• Offered by Research School of Physics
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Physics
  • Areas of interest Policy Studies, Economics, Physics, Science, Engineering
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Paul Francis
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in Second Semester 2024
    See Future Offerings
  • STEM Course

This course is aimed at two groups of students:

Non-physics students: to teach them about how physics can help them make the world a better place.

Physics students: to teach them about how their physics knowledge can be applied to make the world a better place.

The course will cover topics such as global warming, energy change, spaceflight and nuclear power, and show how an understanding of physics can help future leaders make better decisions. It will also cover the social, economic and political context in which physics is used, and how scientists can most effectively deal with these big-picture issues.

There is a particular focus on working with complex multidisciplinary problems, and on how science can harm or benefit indigenous communities.

This course is co-taught with undergraduate students but assessed separately.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Critically analyse physical claims quantitatively using physical principles and methods;
  2. Evaluate physical quantities efficiently using 'back-of-the-envelope' techniques, including dimensional arguments;
  3. Use the above skills to make reasoned arguments to validate or criticise ideas and to fact check;
  4. Effectively engage with transdisciplinary problem-solving
  5. Understand how science can harm or benefit indigenous communities

Indicative Assessment

  1. In-class Assignments (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  2. Oral presentation (20) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  3. Exam (40) [LO 1,2,3,4]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


The expected workload will consist of approximately 130 hours throughout the semester including:

  • Face-to face component which may consist of 2 x 3 hour workshops per week. 5 x 3 hour site visits will be scheduled over the semester.
  • Approximately 70 hours of self directed study which will include preparation for lectures and other assessment tasks. 

Inherent Requirements

To be determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

This course is incompatible with PHYS2205.

Prescribed Texts


Preliminary Reading

"Physics and Technology for Future Presidents", Richard A. Muller Princeton University Press (2010)"

Sustainable Energy – without the hot air", David JC MacKay (2007) - downloadable book - http://www.withouthotair.com/

Assumed Knowledge

Assumed knowledge in mathematics or physics at high-school level.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $4440
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $6360
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
7684 22 Jul 2024 29 Jul 2024 31 Aug 2024 25 Oct 2024 In Person View

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