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The Big Ideas of Physics

Big Idea 1: Objects and systems have properties such as mass and charge. Systems may have internal structure.

This big idea collects the properties of matter into one area so that they can be employed in other big ideas. The universe contains fundamental particles with no internal structure such as electrons, and systems built from fundamental particles, such as protons and neutrons.

Big Idea 2: Fields existing in space can be used to explain interactions.

All of the fundamental forces, including the gravitational force and the electric and magnetic forces, are exerted “at a distance”; the two objects involved in the interaction do not “physically touch” each other.

Big Idea 3: The interactions of an object with other objects can be described by forces.

An object either has no internal structure or can be analyzed without reference to its internal structure. An interaction between two objects causes changes in the translational and/or rotational motion of each object.

Big Idea 4: Interactions between systems can result in changes in those systems.

A system is a collection of objects, and the interactions of such systems are an important aspect of understanding the physical world.

Big Idea 5: Changes that occur as a result of interactions are constrained by conservation laws.

Conservation laws constrain the possible behaviors of the objects in a system of any size, or the outcome of an interaction or a process.

Big Idea 6: Waves can transfer energy and momentum from one location to another without the permanent transfer of mass and serve as a mathematical model for the description of other phenomena.

Classically, waves are a “disturbance” that propagates through space.

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