Big Ideas in Grade 12 Physics

“Big ideas” are the broad, important understandings that students should retain long after they have forgotten many of the details of what they have studied in the classroom. They are the understandings that contribute to scientific literacy.


  • Forces affect motion in predictable and quantifiable ways.
  • Forces acting on an object will determine the motion of that object.
  • Many technologies that utilize the principles of dynamics have societal and environmental implications.

Energy and Momentum

  • Energy and momentum are conserved in all interactions.
  • Interactions involving the laws of conservation of energy and conservation of momentum can be analysed mathematically.
  • Technological applications that involve energy and momentum can affect society and the environment in positive and negative ways.

Gravitational, Electric, and Magnetic Fields

  • Gravitational, electric, and magnetic forces act on matter from a distance.
  • Gravitational, electric, and magnetic fields share many similar properties.
  • The behaviour of matter in gravitational, electric, and magnetic fields can be described mathematically.
  • Technological systems that involve gravitational, electric, and magnetic fields can have an effect on society and the environment.

The Wave Nature of Light

  • Light has properties that are similar to the properties of mechanical waves.
  • The behaviour of light as a wave can be described mathematically.
  • Technologies that use the principles of the wave nature of light can have societal and environmental implications.

Revolutions in Modern Physics: Quantum Mechanics and Special Relativity

  • Light can show particle-like and wave-like behaviour, and particles can show wave-like behaviour.
  • The behaviour of light as a particle and the behaviour of particles as waves can be described mathematically.
  • Time is relative to a person’s frame of reference.
  • The effects of relativistic motion can be described mathematically.
  • New theories can change scientific thought and lead to the development of new technologies.