Physics, Culture and Ideology

Subject 136-509 (2008)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2008.Search for this in the current handbookSearch for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.500
Level: Graduate/Postgraduate
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2008:

Semester 2, - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable


Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A two-hour seminar per week.
Total Time Commitment: .
Prerequisites: Admission into the postgraduate diploma or fourth-year honours, or a masters program.
Corequisites: .
Recommended Background Knowledge: .
Non Allowed Subjects: .
Core Participation Requirements: .


Dr Kristian Camilleri
Subject Overview:

In the first half of the twentieth century physics underwent a dramatic transformation through the emergence of the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics. These theories left an indelible mark on the modern understanding of space, time and matter. But this was also a tumultuous period of European cultural and political history, which witnessed two World Wars, the establishment of the Weimar republic, the rise of Nazism and various strands of Marxist thought. In this subject we examine the various ways in which modern physics was brought into contact with the wider cultural and political attitudes of the time. Through a close reading of primary and secondary sources, we will investigate the ways in which the discovery, interpretation and reception of the new ideas in physics were shaped by various cultural, intellectual, and ideological movements. Of particular interest will be the way physicists themselves responded to the social and political upheavals of the time, particularly after the First World War, and to what extent this shaped their understanding of the physics of the twentieth century. Students taking this subject will not be expected to have prior knowledge of the technical details of modern physics.

Assessment: Written work totalling 5,000 words comprising a 1,000 word seminar paper worth 20% due a week after seminar presentation during semester, and a 4,000 word research essay worth 80% due at the end of semester.
Prescribed Texts: Course reader will be made available from the University Bookshop. Readings will also be made available online.
Recommended Texts:


Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • develop skills in written and oral communication;

  • conduct independent research;

  • make appropriate use of primary and secondary sources in mounting an argument;

  • form defensible judgements based on a critical evaluation of conflicting evidence.

Notes: .
Related Course(s): M.A.History & Philosophy of Science (Advanced Seminars & Shorter Thesis)
Master of Arts (Science, Communication and Society)
Postgraduate Certificate in Arts (History and Philosophy of Science)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts (History & Philosophy of Science)

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