"Each particle of matter is an immensity, each leaf a world, each insect an inexplicable compendium." -Johann Kaspar Lavater

Understanding scientific disciplines can be a complex concept for some. Biology, chemistry or physics may have been the classes past secondary school students dreamed of skipping, moreover, for several scientific brains understanding the laws of physics was pure entertainment.

It would be extremely optimistic to think that you can tackle all of this learning alone. Even some of the most popular physicists in the world likely availed of assistance when it comes to their physics and maths. The list of physicists that avail of tutors is endless!

There is no shame in seeking help with your journey in physics and in fact it will likely save you hundreds of hours of unnecessary trial and error. It is often essential if you are to grasp the fundamentals and give yourself an edge over the other students in your class.

Acquiring a knowledge of the fundamentals of physics can be very useful in everyday life. Specific attention and effective comprehension of the particle model of matter at a young age can prove to be convenient due to the fact that everything is made up of matter and it's everywhere around us; we simply cannot escape it!

Therefore, studying physics as a Leaving Cert subject can set students up for a career of scientific excellence. 

Superprof is here to show pupils contemplating the Leaving Cert Physics option what exactly is considered in the third topic of the particle model of matter. Get ready for wild ride aspiring scientists!

In this article, I will discuss the components of the topic of matter within the scope of the Leaving Certificate syllabus so that you can get a better idea of what lies ahead of you in your secondary school physics education.

from ice cubes to water
Liquid, gas or solid are different states of matter that be observed when studying the density of materials. (Source: VectorStock)
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Understanding the Leaving Cert Physics topic of Matter

Unlike some of the other topics that we have been looking at within the Leaving Certificate higher and ordinary level physics syllabuses, Matter is a chapter that students tend to find rather daunting.

Without a concrete definition and understanding of the basic terms in this chapter, you might find yourself getting mixed up or confused as you progress through the material.

If you have never studied physics before at any capacity or simply missed a few days of science as part of the junior cert programme then it is important that we fill you in on some of the terminology associated with the chapter.

In order to ensure that we are all on the same page, it is important that we define what matter is. Believe it or not, matter actually comprises of small particles called atoms.

Atoms are extremely small in size, in fact, they are actually microscopic and approximately 100,000,000 of them take up a space measuring one centimetre. They can exist on their own or together as molecules.

Human beings are made up of matter and are obviously larger than one centimetre in size, therefore, we are the result of a countless amount of atoms.  

Where does Density come into play?

In order to understand how exactly matter is composed, we need to understand what density is. Density is the amount of mass per unit of volume. You might be familiar with this term as it decides whether objects float in water. Since all matter has particles, density is also used to describe how closely the particles are packed into a solid, liquid or gas.

You can see how the content in this topic builds on itself as you begin to progress through the material. It’s important as a physics student, not to get bogged down in the new terminology, it will come with time and will eventually be looked upon as some easy marks to pick up in your next exam!

Let’s look at an example so we can better understand density, solids are tightly packed into a regular structure. Liquids have a little bit more space to move due to the fact that they are still tightly packed but can move around each other.

Gases have the most freedom since particles are spread out and move around randomly. This is why your air freshener can reach all around your living room with just a few sprays!

It is important that we relate the material with real-life examples so we can better understand, thus increasing the propensity of retaining the information come exam time!

If you change the state of a matter the overall density will be transformed and be different from before. 

Sometimes there is very little difference between a liquid and a solid. Take the example of water and ice, the particles are tightly packed in both states. It is important to note that density also depends on the material being used.

Although the general equation uses kilograms and metres, it is normal to find some scientists measuring with grams and centimetres. 

heat capacity
Brick has greater heat capacity than lead and many other elements. (Source: pixabay)

More on the Practical Model of Matter

In physics, matter has many definitions, but the most common is that it is any substance that has mass and occupies space. This is the one that you will need to familiarise yourself with for your exams. All physical objects are composed of matter, in the form of atoms, which are in turn composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons.

You could look at protons, neutrons, and electrons as the building blocks of atoms, these particles are themselves based on fermions.

We should also consider all of the things that either have no mass or at least have no rest mass. Things that do not matter include:

  • Light
  • Desires
  • Heat
  • Thoughts
  • Sound
  • Dreams
  • Emotion

Bear in mind that photons have no mass, so they are an example of something in physics that is not comprised of matter. They are also not considered "objects" in the traditional sense, as they cannot exist in a stationary state.

You might be asking yourself how you would go about calculating volume, as this is a common exam question that surfaces in the leaving certificate exam each year.

In order to correctly calculate the density of an object, the volume of the material needs to be known. The volume of certain shapes such as the cube, sphere, cylinder and cone can be found using simple formulas.

As we previously saw above, in everyday life there are three states of matter: solids, liquids and gases. Changes to these states are caused by a change in the internal temperature.

Adding or removing energy from material can cause its state to change. Some examples of this include the melting of ice (it went from a solid to a liquid) and the boiling of water (the liquid evaporates after constant contact with heat).

Throughout all changes, the number of particles remains the same. The only things that differ are the spacing and the arrangement. 

Mechanical work transfers energy from the person or the machine's store of chemical energy into the internal energy store of the gas. Solid/liquids and liquid/gases each material have two specific latent heats too!

Much as your physics and maths tutor would transfer stores of knowledge into your physics knowledge base!

Fallen behind your revisions? Catch up on your Higher and Ordinary Level Physics courses online.

passing assessments
Not knowing what to expect on an examination can cause a lot of undue stress for students. (Source: pixabay)

Master the topic of matter with a tutor from Superprof!

The number of physics teachers that list their services on tutoring websites classes across Ireland has been growing for some time now as more and more students take up the subject for its associated career prospects. Finding suitable physics teachers to help along the way can be quite difficult.

Luckily, Superprof are here to help you accomplish just that! In most cases, students even have the option to arrange a trial tutoring session with their preferred tutor free of charge. This will give you the opportunity to get a feel for the piano classes before forking out all of your hard-earned money.

Whether you are really struggling to throw yourself into the material or just need a helping hand in improving your grades, there's no reason to be shy and follow in the footsteps of many greats by getting help from a professional. After all, this is what they are there for!

Perhaps one of the more effective resources, and also possibly the least adopted by students is availing of a personal tutor. A personal tutor can provide some much-needed clarity for students on how to answer some of the trickier maths questions that feature at the university level for Irish physics courses.

This is often a difficult transition for students, but working through the more complex maths questions alongside a teaching professional can help students realise their weaknesses in the subject, allowing them to better target their future learning for college.

Studying Physics surfaces an invaluable opportunity for any students looking to advance their competencies in physics and create some exciting career prospects for themselves thereafter. The work placements are extremely well perceived by students and often result in full-time employment after the candidate graduates with the degree. You can always consult your Superprof tutor on where to take your learning after you completer the secondary school course.

Before choosing to study the higher-level Leaving Certificate Physics option it is recommended to know what the other topics are such as energy, electricity, atomic structure, forces, waves, magnetism and electromagnetism and space physics.

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Samuel

I enjoy reading fiction, playing chess, live music and traveling.