weeks – you’ll be celebrating before you even know it.


Lucas


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