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(i) By Newton's Second law of motion, the resultant force F acting on a constant mass m is
given by F = ma, where a is the acceleration of the mass.
A student expresses the unit for mass as N s2m-1. Explain why its inappropriate to express
mass in this unit.
ii) A student defines speed as "distance travelled per second". Explain clearly why this
statement is technically wrong. Hence, write down the correct definition for this speed.
b) In an experiment to measure the diameter of a uniform wire using a micrometer screw
gauge, a student fails to notice that with the gauge fully closed, the reading is not zero.
i) State and explain clearly whether the omission introduces a random error or a systematic
error into the readings of the diameter.
ii) State the effect(s), if any, the omission has on the precision and accuracy of the readings.
c) A spinning ball moving with a speed v in air of density experiences a difference in
pressure p on its sides. This causes its path of motion to e deflected.
i) By comparing the powers of the base units, suggest a possible relationship between the
difference in pressure p and the quantities v and .
ii) Suggest a reason why the relationship that you have found in (c)(i) may not be physically
a) i) Mass is a base quantity and has the base unit, kg. It is not a derived quantity and so it is
inappropriate to express the unit for mass as N s2m-1. Furthermore, the defining equation
for mass is not force per unit acceleration.
ii) Distance is a physical quantity while second is a unit. The physical quantity speed
should be defined in terms of quantities, and not a mixture of a quantity and a unit. The
correct definition for speed is the distance travelled per unit time.
b) i) The omission introduces a systematic error (zero error). This is because there is a
constant error in one direction only, that is, it constantly causes the readings to be either
larger or smaller than the true value.
b) ii) It causes the readings to be precise but not accurate.
c) i) Let p = kpxvy, where k,x and y are dimensionless constants.
units of p = units of kpxvy
(kg)(m s-2)(m-2) = (kg m-3)x(m s-1)y
kg m-1s-2 = kgxm-3x+ys-y
By comparing powers,
x = 1 and y = 2
ii) An equation that is dimensionally correct may be physically incorrect because there
might be missing coefficients in the equation, or there might be terms which are missing.

Emission Line Spectrum

The atom is first excited by a colliding electron. When the atom goes back to its ground state,
either directly or via intermediate energy levels, photon of only certain frequencies are
emitted due to the discrete energy levels. Hence only certain frequencies of light are
observed, forming the emission spectrum, which is discrete dark line on a continuous
Steps to obtain emission line spectrum:

Gases such as hydrogen or neon are placed in an discharge tube at low pressure.

A high voltage of several kilo-volts is applied across the cathode and anode of the
discharge tube.

The gas atoms become excited by the collision with the electrons passing through the

When the gas atoms fall to a lower energy level, the excess energy is emitted as
electromagnetic radiation(photon) with a specific frequency. The frequency f of the
emission line is dependent on the difference between the high and low energy levels.
E = hf

Only certain frequency lines are present in the spectrum as only certain high to low
energy level transitions are possible within the atom.

The emitted light are analyzed with a spectrometer and discrete bright lines in a dark
background are observed.
The well-defined separation of lines is experimental evidence for the existance of
separate or 'quantized' energy levels in the atom. No two gases give the same exact line
If the gases used are not at low pressure, there will be a continuous range of colours. At
high pressure, tightly packed gas atoms or molecules will be vibrating, rotating or colliding
with each other, such that many more energy levels will be created. Hence, there will be no
separated/isolated lines of definite frequency.

Emission Line Spectrum of hydrogen

Emission Line Spectrum of iron

Absorption Line Spectrum
White light is used to excite the atoms. Those incident photons whose energies are exactly
equal to the difference between the atom's energy levels are being absorbed. Since the energy
levels are discrete, only photons of certain frequencies are absorbed. As these frequencies of
light are now missing, they account for the dark lines in the absorption spectrum, which is
discrete dark line on a continuous spectrum
Steps to obtain absorption line spectrum:

Gases such as hydrogen are placed in a tube.

White light is passed through the tube.

The atoms of the gas absorb light of the same wavelengths which they can emit, and
then re-radiate the same wavelengths almost immediately but in all directions. Hence,
the parts of the spectrum corresponding to these wavelengths appear dark by
comparison with the other wavelengths not absorbed.

Absorption Line Spectrum of hydrogen

Distinguish between emission and absorption line spectra
In the case of an emission spectrum, the atom is first excited by a colliding electron. The
colliding electron must have kinetic energy greater than or equal to the difference between
energy levels of the atom. When the atom goes back to its ground state, either directly or via
the intermediate energy levels, photon of only certain frequencies are emitted due to the
discrete energy levels. Hence only certain frequencies of light are observed, forming the
emission spectrum, which is discrete bright coloured lines on a dark background.
In the case of an absorption spectrum, white light is used to excite the atoms. Those incident
photons whose energies are exactly equal to the difference between the atom's energy levels
are being absorbed. SInce the energy levels are discrete, only photons of certain frequencies
are absorbed. As these frequencies of light are now missing, they account for the dark lines in
the absorption spectrum, which is discrete dark line on a continuous spectrum.
Why the energy levels have negative values?

Negative value of energy indicates that the electron is bound to the nucleus and there exists
an attractive force between the electron and the nucleus. Also, since the potential at infinity is
defined as zero, energy levels at a distance below infinity are negative.

Failure of classical wave theory

According to classical wave theory,
1. Intensity of a wave is the energy incident per unit area per unit time.
2. Energy carried by an electromagnetic wave is proportional to the square of the
amplitude of the wave.
Classical wave theory cannot explain the first 3 observations of photoelectric effect.
1. Existence of the threshold frequency
Since energy of the wave is dependent on the square of its amplitude, the classical wave
theory predicts that if sufficiently intense light is used, the electrons would absorb enough
energy to escape. There should not be any threshold frequency.
2. Almost immediate emission of photoelectrons
Based on classical wave theory, electrons require a period of time before sufficient energy is
absorbed for it to escape from the metal. Accordingly, a dim light after some delay would
transfer sufficient energy to the electrons for ejection, whereas a very bright light would eject
electrons after a short while. However, this did not happen in photoelectric effect.
3. The independence of kinetic energy of photoelectron on intensity and the dependence on
According to classical wave theory, if light of higher intensity is used, the kinetic energy of
an ejected electron can be increased. This is because the greater the intensity, the larger the
energy of the light wave striking the metal surface, so electrons are ejected with greater
kinetic energy. However, it cannot explain why maximum kinetic energy is dependent on the
frequency and independent of intensity.
Observations of Photoelectric Effect
1. Existence of threshold frequency
For a given metal, no photoelectrons are emitted if the frequency of the incident light is lower
than a certain frequency. If the light frequency is below this threshold frequency for that
metal, no photoelectrons can be emitted, no matter the intensity of the incident radiation is or
for how long it falls on the surface of the metal.
2. Emission is instantaneous

Emission of photoelectrons takes place almost instantaneously after the light shines on the
metal, with no detectable time delay. It does not depend on the intensity of the incident
3. Maximum Kinetic Energy of the photoelectron is independent of intensity of incident
electromagnetic radiation
Photoelectrons emitted from a metal have a range of velocities from zero up to a
maximum vmax. The maximum kinetic energy mvmax2 was found to depend linearly on the
frequency of the radiation and is independent of its intensity.
4. Rate of emission of photoelectrons proportional to intensity of incident electromagnetic
Photoelectric effect
Light, and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation, is emitted in discrete 'packet' of
energy. Each 'packet' was called a quantum of energy (or photon).
When an atom emits radiation, its energy changes by certain allowed amounts only.
E=hf, where E is energy of a single photon, h is Planck constant, f is frequency
When light is directed at a metal surface,
A stream of photon bombards the surface of metal
Any free electron near the surface could be struck by a photon and gains energy
If the gain in energy is sufficient to overcome the electromagnetic force of attraction between
the electrons and the positive nucleus, the electron can leave the plate
Each photoelectron from a metal plate has gained the whole amount of energy of a single
photon. The photon will be reflected or transmitted, if not absorbed. The photon's energy
cannot be shared among the electrons - it must give up all its energy to a single electron.
Einstein's photoelectric equation
Assumption: Electromagnetic radiation is emitted in quanta and also absorbed in discrete
Since electrons are held by attractive forces to the atoms, to escape form a metal, an electron
must do a certain amount of work to remove itself from the surface to infinity. An electron in
a metal can only escape if it gains enough energy from a single photon to enable it to do the
necessary work. So, individual photon must each supply more than a certain amount of
The work function of a material is defined as the minimum amount of the work necessary
to remove a free electron from the surface of the material.
Einstein's photoelectric equation: K.Emax=hf -
hf is the energy of the photon
The electrons with maximum kinetic energy K.Emax come from the surface of the metal. Due
to collisions with other atoms, those below the surface emerge with a smaller kinetic energy.

Threshold frequency is the minimum frequency of an incident radiation required to just

remove an electron from the surface of a metal.
Threshold frequency(f0) explained:
Electrons can only escape if the maximum kinetic energy is greater than zero.
hf- >0

f 0=
For photoelectric effect to take place, f>f0
Instantaneous emission of electrons explained:
An electron is emitted if it gains enough energy from the photon. Since all photon energy
is delivered immediately to the electron in a single collision, there is no time delay and is
independent on the intensity of the incident radiation.
Mass defect
The mass defect of a nucleus is defined as the difference between the mass of the separated
nucleons and the combined mass of the nucleus.
To calculate the mass defect M for a nucleus that has A protons and B neutrons:
M = Amp + Bmn - Mn, where
mp = mass of a proton
mn = mass of a neutron
Mn = mass of the nucleus
To calculate the mass defect of a neutral(number of proton = number of electron) whole atom
Ma = Amp + Bmn + Ame - Ma, where
me = mass of an electron
Ma = mass of the neutral atom
Binding Energy
When a nucleus is separated into its individual constituents, the sum of the masses of its
individual constituents, is always greater than the total mass of the nucleus.
The nuclear binding energy of a nucleus is defined as the work done on the nucleus to
separate it into its constituent neutrons and protons.
mnucleusc2 + Binding Energy = mindividual particles (neutrons and protons)c2
Binding Energy = Mass defect c2
Energy is released when a nucleus is formed from its constituent nucleons.

Binding Energy per Nucleon and Nuclear Stability

The binding energy per nucleon of a nucleus is the binding energy divided by the total
number of nucleons.

Measure of stability of the nucleus. Larger the binding energy per nucleon, the greater
the work that must be done to remove the nucleon from the nucleus, the more stable
the nucleus

Important features of the graph:

Excluding the lighter nuclei, the average binding energy per nucleon is about 8 MeV.

The maximum binding energy per nucleon occurs at around mass number A = 50, and
corresponds to the most stable nuclei. Iron nucleus Fe56 is located close to the peak
with a binding energy per nucleon value of approximately 8.8 MeV. It's one of the
most stable nuclides that exist.

Nuclei with very low or very high mass numbers have lesser binding energy per
nucleon and are less stable because the lesser the binding energy per nucleon, the
easier it is to separate the nucleus into its constituent nucleons.

Nuclei with low mass numbers may undergo nuclear fusion, where light nuclei are
joined together under certain conditions so that the final product may have a greater
binding energy per nucleon.

Nuclei with high mass numbers may undergo nuclear fission, where the nucleus split
to give two daughter nuclei with the release of neutrons. The daughter nuclei will
possess a greater binding energy per nucleon.

Nuclear Reactions
A nuclear reaction involves the rearrangement of the nuclear constituents.
In all nuclear processes, the following quantities are conserved:

nucleon number

proton number (charge)



Induced nuclear reactions occur when a nucleus changes as a result of being struck by a

If the products have greater mass than the reactants (nucleus and incident particle) before the
reaction, then the incident particle must supply enough kinetic energy to make up for the
increase in mass of the products to allow a reaction to take place.
Nuclear Fission
Nuclear fission is the disintegration of a heavy nucleus into two lighter nuclei of
approximately equal masses.
Energy is released in the process because the average binding energy per nucleon of the two
fission products (daughter nuclei) is greater than that of the parent nucleus.
Nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion is the combining of the two light nuclei to produce a heavier nucleus.

A large amount of energy is released during the process because the average binding
energy per nucleon of the product has a greater binding energy per nucleon than the two
light nuclei before fusion.

Fusion is a difficult process to achieve because of the strong electrical repulsion between
the nuclei when they are close to each other. Only at extremely high temperatures
(~108 K) will the nuclei have enough kinetic energy to overcome the repulsion.

Energy released by the fusion of two nuclei is very much less than that which results from
fission. However, fusion offers the possibility of energy from almost unlimited fuels, with
the key advantage of non-radioactive waste.

Radioactive decay
Radioactive decay is the spontaneous disintegration of the nucleus of an atom which results in the
emission of particles.
Spontaneous Process: Cannot be speed up or slowed down by physical means(changes in pressure or
temperature or the decay of other atoms). It is not affected by any chemical condition or the chemical
compound that it exists in.
Random Process: Radiation is emitted at random. It is impossible to predict which nucleus and when
any particular nucleus will disintegrate.
A radioactive nucleus consists of an unstable assembly of protons and neutrons which becomes more
stable by emitting an alpha, a beta particle or a gamma photon.
Evidence of randomness of radioactive decay
Can be demonstrated by observing the fluctuations in count rate of a Geiger-Muller (GM) tube
When a GM tube is near a radioactive source, the irregularity of the counts and the fluctuations in the
count rate recorded by the GM tube show the randomness of radioactive decay.
At any moment, each parent nucleus has the same chance of decaying, but we do not know which are
the ones that will decay, nor do we know when they will decay.

Alpha particles

They are helium-4 nuclei, He42

Mass: 6.6464835 x 10-27kg

Charge: +2e

Positively charged, hence deflected by an electric field

Deflected by a strong magnetic field

Have high ionising power (able to remove electrons from nearby atoms/molecules
very effectively), producing a large number of ions(~ 103 to 104) along its path

Range of alpha particles in air is about 3-4 cm. Easily stopped by a piece of paper.

Cause substances like zinc sulphide to fluoresce and also blacken photographic plates

Alpha decays can be represented by the following equation.

A 4
Z P Z2 D + 2He , where P is the parent nuclide and D is the daughter nuclide

Beta Particles

They are electrons with energy of a few MeV. Originated in the nucleus through a
nuclear transformation in which a neutron changes to proton and an electron.

Have high speeds, up to 50% the speed of light

Easily deflected by a magnetic field and electric field

Ionising power of beta particles is about 1/10 that of alpha particles.

Range of beta particles in air is about 10 times that of alpha particles. Able to travel a
few metres. Stopped only by a few mm thickness of aluminium.

Cause certain materials to fluoresce and also blacken photographic plates

General equation for beta decay:


P Z+1 D +1e

Gamma Rays

They are electromagnetic waves of wavelengths shorter than those of X-rays

Electrically neutral, are not deflected by electric and magnetic fields.

Among the three types of radiation, gamma rays have the strongest penetration power.
Gamma rays are stopped by lead of a few centimetres thick

Ionisation power of gamma rays is about 1/10 000 that of alpha particles

Their emission does not accompany any change in nuclear structure; the nucleus
merely descends to a lower energy state.

Gamma decay represents the emission of energy from a nucleus which is returning to
its ground state.

Excited nucleus more stable nucleus +

Background radiation
Background radiation refers to ionizing radiation emitted from a variety of natural and
artificial radiation sources. Level of radiation varies from place to place. Accidents at nuclear
power stations or any form of nuclear dumping result in the level of background radiation
being raised.
Background radiation comes from various sources, including:
2. air (cosmic rays)
3. building materials
4. soil (soil and rock containing radioactive isotopes)
5. water
6. human body
7. old coal fired power station
8. medical sources
In experiments and calculations, the background count has to be recorded and the value
deducted from the readings taken.
Activity, Half-life and Decay constant
The activity of a radioactive substance is defined as the average number of atoms
disintegrating per unit time.
An activity of one decay per second is one Becquerel (1 Bq)
Activity A is directly proportional to the number of parent nuclei N presen-t at that instant:



=N , where N is number of parent nuclei, t is the time, is the decay constant.

The decay constant of a nucleus is defined as its probability of decay per unit time.
Half-life is defined as the time taken for half the original number of radioactive nuclei to
Useful Equations:
N=N 0 et , where No is the initial number of radioactive nuclides and N is the number of
nuclides remaining after a time t.
t1 =

ln 2
, t1/2 is half-life.


( )()

, where n is the number of half-life passed.