Physics Textbook/Physics is a Way of Thinking

Physics is a way of thinking, a way of doing things, and a way of learning about the world around us.

Much information about the natural world is gathered through our five senses. Thus, the subject matter of scientific inquiry is sensory information, which is obtained through the use of our senses. Observations and experiences evolve into concepts. For example, the push or pull we experience in our muscles is conceptualized as force.

In physics, concepts take on meaning only as we operate with them, that is, we do something with them or about them, or use them in a special way. In this module, you will do laboratory investigations (anytime you can, if you can). You will also make estimates of human speeds or calculate the acceleration of a skater. You will also be required to design solutions to everyday problems and perform a series of tests on the solution you have provided, like in the following activity.

Problem Solving and the Scientific MethodEdit

The following activity is an example of a problem that physicists, scientists, or engineers may be working on. Remember the moon buggy and the Mars explorer? These vehicles were actually designed and built for navigating and investigating extra-terrestrial locations. Concepts on forces and motion were considered in the design.

Activity 1.1 Balloon-powered Car


2 large balloons
drinking straw
various materials to construct a race

Your Task

To design, construct, and test a race car that:
  • is powered by no more than two large balloons.
  • is made from any materials available.
  • must have at least three wheels. The wheels cannot be taken from a toy car, but from something that was not originally meant to be used as wheels.
  • must remain in contact with the ground at all times.
  • must be capable of traveling at least 5 meters.

Scientists do not just come up with one design—rather, they plan and work with several possible solutions to the problem. From a list of possible solutions, they select a few and start constructing the design which is most likely to work. Once a working model is available, they perform various tests to answer problems related to the design and construction aspects. Figure 1.14 outlines the steps that a problem solver like you can follow in coming up with a balloon-powered race car.