• 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 UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Paul Francis
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in Second Semester 2025
    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.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Apply the scientific method in unfamiliar contexts
  2. Analyse physical claims quantitatively using physical principles and methods
  3. Estimate physical quantities efficiently using 'back-of-the-envelope' techniques
  4. Apply physical principles to analyse a range of practical applications
  5. Effectively engage with transdisciplinary problem-solving
  6. Understand how science can harm or benefit indigenous communities.

Indicative Assessment

  1. In-class assignments (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
  2. Oral presentation (20) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
  3. Exam (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]

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 2 hour workshops.
  • Approximately 70 hours of pre-reading tasks and other assessment.

Inherent Requirements

To be determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 24 units towards a degree. Incompatible with PHYS6205

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
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
7742 21 Jul 2025 28 Jul 2025 31 Aug 2025 24 Oct 2025 In Person N/A

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions