By the beginning of the twentieth century, many of the pieces of the physics puzzle seemed to be falling into place. The wave model of light had successfully explained interference and diffraction, and wavelengths at the extremes of the visible spectrum had been estimated.
The invention of a pump that would evacuate tubes to 10–4 atmospheres allowed the investigation of cathode rays. X-rays would soon be confirmed as electromagnetic radiation and patterns in the Periodic Table appeared to be nearly complete.
The nature of cathode rays was resolved with the measurement of the charge on the electron soon to follow. There was a small number of experimental observations still unexplained but this, apparently complete, understanding of the world of the atom was about to be challenged.
The exploration of the atom was well and truly inward bound by this time and, as access to greater amounts of energy became available, the journey of physics moved further and further into the study of subatomic particles. Careful observation, analysis, imagination and creativity throughout the early part of the twentieth century developed a more complete picture of the nature of electromagnetic radiation and matter.
The journey taken into the world of the atom has not remained isolated in laboratories. The phenomena discovered by physicists have, with increasing speed, been channelled into technologies, such as computers, to which society has ever-increasing access. These technologies have, in turn, often assisted physicists in their search for further knowledge and understanding of natural phenomena at the sub-atomic level.
This module increases students’ understanding of the history, nature and practice of physics and the applications and uses of physics, the implications of physics for society and the environment, and the current issues, research and developments in physics.