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82 AL Physics/Essay/P.


1982 Essay Type Question

1. (a) Describe how you would measure the thermal conductivity of a liquid, which is a poor
conductor of heat, pointing out the precautions you would take to ensure an accurate

(b) Explain

(i) the observed difference between the temperatures of the seawater and the air
during the night-time in the autumn in Hong Kong, and

(ii) the survival of fish in frozen-over ponds during the winter in North China.

2. Give accounts of the physics of the working of

(a) a Geiger-Muller tube, and

(b) a cloud chamber,

in their use to detect ionizing radiations, contrasting the different techniques which would
have to be used to distinguish between α, β and γ radiations.

3. Explain form first principles the following phenomena:

(a) The colours observed when viewing an oil film on water, giving the reasons why the
film must be thin, and

(b) the absence of high frequencies to an observer standing outside and to the side of an
open door leading into a room where music is being played. (Consider velocity of
sound = 340 m/s.)
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4. (a) Carefully distinguish between the characteristics of progressive and stationary

transverse waves, drawing diagrams showing the displacements of the propagating
medium particles at selected times during a complete period.

(b) Draw diagrams showing the stationary wave patterns which are excited in

(i) a guitar string,

(ii) an open-ended organ pipe and

(iii) a closed-end organ pipe,

considering both (1) the fundamental and (2) the first overtone frequencies. Show
how these frequencies are related to the appropriate physical dimension of each

5. Compare qualitatively and briefly explain the differences between the forms of the
electromagnetic wave spectra emitted by

(a) a hydrogen discharge tube,

(b) the sun, and

(c) an X-ray tube.

(Note: Mathematical derivations are not expected.)

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6. (a)



A small body of mass m is suspended form a fixed point P by two springs S1 and S2 as
shown. The force constants of the springs are f1 and f2 respectively. If the body is
pulled vertically downwards through a small displacement show that it subsequently
moves with simple harmonic motion of period

 ( f + f2 )m  2
2π  1  .
 f f
1 2 

Assume that the masses of the springs are negligible compared with m.

(b) Consider a single spring (of force constant f) set into simple harmonic motion as in
part (a).

(i) Sketch two cycles of the time variations of:

(1) the position,

(2) the velocity, and

(3) the acceleration of the suspended body.

(ii) Also sketch two cycles of the time variations of:

(1) the kinetic energy, and

(2) the potential energy of the system.

On your sketches indicate the maximum values attained in each case in terms of the
force constant f, the maximum amplitude A and the period T of the oscillation.

- End of Paper -
83 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1983 Essay Type Question

1. (a) Explain why the speed of travel of a gas odour (smell) across a room is very slow
compared with the actual speeds of the gas molecules.

(b) Briefly describe an experimental arrangement for measuring the rate of diffusion of

(c) Given a knowledge of the r.m.s. molecular speed and the known rate of diffusion of
bromine, show that it is possible to obtain estimates of

(i) the mean free path of the molecules (random walk statistical rule to be
assumed), and

(ii) the size of the molecules, taking into consideration a typical volume change
from liquid to gas.
235 238
(d) Briefly explain how the separation of the U and U isotopes of uranium may be

2. Describe briefly the methods adopted in the measurement of

(a) a steady magnetic field using a Hall probe, and

(b) an alternating magnetic field using a search coil.

Compare the different physical mechanisms in these tow methods and derive any
necessary mathematical expressions.

Comment briefly on the main factors that might affect the accuracy of the measurements.
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3. (a) Explain qualitatively, in terms of energy, what is meant by ‘force vibrations’

(oscillations) and ‘resonance’ in physical systems.

(b) Give one example each of ‘resonance’ for the following types of system:

(i) mechanical,

(ii) acoustical,

(iii) electrical, and

(iv) atomic.

For each of the examples you have chosen, explain clearly and concisely the factors
affecting the resonant frequency and the sharpness of the frequency response.
Mathematical derivations are not expected.

4. (a) By considering one practical example of each of the following phenomena:

(i) the refraction of light, and

(ii) the interference of light,

show how these phenomena can be explained by assuming that light possesses a
wavelike nature.

(Note: No mathematical derivations are needed for (ii).)

(b) Under certain experimental conditions, it is found necessary to assume that light
possesses a particle-type, rather than a wave-like nature. Briefly describe such an
experiment and explain how the results lead to this conclusion.

(c) In some cases, wave-like properties have been observed for matter: such as in the
diffraction of moving electrons. How may the wave and particle theories be
reconciled in this particular case?
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5. Describe the working principles of a moving coil type of

(a) microphone, and

(b) loudspeaker.

For each example explain, with the aid of a diagram, the basic construction. You should
indicate on your diagrams the directions of the corresponding sound vibrations and the
flow of electric currents at a particular instant. Briefly suggest possible reasons for the
reproduced sounds being different from the original sounds when such devices are used.

6. (a) A battery of e.m.f. E and negligible internal resistance is connected in series with a
resistor of resistance R, a capacitor of capacitance C and an open switch. After the
switch is closed, derive expressions for

(i) the total work done in charging up the capacitor, and

(ii) the total energy dissipated in the resistor, using the expression for instantaneous
Joule heating.

Discuss these results in relation to the total energy delivered by the battery.

(b) The battery is now replaced by an a.c. source of voltage E = E0 sin ωt, ω being the
angular frequency and t the time. With the switch closed, and making the assumption
that ωCR << 1, determine expressions for the current I, and the power P delivered to
the circuit at any instant. Sketch the time variations of E, I and P. Comment on the
result for P.

- End of Paper -
84 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1984 Essay Type Question

1. (a) (i) Using a practical example, demonstrate what is meant by ‘the conservation of
mechanical energy’.

(ii) By means of a further practical example, show that in ‘real-life’ situations

mechanical energy is often not conserved.

(b) Derive Bernoulli’s equation for fluid flow:

1 2
P + hρg + ρv = a constant.

(c) Explain why Bernoulli’s equation is not strictly applicable to

(i) a gas, and

(ii) a viscous liquid flowing through a narrow tube.

(d) With the aid of diagrams and Bernoulli’s equation, explain the observed effects of

(i) the motion of a spinning ball, and

(ii) the mixing of coal gas and air in a bunsen burner.

2. (a) Explain what is meant by a scale of temperature for a thermometer.

(b) Considering the scales of two thermometers based on two different physical
properties, explain why the observed temperatures might be found to differ.

(c) Give brief descriptions (not including theory or calibrations) of two different types of
thermometer which could be used to measure accurately, in the range 200 ºC - 300 ºC,

(i) a steady temperature, and

(ii) a rapidly changing temperature.

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3. (a) Compare the main physical characteristics of the light emitted by

(i) a gas discharge tube, and

(ii) a gas laser.

(b) Explain in detail the light production mechanisms of these two sources.

(c) Describe TWO different applications of lasers outside their use in physics
laboratories, explaining why they are employed.

4. The concept of waves can be applied to (1) a musical sound, and (2) a V.H.F. radio
transmission. For these two types of waves describe

(a) their main propagation characteristics,

(b) their normal frequency ranges, and

(c) methods for measuring the intensity of the waves (one method for each type of wave).
Simple block diagrams and only brief explanations of the methods are required.

5. (a) Explain why it should be possible to generate electrical power using either of the two
nuclear reactions

(i) 2
1 H + 31 H 
→ 42 He + 01 n , or

(ii) 235
92 U + 01 n 
→ 144
56 Ba + 90
36 Kr + 2 01 n .

(b) Which reaction process is currently being used in power-generating stations and why
is the other, at present, not practical?

(c) Sketch the basic structure of a nuclear power station, explaining the functions of

(i) the moderator,

(ii) the control rods, and

(iii) the coolant.

(d) State any TWO precautions which need to be taken to reduce possible radiation
hazards to the staff working in such stations.
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6. (a)
inductance resistance

I e.m.f. E Key K

Figure 1

Write down a differential equation for the current I in the circuit in Figure 1 after the
key K has been closed at a time t = 0, explaining clearly each term in the equation.

rotation axis
perpendicular to paper ω

magnetic field
of uniform
flux density B

starting position of coil (t = 0)

Figure 2

A coil of N turns, each of area A, is situated initially (at time t = 0) with the plane of
the coil perpendicular to a magnetic filed of uniform flux density B. The coil is then
rotated at a uniform angular velocity ω about an axis perpendicular to the magnetic
field and passing through the centre of the coil, as shown in Figure 2. Derive an
expression for the e.m.f. induced in the coil at any subsequent time t.

(c) If the coil has an inductance L and a resistance R and the ends are connected together,
write down the corresponding differential equation for the current I in the coil.
Assuming a solution of the form I = P cos ωt + Q sin ωt, where P and Q are constants,
determine expressions for P and Q in terms of B, A, N, ω, L and R.

(d) Obtain a further expression for the time-averaged power loss in the coil due to Joule
heating, and show that if ωL >> R, the power loss is independent of ω.

- End of Paper -
85 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1985 Essay Type Question

1. (a) Describe briefly the important details of an experimental arrangement to

accurately determine, by direct measurement, the variation of the extension of
a metal wire produced by an increasing applied force to one end when the
other end is fixed.

(b) Instead of using direct measurement, a student has the idea that he can increase
the accuracy of the measurements of the extensions of the loaded wire by
measuring the change of electrical resistance of the wire.

(i) Assuming no change of cross-sectional area on stretching, show that

theoretically, this is possible.

(ii) Discuss the practicability of using this method with stainless steel wire of
diameter 0.4 mm and resistivity ~ 10-6 Ω m, showing any necessary
rough calculations.

(No circuit details are expected.)

(c) By considering the expected (qualitative) results for the loading of the wire in
(a), and also those for the compression of a solid metal block, suggest a
possible explanatory molecular model sketching the implied variations of

(i) the potential energy and

(ii) the force

between the molecules as their separation varies. Explain the physical

significance of the main features of these variations.

2. (a) State the principle of superposition for waves. Use this to explain the
production of sound beats, and derive an expression for their frequency.

(b) Use the principle of superposition to account for the observed phenomenon of
interference, and state clearly the necessary physical conditions. Discuss the
particular difficulties encountered in satisfying these conditions for normal
light waves (not laser light), and state how these are overcome.

(c) A rectangular wire frame is completely immersed in a soap solution and

withdrawn carefully so that a soap film is stretched across the whole frame.
Due to gravitational force and evaporation, the cross-section of the film will
vary roughly with time as follows:
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50 mm

(1) (2) (3)

1 minute 2 minutes 3 minutes

Figure 1

Give a qualitative account of what you would expect to observe during these 3
minutes if the film were illuminated by monochromatic light form behind the
observer. Give brief explanations.

(d) Suggest any one practical use for light interference (only brief details are

3. (a) Faraday’s laws of electromagnetic induction may be summarised by the

equation E = − .
Explain the physical meaning of this equation, using a coil of wire as an

(b) Give brief details of one useful practical example of electromagnetic induction
in a coil which involves

(i) movement of the coil;

(ii) no movement of the coil.

(c) Explain the effect of electromagnetic induction on

(i) the switching-off of a current supply to an electromagnet; and

(ii) the heating of a transformer core.

In each case, give a diagram showing the actual instantaneous direction of the
induced e.m.f.

(d) Briefly explain suitable precautions which can be taken to minimise the
detrimental effects produced by the electromagnetic induction in (c) (i) and (c)
85 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

4. (a) Draw a diagram of a circuit you would use to determine the input-output d.c.
voltage characteristic of an NPN transistor operating in the common emitter
configuration. Give the approximate values of the resistances used in your
circuit, explaining why they are used.

(b) Draw a graph of a typical input-output voltage characteristic. With reference

to this characteristic, explain the use of such a transistor for

(i) voltage amplification, and

(ii) switching.

(c) Show how the simple transistor switching circuit can be used in

(i) a NOR gate, and

(ii) an OR gate.

For each of these configurations give a truth table, and explain the logic of the
possible operations.

5. (a)
model 'hill'
B (symmetric in
ball horizontal plane)

ramp chute
possible path of
deflected ball

Figure 2

In a gravitational analogue simulation of α-particle scattering by a thin metal

sheet, balls are allowed to roll down a ramp chute on to a model ‘hill’ where
they experience deflection, as in Figure 2.

(i) Explain the necessary variation of the profile (AB) of the ‘hill’ with the
radius (r) of the horizontal cross-sections.

(ii) Using this experimental arrangement how would you simulate the
scattering of α-particles through different angles of deflection?
Comment on the expected results.
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(iii) Further explain how you would simulate the scattering of α-particles of
various energies and state the expected results (qualitatively).

(iv) Using this analogy, demonstrate how an upper limit to the size of a
nucleus can be estimated.

(v) Suggest possible practical inadequacies of this gravitational analogue.

(b) Briefly describe the experimental evidence which convinced Chadwick that
neutrons are neutral particles, similar in mass to protons.

6. (a)

O a
x O t= 0

y A

Figure 3

A point P moves in a circular path, around O as centre, with a constant angular

velocity ω.

(i) Show that point Q, the projection of P on the diameter AB, moves with
an acceleration towards O and that the magnitude of the acceleration is
proportional to the displacement of Q from O. (O is the starting position
for time t = 0.)

(ii) Write down mathematical expressions for

(1) the displacement of Q from O,

(2) the velocity of Q,

(3) the acceleration of Q,

at any subsequent time t.

(iii) Hence, using the same time axis, plot the variations of (1), (2) and (3)
with time during one complete cycle of motion of Q.
85 AL Physics/Essay/P.5

(b) If Q represents the location of a mass m suspended from a vertical hanging,

light spiral spring which undergoes oscillations in a vertical plane, write down
mathematical expressions for the variation with time of

(i) the kinetic energy, and

(ii) the potential energy

of the system. (The mass of the spring should be ignored.)

Plot the above time variations on a graph directly underneath the previous
graph, using a similar scale for the time axis.

(c) An additional S.H.M., acting along the x-direction, is now superimposed upon
the original motion of Q, having the same amplitude a and angular velocity ω.

(i) Derive the equations of the resultant paths of motion of Q for the
following conditions:

(1) the phase difference between the two motions is zero,

(2) the phase difference is π/2,

(3) the phase difference is zero, but the angular velocity of the x-
direction motion has increased to 2 ω.

(iii) For each condition, sketch the path traversed by Q, and indicate the
direction of motion.

- End of Paper -
86 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1986 Essay Type Question

1. (a) From a consideration of the flow of a liquid through a narrow tube, define the
coefficient of viscosity in terms of the internal frictional force and determine its unit.

(b) Explain how you would compare the viscosities of two liquids, deriving any
mathematical relations required (Stokes’ Law may be assumed). Briefly indicate any
necessary precautions or procedures for improving the accuracy of your

(c) Explain the physical effects on your experimental measurements as the sizes of the
ball-bearings were increased until their diameter became similar to that of the liquid

(d) Distinguish between Newtonian and Non-Newtonian liquids, regarding their viscous
behaviour, and give one example of each.

2. (a)

A spring is held vertically with a weight, attached to its lower end. It is made to
oscillate vertically by a periodic up-and-down motion of the hand. On increasing the
frequency of motion of the hand, it is observed that the amplitude of motion of the
weight increases, becoming a maximum at a certain frequency. Give a brief
qualitative explanation of this observation. As the frequency of motion of the hand
increases, what other observations can be made about the phase between the driving
force and the motion of the weight?

(b) Consider the analogous physical system of an a.c. circuit, consisting of a coil and
capacitor connected in series with a.c. voltage generator and, from first principles,
derive the corresponding observable effects.
86 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

(c) Give one practical example each of resonance (either mechanical or electrical) which

(i) useful,

(ii) undesirable.

3. (a) Explain, by using wave-front diagrams, how the wave theory of light is able to explain

(i) the refraction, and

(ii) the dispersion

of a narrow light beam incident upon the interface of two different optically
transparent media.

(b) Draw a diagram showing the ray paths through a prism spectrometer when a line
spectrum is observed, and explain the necessary optical adjustments of the collimator
and telescope.

(c) Suggest possible advantages of replacing the prism by a diffraction grating.

4. (a) Using the rotating coil of a simple d.c. motor as an example, describe, with the aid of
a diagram, the force effects of a magnetic field on an electrical current. (Details of the
commutator are not required.)

(b) Briefly explain electrical conduction in metals.

(c) Account for the production of a Hall voltage when a thin strip of a conducting
material, carrying a current, is placed in a magnetic field.

(d) Derive an expression for the Hall voltage and indicate the various physical factors
which may be adjusted to ensure

(i) high sensitivity, and

(ii) good spatial resolution

in a Hall probe used for measuring magnetic fields.

86 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

5. (a) Compare the physical means of production of electromagnetic waves by

(i) a gas discharge tube, and

(ii) an X-ray tube.

Describe the main differences between the emitted spectra and how these can be
explained by the different internal atomic processes which occur.

(b) Briefly indicate how X-rays may be used to determine the separation of atomic planes
in a crystal.

6. (a) Consider a satellite of mass m moving in a circular orbit of radius r around an

assumed homogeneous spherical earth of mass M and radius R.

(i) Show that the period T of the satellite for a complete orbit is proportional to r3/2.

(ii) Derive an expression for the total energy of the satellite in terms of the given
parameters, together with G, the gravitational constant.

(b) Due to the friction of the earth’s atmosphere the satellite experiences a drag force
Cρv², where ρ is the density of the atmosphere and v is the speed of the satellite, C
being a constant.

(i) Explain why the speed v of the satellite would be expected to increase with time,

(ii) From a consideration of the work done by the drag force and the rate of loss of
energy of the satellite, show that dr/dt = -2ρCvr/m.

(iii) Assuming that (dr/dt) changes slowly and may be considered constant over one
orbit show that the small fractional change in period time is given by ∆T/T = -

(iv) Describe the path taken by the satellite, explaining what, finally, should happen
to it.

- End of Paper -
87 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1987 Essay Type Question

1. (a) Write down Newton’s second law of motion. Apply it to the situation where a
body, initially at rest, is subject to a constant force, and describe the
subsequent motion. (2 marks)

(b) Clearly distinguish between the properties ‘mass’ and ‘weight’ of a body and
explain why a passenger sometimes has the feeling of ‘weightlessness’ in a
lift. (5 marks)

(c) Without giving any mathematical derivations, explain how it is possible for a
body to move with constant speed in a horizontal circular path. (2 marks)

(d) Describe an experiment to demonstrate the relation between the angular

velocity of the body in (c) and the radius of the path, for a constant acting
force, explaining any source of error. (7 marks)

2. (a) Qualitatively compare the molecular/atomic models for

(i) a gas and

(ii) a solid

with particular reference to the forces exerted by the molecules/atoms, and the
effects of an increase in temperature. (8 marks)

(b) Briefly describe the origins of the following binding forces in solids:

(i) ionic (electrostatic) binding,

(ii) metallic binding and

(iii) covalent binding.

(4 marks)

(c) Glass reinforced plastic (fibre glass) is made up of glass fibres embedded in
plastic material. Explain its mechanical advantages over conventional metals.
(4 marks)

3. Both light and sound can be considered as wave propagations of energy.

(a) Carefully compare the main characteristics of such waves and their
propagation. (10 marks)
87 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

(b) Distinguish between

(i) refraction and

(ii) diffraction

for a sound wave, giving one practical example of each. (4 marks)

(c) Briefly explain why diffraction is more difficult to observe in ‘everyday life’
for light rather than sound. (2 marks)

4. (a) Describe the phenomenon of electromagnetic induction under the following


(i) physical movement is involved;

(ii) no physical movement is involved.

(3 marks)

(b) Describe the analogous resulting effects when a battery is connected in turn
across circuits consisting of

(i) an inductor and resistor in series, and

(ii) an uncharged capacitor and resistor, in series.

A full mathematical analysis is only expected for (ii). (9 marks)

(c) A fully-charged capacitor is suddenly connected across a coil of large

inductance. Explain, qualitatively, the waveform you would expect to observe
in an oscilloscope connected across the coil, and how the stored energy
changes with time. (4 marks)

5. (a) Account for the exponential time decay of a radioactive isotope. (3 marks)

(b) Uranium 238 decays to Uranium 234 as follows:

92 U
 β → Pa 
→ Th  β → 234

where α and β represent accompanying α-, β-particle emissions. Determine

the missing atomic number and mass number values, giving explanations of
your choices. (3 marks)

(c) Natural radium is known to emit α-particles and β-particles and also γ-
photons. Explain how you would verify this experimentally using a method
based upon absorption. (5 marks)
87 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

(d) Mention the most important factors which determine the dangerousness of a
sealed radioactive source, used externally, and the main precautions to be
taken when using it. (5 marks)

6. (a) An alternating current I = I0 sin ωt flows in the following circuits:

(i) an inductance L and resistance R connected in series,

(ii) a capacitance C and resistance R connected in series.

In each case, determine from first principles the reactance and the phase
relation between the voltage across the reactive element and the current.
(4 marks)

(b) Hence, using a phasor diagram, obtain an expression for the impedance of a
circuit consisting of an inductance L, a capacitance C and a resistance R
connected in series with an a.c. source. (2 marks)

(c) For the circuit of (b) the current is a maximum at the resonant frequency ω0.
Show that the power taken by such a circuit drops by 50% of that taken at
resonance when the frequency is changed to ω, where

ωL − =R (3 marks)

(d) By writing ω as (ω0 + ∆ω) show that ∆ω ~ R/(2L). (You may consider ∆ω <<
ω0.) (3 marks)

(e) The ‘sharpness’ of the resonance is given by Q = ω0/(2 ∆ω) and it is usual for
Q ~ 30.

(i) Show that at resonance the r.m.s. voltage across the capacitor C will be
Q × r.m.s. voltage across the whole circuit.

(ii) Explain how this is possible.

(4 marks)

- End of Paper -
88 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1988 Essay Type Question

1. (a) Explain in terms of molecular forces why

(i) it is possible to ‘float’ a small steel needle on the surface of water,

(ii) if part of the needle is inserted vertically into the water some of the water
is drawn up around it above the normal water level, and

(iii) a liquid film always assumes a minimum surface area.

For (i) and (ii) diagrams should be drawn showing the relevant forces.
(8 marks)

(b) Discuss the effect of the spreading of a liquid on a solid surface and give one
practical example, each, where

(i) good spreading,

(ii) poor spreading

is important. (3 marks)

(c) Briefly describe a method for measuring the surface tension of water using the
rise of water in a glass capillary tube. Derive any necessary relation and point
out necessary experimental precautions. (5 marks)

2. (a) The human eye functions as a converging lens of variable focal length.
Explain why the apparent sizes of the Moon and a dollar held at arm’s length
seem similar. (2 marks)

(b) When a single converging lens is used as a magnifying glass the viewed image
may be formed at

(i) infinity or

(ii) the distance of nearest clear vision from the eye.

Using a ray diagram show which of these arrangements gives the greatest
magnification. What is the physical factor limiting the magnification?
(4 marks)
88 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

(c) Show, using a ray diagram, that it is possible to further increase the
magnification by using an additional converging lens. (No mathematical
treatment involving the lens equation is required.) (3 marks)

(d) Give reasons why the brightness of an image recorded on photographic film in
a simple camera is proportional to d 2 t / f 2 , where d is the aperture diameter, t
the time exposure and f the focal length of the converging lens. Hence explain
the meaning of f-stop, and its use in photography. (7 marks)

3. (a) A long slinky spring is laid flat on a horizontal table and slightly stretched.
Briefly explain how you would produce two transverse pulses moving along
the spring in opposite directions from each end, when the amplitudes are

(i) in the same direction and

(ii) in opposite directions.

Draw suitable diagrams showing the propagation of the pulses along the
spring, through its centre. (4 marks)

(b) By reference to the results of (a) explain the main effects of the principle of
superposition on interfering waves. (2 marks)

(c) Describe, qualitatively, the phenomenon of wave interference and give one
example, each, for

(i) sound and

(ii) light,

which may be experienced in daily life. (No mathematical derivations are

required.) (5 marks)

(d) Explain clearly the necessary conditions for observable interference to take
place between

(i) sound waves and

(ii) light waves,

briefly contrasting any main difficulties encountered in satisfying such

conditions. (5 marks)
88 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

4. (a) An electrical circuit consists of a resistor connected across the terminals of a

battery. By considering the charges moving around the circuit, define the

(i) electric field,

(ii) potential difference and

(iii) electromotive force (e.m.f.).

(4 marks)

(b) Explain the mechanism by which heat would be produced in the resistor.
(2 marks)

(c) Obtain an expression for the rate of heat dissipation in the resistor in terms of
the electric current and resistance. Explain clearly the differences in
computing the rate of heat dissipation in an a.c. circuit which includes a
reactive element. (3 marks)

(d) Briefly describe the public electrical power transmission system, usually
adopted, from the power station to the domestic consumer. Explain why such
a system is used. (4 marks)

(e) By considering the resistance of the transmission cables and of the appliances
used locally, explain why the mains voltage varies significantly throughout
Hong Kong, and why there are variations at any particular location. (3 marks)

5. (a) Compare the appropriate physical conservation laws which apply to

(i) elastic and

(ii) non-elastic

collisions between a moving non-rotating body and a stationary body.

(3 marks)

(b) Give brief accounts of the following collisions, explaining whether they are
elastic or non-elastic:

(i) high energy α-particle scattering by atoms in thin metal foils.

(ii) slow neutron bombardment of 235U atoms.

(iii) high energy electron collisions with gaseous xenon atoms.

(7 marks)
88 AL Physics/Essay/P.4

(c) Describe the Franck-Hertz experimental investigation of the effect of varying

the electron energy in (iii) and briefly explain the importance of the results.
(6 marks)

6. (a) By considering the uniform motion of a point in a circular path, demonstrate

the meaning of simple harmonic motion (S.H.M.), giving a relation between
the acceleration and displacement from the equilibrium position for a particle
undergoing S.H.M. (3 marks)

(b) Briefly explain how it is possible to set a small object into S.H.M. using a
spiral spring. (3 marks)

(c) Atoms of a diatomic molecule (each of mass m) are able to oscillate towards
and away from each other in a similar manner to two small objects connected
by a spiral spring. Assume that the potential energy of such a system, for an
atomic spacing x, is U = -(a/x) + [b/(2x²)], where a and b are constants.

(i) Obtain an expression for the corresponding force F between the two
atoms and determine the equilibrium separation in terms of a and b.
Sketch out the variation of F with x, explaining the shape and significant
features of your graph.

(ii) Show that for small oscillations about the equilibrium location of the
atoms (you may consider one atom to remain stationary and the effective
mass of the other atom to be m/2), S.H.M. occurs and obtain expressions

(I) the force constant (force/displacement) and

(II) the oscillation period.

(Hint: use binomial expansion for terms in the force equation.)

(10 marks)

- End of Paper -
89 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1989 Essay Type Question

1. (a) State the main assumptions of the kinetic theory as applied to an ideal gas,
briefly explaining the pressure exerted by a gas on its container (no
mathematical derivation expected). (5 marks)

(b) Point out the main observed differences in the behaviour of real gases
compared with an ideal gas, giving explanations, using p-V characteristics.
Comment on the differences in behaviour at high pressures and low
temperatures. (7 marks)

(c) Distinguish between the processes of evaporation and boiling for a liquid, with
reference to unsaturated and saturated vapours. (4 marks)

2. (a) Discuss qualitatively the motion of a small metal ball allowed to drop
downwards into a long vertical tube of liquid so that it moves along the axis of
the tube (radius of tube >> radius of ball). (3 marks)

(b) Derive Bernoulli’s equation,

P + hρg + ½ρv² = a constant

for the flow of a fluid through a tube of varying cross-sectional area. Clearly
explain all the physical parameters used in this equation. (6 marks)

(c) In practice, discuss the likely sources of error in applying Bernoulli’s equation
to the flow of

(i) liquids, and

(ii) gases

in tubes. (3 marks)
89 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

3. (a) Describe the main characteristics of light when considered as

(i) a wave propagation, and

(ii) moving particles.

(5 marks)

(b) Give a brief account of an experiment which illustrates the wave nature of
light AND a second experiment which illustrates its particle nature (no
mathematical derivations expected). (9 marks)

(c) Explain how it is possible to reconcile the wave/particle nature of electrons.

(2 marks)

4. (a) Give the theory of the production of an a.c. voltage by a plane coil rotating in a
uniform magnetic field, identifying the maximum and zero voltages with the
positions of the coil. (5 marks)

(b) Draw a diagram of the circuit of a d.c. power pack used for generating a
variable d.c. voltage from the a.c. mains, giving rough values for any
inductors, capacitors and resistors used. (3 marks)

(c) With reference to your circuit in (b), briefly explain the physical principles
involved in

(i) the transformer (working under ideal conditions),

(ii) the full-wave rectification process, and

(iii) the filter.

For (iii) explain your choice of the values of any inductances, capacitances and
resistances. (8 marks)
89 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

5. (a) Radioactive elements occur in nature. Summarise their unique characteristics,

including how their activity decays. (4 marks)

(b) Describe an experiment, performable in a school laboratory, to measure a

radioactive half-life. (8 marks)

(c) Explain the method of archeological dating using carbon-14. (4 marks)

6. (a) Derive, from first principles, expressions for the energies stored by

(i) a pure capacitor of capacitance C charged by a voltage V0, and

(ii) a pure inductor of inductance L through which a current I0 flows.

(5 marks)

(b) The charged capacitor in (a)(i) is isolated and then connected across the
inductor in (a)(ii). Show that the charge on the capacitor varies with
subsequent time t as Q = Q0 cos ω0t, and obtain a value for ω0. (4 marks)

(c) Draw a phasor diagram for a series LCR circuit connected across a signal
generator of voltage V = V0 cos ωt. Derive the condition for the maximum
stored energies of the inductor and the capacitor to be the same. (5 marks)

(d) With reference to the stored energies, compare the two physical situations
described in parts (b) and (c). (2 marks)

- End of Paper -
90 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1990 Essay Type Question

1. (a) Describe simple harmonic motion (s.h.m.). (2 marks)

(b) A simple pendulum consisting of a weight suspended vertically by a string, of

length l, attached to a fixed point is set in motion in a vertical plane, the
amplitude of oscillations being small. Show that the motion is simple
harmonic and write down expressions for the displacement, velocity and
acceleration of the weight after a time t. Sketch the variations of potential and
kinetic energies with time. (6 marks)

(c) Describe an experiment to verify that such a pendulum undergoes s.h.m.

(6 marks)

(d) A student decides to use the oscillation of such a pendulum to obtain a value
for the free-fall acceleration due to gravity. Without describing this
experiment, critically discuss TWO possible sources of error in your
measurement. (2 marks)

2. (a) Distinguish between heat and internal energy and explain their connection
with the temperature of a body. (3 marks)

(b) Briefly discuss the differences in physical nature between the internal energy
for a gas and a solid. (4 marks)

(c) Describe the use of a constant volume gas thermometer to accurately measure
temperature, and explain how this leads to the concept of an absolute zero
temperature. (7 marks)

(d) Explain why there may be disagreement in temperature measurements between

thermometers using different physical thermometirc properties.
(2 marks)

3. (a) Explain the formation of stationary waves along a stretched wire which
vibrates with a frequency f and is fixed at both ends, giving graphical
representations of the motion amplitude at different positions along the wire
corresponding to time intervals of 1/(4f). What are the appropriate conditions
for such stationary waves to occur? (5 marks)
90 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

(b) Suggest a possible experimental method for demonstrating such stationary

waves and determining the necessary conditions. (2 marks)

(c) Using this as an example explain the meaning of resonance. Briefly explain
how such a phenomenon could occur and be observed in

(i) an a.c. electrical circuit, and

(ii) atoms.

[No theoretical derivations required.] (9 marks)

4. (a) Two long parallel wire, each of length l and separated by a distance d, carry a
current I in the same direction. Draw a diagram of this arrangement and on it

(i) the magnetic field at each wire due to the other, and

(ii) the corresponding forces.

giving their magnitudes. (3 marks)

(b) How may a similar arrangement be used to define the ampere unit of current?
(1 mark)

(c) Using suitable diagrams, explain the working of a simple d.c. motor, where the
magnetic field is produced by a permanent magnet. (4 marks)

(d) For this motor explain, in detail, the observed sequence of physical effects of

(i) switching it on with no mechanical load and,

(ii) after a while, applying such a load.

(8 marks)

5. (a) Compare the production and maintenance of electrical current flow in a circuit
formed by the connection of

(i) a resistance, and

(ii) a heated cathode diode,

90 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

across a variable d.c. voltage power supply.

What are the main effects of varying the output voltage? All physical
processes involved should be explained. (9 marks)

(b) Explain the use of an electron beam in a cathode ray oscilloscope. Give a
diagram showing the d.c. electrical connections but no details of the beam
focussing or electronic circuits are expected. (5 marks)

(c) Suggest a possible hazard of sitting too near a colour television, giving a brief
explanation. (2 marks)

6. (a) Derive an expression for the force experienced by an object of mass m which
is rotating with angular velocity ω around a circular path of radius r, in the
absence of any gravitational field. (4 marks)

(b) In a laboratory a small weight is attached by a piece of string of length l to a

fixed point and set into circular motion in a horizontal plane. Derive an
expression for the angle of inclination of the string with the vertical,
explaining what happens as ω is increased to a high value. (3 marks)

(c) A closed tube containing a mixture of two liquids of densities ρ and ρ’ (ρ >
ρ’) is attached at the end by a hinge (allowing vertical motion) to a rigid rod.
If this rod, and also the tube, is rapidly rotated in a horizontal plane with an
angular velocity ω, compare the excess forces on a small elemental volume
A∆r of each liquid at distance r from the centre of motion (A being the area of
cross-section of the tube). Hence explain the action of a centrifuge. (5 marks)

(d) A students argues that there is no need to use a centrifuge to separate the two
liquids since if the mixture is just left stationary they will separate under the
force of gravity. Compare the excess forces using each method and comment
on the statement of the student. (4 marks)

- End of paper -
91 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1991 Essay Type Question

1. (a) Derive an expression for the kinetic energy of a body of mass m, and hence
explain its meaning, by considering the body to be linearly accelerated from
rest to a velocity v. (2 marks)

(b) Show that an analogy exists for rotational motion and hence define the
physical quantity ‘moment of inertia’. (3 marks)

(c) How would your differentiate experimentally between a hollow and a solid
cylinder, which both have the same dimensions and mass? Give the theory of
your method. (4 marks)

(d) Describe, and give the theory of, an experiment to measure the moment of the
inertia of a flywheel. (7 marks)

2. (a) Briefly distinguish between the different types of strongly attractive forces
which bond atoms of materials together. (6 marks)

(b) Taking into consideration the resistance of solids to deformation by external

forces, sketch the expected variations of (1) the interatomic force and (2) the
potential energy against the separation of two atoms in a solid. (4 marks)

(c) (i) Sketch the expected variations of stress against strain for (1) a copper
wire, (2) a rubber band and (3) a glass fibre in a Young modulus
experiment, the loading being increased to just before the materials

(ii) Briefly account for the different behaviour of the materials.

(6 marks)

3. (a) By considering the propagation of light waves through slit(s), carefully

distinguish between diffraction and interference. (7 marks)

(b) Explain why interference of light is not observed when

(i) two separate light sources are used and

(ii) the path difference between light rays from the same light source is too
(4 marks)
91 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

(c) Draw a diagram showing what you would expect to observe when viewing
through a diffraction gating the vertical glowing filament of an electric lamp,
placed several meters away. The grating is placed with its ruled lines parallel
to the filament. Briefly explain the observations you make. (5 marks)

4. (a) An a.c. voltage supply is connected across a coil of many turns, this coil being
placed over the vertical iron rod of a retort stand and resting on the base.
Explain clearly your expected observations, and the physical principles
involved when

(i) a small aluminium ring is dropped over and slides down the vertical rod
of the retort stand,

(ii) the ring of (i) is replaced by a similar ring, but broken by a vertical slot

(iii) the ring of (i) is fastened down on top of the coil.

(6 marks)

(b) A series circuit is formed from a coil of inductance 500 H, a 2 V light bulb, an
open switch and a 2 V battery. Explain your expected observations when

(i) the switch is closed and

(ii) after connecting a neon lamp across the coil, the switch is opened.
(4 marks)

(c) Draw a circuit which can be used to observe the periodic variations of current I
together with those of an applied a.c. voltage V for the coil of (b). Explain
mathematically the phase difference you would expect between I and V.
(6 marks)

5. (a) Explain how you would distinguish experimentally between α, β and γ-

radiating radioactive sources using a Geiger-muller counter detection system.
(6 marks)

(b) What changes take place in the constituents of the nuclei when such radiations
are emitted? (3 marks)
91 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

(c) Explain your choice of type of radiation source, giving brief details of use for

(i) monitoring paper thickness, during manufacture,

(ii) estimating the size of nuclei and

(iii) treating body cancer by destroying cancer cells.

(7 marks)

6. (a) An initially uncharged capacitor of capacitance C is connected in series with a

resistor of resistance R. The capacitor is now fully charged up by connecting a
battery of e.m.f. E across this combination.

(i) Derive an equation = A − BQ , where Q is the charge stored in the
capacitor after the battery has been connected for a time t. Determine the
constants A and B in the above equation.

(ii) Solve this equation for Q and sketch the variation of Q with t. Give
physical explanations of the variation.

(iii) From first principles determine the total work done by the battery in fully
charging up C and the final energy stored in C. Explain, and account for
mathematically, any difference between these.
(11 marks)

(b) (i) Write down an analogous equation to that of (a)(i) for the velocity v of a
ball bearing of radius a and mass m falling vertically, from rest, in a
viscous liquid after an elapsed time t. The effect of the buoyancy of the
liquid should be neglected.

(ii) Solve the equation for v and sketch the variation of v with t. Give
physical explanations of the variation.
(5 marks)

- End of Paper -
92 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1992 Essay Type Question

1. (a) Explain the meanings of Newton’s second and third Laws of Motion.
(3 marks)

(b) Apply these laws to the rapid impact between two bodies, which were initially
moving with unequal velocities along the same direction, and show that linear
momentum is conserved. Explain whether the total kinetic energy is
necessarily conserved, or not. (7 marks)

(c) Briefly discuss the conservation of energy in regard to

(i) the results of the Franck-Hertz experiment and

(ii) the energy spectrum of the β-particles emitted naturally by some nuclei.

(No experimental circuit details or theoretical details are expected.) (6 marks)

2. (a) State the main assumptions of Kinetic Theory as applied to ideal gases.
(4 marks)

(b) (i) Explain why the speed of diffusion of a gas is much slower than the
average speed of the gas molecules.

(ii) Distinguish between the average separation of the molecules and their
mean free path.
(4 marks)

(c) (i) Briefly describe an experiment for measuring the rate of diffusion of
bromine into air and hence show how to estimate the mean free path of
bromine molecules. (Random walk statistical rule to be assumed and
density of bromine known.)

(ii) By a consideration of the effect of diffusion on the various constituents

of the earth’s atmosphere, briefly discuss how you would expect the
composition to vary with height. Assume no convection or turbulence.
(8 marks)
92 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

3. (a) Demonstrate the differences between

(i) transverse wave propagation,

(ii) longitudinal wave propagation,

by drawing graphical plots showing the corresponding variations of the

displacements of the medium particles with distance from the source for times
t = 0, T/4. T/2 and 3T/4, where T is the wave period. (8 marks)

(b) Describe an experiment to show the phase change of the particle oscillations
with distance from a sound wave source, and hence explain how you would
determine the wave propagation speed. (6 marks)

(c) How does the propagation of light waves differ from that of sound waves?
(2 marks)

4. (a) Give definitions of

(i) the electric field intensity and

(ii) the electric potential,

and explain the relationship between them with the aid of a diagram showing
equi-potential lines. (4 marks)

(b) Explain the concept of capacitance by considering a small charged metal

sphere, assuming the inverse square law for the force between charges.
(4 marks)

(c) Describe how you would experimentally investigate the geometric factors
affecting the capacitance of a parallel plate capacitor using a reed switch to
convert the stored charge into a current. (There is no need to explain the
working of the reed switch.) Suggest two sources of error. (8 marks)

5. By considering the force on free electrons of charge -e moving with a constant

velocity v in a path, perpendicular to a uniform magnetic field B,

(a) explain the production of an electric field E when an electric current is passed
through an n-type semiconductor crystal in a direction perpendicular to a
magnetic field B. (5 marks)

(b) further, explain the production of another electric field E’ in a linear conductor
moved perpendicular to the magnetic field B. (4 marks)
92 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

(c) describe an experiment to measure the charge/mass (e/m) ratio for electrons
using an electric field and magnetic field perpendicular to each other. (No
theory of the production of the magnetic field is expected.) Briefly indicate
main difficulties.
(7 marks)

6. (a) Define simple harmonic motion (s.h.m.) and give one example of motion
approximating to s.h.m. which may be observed during our daily lives.
(2 marks)

(b) (i) A long spiral spring of force constant k hangs vertically from a fixed
support with a weight of mass m attached to its bottom end. If the
weight is pulled downwards and then released show that the subsequent
motion is s.h.m., with the displacement from the equilibrium position at
any time t given by x = a cos ω0 t, where a is a constant and ω0 the
natural angular frequency of oscillation.

(ii) If the weight now moves in a viscous liquid, there will be an additional
dx dx
retardation force acting of b , where is the instantaneous
dt dt
velocity. Write down the new equation of motion. Assume a solution,
x = Ae-γtcos ωt and by substitution derive an expression for γ and show
that the new angular frequency of oscillation, ω = (ω20 − γ 2 )1/ 2 . (Hint:
consider particular times t = 0, .)

(10 marks)

(c) Now consider the connection of a charged capacitor of capacitance C across a

coil of inductance L and resistance R. Show that a similar differential equation
holds good for the charge Q on the capacitor, in place of the displacement x in
(b)(ii), and hence by analogy determine the corresponding expression for γ, ω
and ω0. (4 marks)

- End of Paper -
93 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1993 Essay Type Question

1. (a) State the differences between a steady flow and a turbulent flow of fluids.
(3 marks)

(b) In the steady flow of a liquid through a narrow pipe, explain how a velocity
gradient is set up. (3 marks)

(c) A block of base area A lies on a horizontal lubricated floor. The lubricant is a
layer of liquid having thickness t and coefficient of viscosity η. Derive the
force required to move the block at a constant velocity v. Briefly explain each
step in your argument and state the assumption(s) you made. (4 marks)

(d) The viscosity of a liquid can be measured by using Stokes’ law. Ball-bearings
are dropped into a long vertical glass tube containing the liquid and their
respective terminal velocities are measured for calculating the coefficient of
viscosity of the liquid. State and explain the precautions in performing this
experiment. (No mathematical derivation is expected.) (6 marks)

2. (a) Describe FOUR contrasting features of progressive and stationary waves, and
state the conditions necessary for a stationary wave. (6 marks)

(b) Beats can be heard when a tuning fork and a guitar string vibrate
simultaneously with slightly different frequencies f1 and f2 respectively.

(i) With the aid of diagrams, explain how beats are formed. Draw a
diagram to show the resulting wave form.

(ii) Show that the beat frequency is equal to the difference between f1 and f2.
(7 marks)

(c) Briefly describe how the principle of beats would be used to detect the speed
of cars in a police radar speed check system. (No mathematical derivation is
expected.) (3 marks)

3. (a) State the order of magnitude of

(i) the average drift velocity of electrons in a current-carrying wire;

(ii) the speed of electrical signals in a circuit.

Account for the difference by explaining the average drift velocity of electrons
and the speed of electrical signal in a circuit. (5 marks)
93 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

(b) Derive the current flow equation i = nAve fro a metal wire. Explain the
meanings of the symbols in the equation. (3 marks)

(c) Draw a labelled diagram of a moving-coil meter. Briefly describe its working
principles and explain how a linear scale may be achieved. (8 marks)

4. (a) Explain each of the three terms in Einstein’s photoelectric equation

½mvm² = hν - φ. (2 marks)

(b) Figure 4.1 illustrates the basic features of the laboratory apparatus for
investigating photoelectricity. It contains a vacuum photoelectric cell P with a
photosensitive metal C of large area and a collector of electrons D.

incident monochromatic
Figure 4.1 V


(i) Sketch a graph showing the dependence of the current i through the
ammeter on the potential difference V (V = potential of D - potential of
C). Your graph should cover both positive and negative values of V.
Briefly explain the shape of your graph.

(ii) Copy the graph you have drawn in (i) and sketch on it the curves for

(I) increased light intensity, with the light frequency being kept constant;

(II) increased light frequency, with the light intensity being kept constant.

Explain briefly. (9 marks)

(c) Briefly describe the use of photoelectric cells in the reproduction of sound
from film soundtracks. (2 marks)

(d) Photoelectric emission is one of the phenomena that demonstrate the particle-
like properties of electromagnetic radiation. Briefly describe an experiment to
show that particles such as electrons also exhibit wave-like properties.
(3 marks)
93 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

5. (a) (i) Briefly describe an experiment to investigate the r.m.s. current in an LRC
series circuit for different frequencies of an a.c. supply. (No
mathematical derivation is expected.)

(ii) Sketch a graph showing how the r.m.s. current in the circuit varies with
the applied frequency. Account for the shape of the curve with the aid of
phasor diagrams.

(iii) Sketch, on the same graph in (ii), the curves for

(I) smaller resistance;

(II) larger resistance.

(11 marks)

(b) Figure 5.1 shows a simplified tuning circuit for radio receivers.


Figure 5.1 L ,R C To receiver


(i) Explain its operation.

(ii) Suggest a method to improve the reception performance of the circuit.

Explain briefly.
(5 marks)

6. (a) An ideal spring of force constant k is mounted horizontally with one end fixed
and the other end attached to a block of mass m (as shown). The block is set
to oscillate with amplitude A on a level, frictionless surface.

fixed spring
Figure 6.1 end m

(i) Sketch a graph of elastic potential energy U against x for the spring-mass
system, where x is the distance of the block from the fixed end. Mark on
the graph the position xc of the central point of the oscillatory motion.
93 AL Physics/Essay/P.4

(ii) On the same graph in (i), use a dotted line to sketch the graph of kinetic
energy of the system against x. Briefly explain your graph by using
energy-based arguments.
(4 marks)

(b) In (a), the spring is assumed to have negligible mass. However, no spring is
completely massless. To find the effect of the spring’s mass, consider a spring
of mass M and force constant k. When the spring is stretched or compressed
by an amount e, the elastic potential energy is ½ke².

(i) Suppose at a certain instant, the speed of the block is v and the length of
the spring is L. For each spring element, its speed is proportional to its
distance l from the end. Show that the kinetic energy of the spring is
Mv²/6. (Assume uniform mass distribution of the spring.)

(Hint: find the mass of the speed of each spring element of length dl.)

(ii) Find the extension of the spring in terms of x and write down the
expression for the total energy of such an oscillating spring-mass system.
Take the time derivative of the expression and find the period of the
subsequent motion.
(10 marks)

(c) How does the motion change if the oscillating system is immersed in water?
(2 marks)

- End of Paper -
94 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1994 Essay Type Question

1. (a) Figure 1.1 shows a car travelling over a hump which is an arc of a vertical circle.
Compared with travelling on a level road, would a passenger feel heavier, lighter or
the same as usual when the car passes the top of the hump? Briefly explain your
answer. (Assume that the passenger remains in contact with the seat) (3 marks)

Figure 1.1

(b) State the factors on which the moment of inertia of a body depends. Compare the role
of the moment of inertia in rotational motion with the role of mass in linear motion.(5

(c) A man, with his arms stretched out, is standing at the centre of a light, horizontal
circular platform which can rotate freely about its vertical axis. He and the platform
are then set into rotation. Explain what happens if he puts down his arms. Discuss
whether there is a change in his kinetic energy. (5 marks)

(d) Two identical cylinders, A and B, are held with their axes horizontal and at the same
height on slopes of the same inclination. When released from rest, cylinder A slides
down a smooth slope while cylinder B rolls down a rough slope without slipping. By
using the principle of conservation of energy, explain which cylinder has the greater
linear speed when reaching the bottom of the slopes. (No mathematical derivation is
required) (3 marks)

2. (a) State Huygens’ principle. With the aid of the diagrams, use the principle to explain

(i) how the direction of propagation of a plane wave is related to the wavefront;

(ii) why plane waves refract as they pass from one medium to another.
(7 marks)
94 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

(b) (i) Explain why interference patterns cannot be successfully produced with too
small, close light sources.

(ii) Explain, with the aid of a diagram, how the pattern in (i) is overcome in Young’s

(iii) Describe and account for the observed interference pattern.

(7 marks)

(c) Describe and explain one practical use for light interference. (2 marks)

3. (a) (i) Solids can be thought of as networks of atoms connected by ‘small springs’.
Explain how this method can be deduced from solids’ observed resistance to

(ii) Sketch the curve of potential energy against interatomic separation and use it to
explain the phenomenon of thermal expansion of solids.
(6 marks)

(b) Glass is a strong, stiff and brittle material. Sketch the stress-strain graph for glass and
briefly explain why it is so described. (3 marks)

(c) With suitable diagrams, use the Bernoulli principle to explain

(i) how a yacht can sail against the wind;

(ii) the curved flight of a spinning ball. Also suggest one design feature which
increases the curvature of the ball’s flight.
(7 marks)

4. (a) (i) Magnetic fields are usually described in terms of magnetic field lines. Use this
concept to explain the term ‘magnetic flux density’.

(ii) State the factor(s) which determine(s) the total flux linkage for a plane coil
placed in a uniform magnetic field. (3 marks)

(b) (i) With a suitable diagram, explain qualitatively the working principles of a Hall

(ii) Briefly describe an experiment to investigate the variation of magnetic flux

density along the axis of a solenoid by using a Hall probe. State any
precaution(s) needed in the experiment.
(9 marks)
94 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

(c) Explain, by means of the laws of electromagnetic induction, how a search coil can be
used to investigate the flux density of an alternating magnetic field. (No mathematical
derivation is required) (4 marks)

5. (a) (i) What is meant by the ‘binding energy’ of a nucleus?

(ii) Sketch a graph of binding energy per nucleon against mass number and use it to
explain why

(I) a 235U nucleus is not as stable as a 56Fe nucleus; and

(II) a nucleus of mass number 200 readily undergoes fission but a nucleus of
mass number 20 does not. (7 marks)

(b) (i) For a nuclear fission reactor in normal operation, nuclear fissions must be
controlled so that on average only one neutron from each fission produces
another fission. Explain why this is necessary.

(ii) Give two components of a nuclear fission reactor which are responsible for
controlling the number of neutrons producing further fissions. Briefly describe
their actions. (5 marks)

(c) (i) State two advantages of using fusion as a source of energy, compared with using

(ii) Give the reason(s) for hindering the practical use of controlled fusion as a source
of energy. (4 marks)

- End of Paper -
95 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1995 Essay Type Question

1. (a) In each of the following situations, use Newton’s law of motion to explain
whether or not a net force is acting on the body. If no net force is acting,
describe how the forces are balanced. If a net force is acting, explain the
origin of the net force and state its direction.

(i) A raindrop which falls at terminal speed.

(ii) A ping pong ball which collides obliquely with a smooth wall.

(iii) A communications satellite which maintains a constant position above

the earth’s surface.
(8 marks)

(b) A rubber ball is dropped freely from a certain height onto a horizontal floor. It
rebounds to the same height after each bounce. In terms of the force acting,
state two ways in which the motion, although periodic, differs from simple
harmonic motion. (4 marks)

(c) (i) For a planet revolving round the sun in a circular orbit of radius r and
with period T, show that r3 = KT2 where K is a constant.

(ii) Is the equation r3 = KT2, with the same constant K for the planet, also
valid for a satellite circling round the earth? Explain briefly.
(4 marks)

2. (a) In terms of the kinetic theory model of gases, explain:

(i) what an ideal gas is,

(ii) how gases exert pressure on the walls of their containers,

(iii) why compressing a gas increases its temperature.

(7 marks)

(b) Explain why some of the assumptions of the kinetic theory of an ideal gas
could not be applied to real gases at high pressures or low temperatures.
(4 marks)
95 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

(c) Quantitatively, the first law of thermodynamics can be stated as:

∆Q = ∆U + ∆W

(i) Explain this relationship in words.

(ii) ‘A compressed gas in a hollow, steel cylinder expands and lifts a weight;
it cools in the process and is then heated by conduction through the
Describe the above change in terms of the first law of thermodynamics
and hence explain whether you can determine that there has been any
change in internal energy of the gas.
(5 marks)

3. (a) Unpolarised sunlight is incident horizontally on air molecules around O in the

earth’s atmosphere. Part of the light is transmitted horizontally and part is
scattered vertically downward.



0 light
z x

Briefly explain which ray, the transmitted one or the scattered one, is plane
polarised and give the direction of the electric field vector for this ray.
Describe a method to identify this polarised light ray. (5 marks)

(b) Give an account of an everyday example involving polarised light. (3 marks)

(c) (i) State two differences between laser light and light emitted by a light

(ii) What is meant by ‘population inversion’? How do gas lasers rely on this
to operate?

(iii) State and explain two advantages of using laser for cutting over
mechanical devices.
(8 marks)
95 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

4. (a) With the aid of a circuit diagram, briefly describe how a reed switch works in
investigating the dependence of the charge stored in a parallel-plate capacitor

(i) the area of overlap of the plates, and

(ii) the separation between the plates.

Show graphically the expected results. (8 marks)

(b) What is the physical meaning of the reactance of a capacitor? On what factors
does the reactance of a capacitor depend? (2 marks)

(c) Briefly explain the actions of the two capacitors and the inductor in the
following smoothing circuit. (6 marks)

+ +
rectified C1 C2
unsmoothed d.c.
p.d. output

5. (a) Describe an experiment for measuring the wavelength of monochromatic light

using a spectrometer and a diffraction grating with a known grating spacing.
(4 marks)

(b) A spectrometer together with a diffraction grating can also be used to observe
the line emission spectrum from a hydrogen discharge tube.

(i) Explain why hydrogen atoms emit light only of discrete wavelengths.

(ii) How does this kind of spectrum differ from a line absorption spectrum?
Explain how an absorption spectrum can be formed.
(5 marks)

(c) (i) Sketch a graph of a typical X-ray spectrum, and explain how the
characteristic and continuous parts of the spectrum are formed.

(ii) Why is there a definite minimum wavelength of the X-rays produced?

(7 marks)

- End of Paper -
96 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1996 Essay Type Question

1. (a) The centripetal acceleration, a, of a body undergoing a uniform circular motion

of radius r can be expressed as either (1) a = or (2) a = ω 2r, where v and ω
are linear and angular speeds of the body respectively. For a uniform circular
motion of constant period, student A thinks that a decreases with r according to
equation (1), while student B argues that a increases with r according to
equation (2). Comment on their arguments. (2 marks)

(b) To study a circular motion, a small rubber bung of mass m is attached to one
end of a piece of string passing through a thin glass tube, which has a weight W
hanging at its other end. The rubber bung is set into a horizontal circular motion
by a student holding the glass tube.

A tube

(i) Draw a diagram to show the forces acting on the rubber bung and explain
why the string is not horizontal but dips at a small angle θ.

(ii) Show that the weight W equals mω 2L in theory, where ω is the angular
speed and L is the length of the string beyond the upper opening of the glass
tube. Give TWO reasons to explain why there are discrepancies between
the experimental and theoretical results.

(iii) Suggest TWO ways to increase the rate of revolution of the rubber bung.

(iv) When the rubber bung is at position A, the string suddenly breaks.
Describe and explain its subsequent motion.
(7 marks)

(c) With the aid of a diagram, describe and explain the action of a centrifuge. Give
a practical use of a centrifuge. (5 marks)

(d) A satellite revolves round the earth whereas an electron revolves round a
proton inside a hydrogen atom. State TWO similarities and TWO differences
between the two systems. (2 marks)
96 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

2. (a) (i) For a sound wave of constant amplitude and frequency travelling through
air, sketch a graph to show the time variation of the displacement of the
vibrating air particles at a point in the path of the wave. Using the same
time axis, sketch also the variation of air pressure with time at the same

(ii) What is the phase relationship between the displacement and the air
pressure in (a)(i)?
(2 marks)


loudspeakers O

Two identical loudspeakers connected to the same signal generator are placed
inside a room as shown. All the surfaces of the room are covered with sound-
absorbing materials. Point O is equidistant from the loudspeakers are line XOY
is parallel to the line joining the loudspeakers. The variation of sound intensity
along XOY is shown below:



(i) Explain why

(I) the graph shows alternate maximum and minimum;
(II) the sound intensity at a minimum point is non-zero.

(ii) State clearly the difference between sound intensity and sound intensity
level. Explain why the sound intensity level at O wound decrease by 6 dB
if one loudspeaker is turned off.

(iii) Explain the change(s), if any, in the variation of sound intensity along XOY
if the frequency of the signal generator is increased.
(8 marks)
(c) With the aid of a diagram, describe an experiment to find the speed of sound in
air by using Kundt’s tube together with a loudspeaker. State any precautions
which should be taken in the experiment and explain what would be observed.
(6 marks)
96 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

3. Models are frequently used by physicists to illustrate abstract concepts. This

question deals with three of them.

(a) (i) In an ideal gas model, gas consists of numerous molecules of negligible
volume. These molecules move randomly without intermolecular forces
acting between them except during collisions, which are all elastic.
Describe qualitatively how this model could provide a microscopic
interpretation of the macroscopic quantities such as the pressure and
temperature of a gas.

(ii) What is an ideal gas from the macroscopic point of view? Under what
conditions would a real gas behave like an ideal gas?
(4 marks)

(b) Briefly describe a simple model for electron conduction in a metal. Explain
how this model can account for the heating effect of an electric current in a
metal. (6 marks)

(c) (i) One of the early models of an atom was introduced by Rutherford. Give a
brief description of this atomic model.

(ii) How could this model explain the experimental results obtained in the α-
particle scattering experiment?

(iii) Name ONE phenomenon of an atom that Rutherford’s model failed to

account for.
(6 marks)


Source of Generator Transformers Consumers


The above block diagram shows how electric power is supplied to consumers.

(a) (i) Name ONE major source of energy that is currently used in electric power
stations in Hong Kong. Briefly describe how the energy released from the
source can be used to drive a generator in the power station.

(ii) Draw a labelled diagram of a simple a.c. generator. State the conditions
for the output to be sinusoidal a.c. of frequency 50 Hz.
(6 marks)

(b) For steady power transmission, show that the power loss in the cables is
inversely proportional to the square of the output voltage from the power
station. (2 marks)

(c) (i) Electric power companies usually use overhead power cables for
transmitting electricity over large distance, however the general public
96 AL Physics/Essay/P.4

often prefer cables to be underground. Give TWO supporting reasons for

each party.

(ii) An overhead power cable usually consists of a central core of several steel
wires, which is surrounded by many strands of aluminium wire. Give
ONE advantage and ONE disadvantage of using aluminium instead of
copper. Why is it necessary to include several steel wires in the cable?
(6 marks)

(d) Low voltage steady d.c. is required for charging a battery inside a Walkman.
Draw a circuit diagram to show how the mains supply of 220 V a.c. can be
stepped down by a transformer, rectified by a bridge rectifier consisting of four
diodes, smoothed by a circuit consisting of two capacitors and an inductor, and
finally connected to the battery. (2 marks)

5. (a) Draw a labelled diagram of the basic structure of a cathode-ray tube (CRT)
including the electron gun, the deflecting system, the display system and a
potentiometer circuit for the E.H.T. supply applied to various parts of the CRT.
(Detailed electronic circuits NOT required.) (4 marks)

(b) (i) Describe briefly how electrons are produced in the electron gun.

(ii) Explain how the sharpness and brightness of the trace on the screen of a
CRT can be adjusted.

(iii) Explain why the inside of a CRT is coated with graphite and why it is
(6 marks)

(c) (i) With the aid of a graph, describe the function of the time base circuit in a

(ii) At the input select of a CRO, the input terminal for a.c., compared with that
for d.c. has an extra built-in component. Name that component and state its
(4 marks)

(d) A CRO can be used to measure voltages. Give TWO advantages and TWO
disadvantages of using a CRO as a voltmeter as compared with a moving-coil
meter. (2 marks)

- End of Paper -
97 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1997 Essay Type Question

1. (a) A man pushes a heavy rock resting on the ground, but it does not move. A
student says that this is because the pushing force is balanced by the reaction of
this force. Comment, with the aid of a diagram, on whether the student’s
argument is correct. (2 marks)

(b) Using a spring balance, a small object is found to weigh heavier at the north
pole than at the equator.

(i) State and explain TWO reasons for this observation.

(ii) What would the result be if the object is weighed again at the two places
using a beam balance? Explain briefly.
(5 marks)

(c) Consider the cases in which (i) a man is inside a lift falling freely and (ii) he is
inside a space-craft moving in a circular orbit round the earth. Identify THREE
similarities between these physical environments. (3 marks)

(d) (i) The equation of state and kinetic theory equation of an ideal gas can be
written as pV = nRT and pV = Nmc 2 . State the meaning of the symbols
excluding pressure p and volume V.

(ii) Two identical vessels containing hydrogen and oxygen respectively are at
the same temperature and pressure. What can you say about the number of
molecules, the average molecular kinetic energy and the mean square speed
of the molecules in the two vessels? Explain briefly. (Assume that the
gases behave ideally.)
(6 marks)

2. (a) Plane monochromatic light waves of wavelength λ are incident normally onto a
plane transmission grating of slit separation d to produce an interference

(i) Using the principle of superposition describe briefly how the principal
maxima are formed and deduce the formula for the angular positions of the
principal maxima.

(ii) It is preferable to measure the wavelength of light by using a plane

transmission grating rather than using a double slit. Explain briefly.
(5 marks)
(b) Describe an experiment for observing the absorption spectrum of iodine using a
diffraction grating. Describe the spectrum observed and account for it in terms
of the quantum nature of light and atomic structure. (8 marks)
97 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

(c) Briefly explain the principles involved in identifying the elements present in the
atmosphere of the sun through studying the sun’s spectrum. (3 marks)

3. (a) Explain the meaning of the potential difference between two points in an
electric field and hence state the meaning of the potential at a point in the field.
(3 marks)

(b) (i) An isolated spherical conductor is positively charged. Draw carefully on

the same diagram

(I) the electrostatic lines of force,

(II) a series of equipotential surfaces with equal increment in electric
potential around the spherical conductor.

(ii) With reference to the diagram drawn in (i),

(I) explain how the lines of force help in describing an electric field.
(II) illustrate the relationship between electric field strength and potential
(6 marks)

(c) With the aid of a diagram, describe and explain an experiment to investigate the
potential around a charged sphere. Briefly describe the experimental results.
(7 marks)

4. (a) You are given two bar magnets, a long copper wire and a light beam
galvanometer. Describe how you would use the apparatus to investigate
qualitatively the factors affecting the e.m.f. induced in a coil by electromagnetic
induction. (5 marks)

(b) (i) Consider a rectangular coil of N turns rotating uniformly in a uniform

magnetic field about an axis perpendicular to the field. Derive an
expression for the e.m.f. produced.

uniform magnetic field

axis of rotation


(ii) With the aid of a labelled diagram, describe the construction of a generator
to provide a d.c. to a light bulb using the method in (i) [smoothing is not
required]. Show that the current generated is always flowing in one
direction through the bulb.
97 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

(iii) Explain carefully why a greater driving torque is needed to maintain the
coil of the generator rotating at the original speed when an identical light
bulb is connected in parallel with the first one. Also explain how this
change agrees with the principle of conservation of energy.
(11 marks)

5. (a) (i) With the aid of a labelled diagram, explain the working principles of a
diffusion cloud chamber. State, with brief explanations, TWO properties
of the radiations that could be investigated by the cloud chamber.

(ii) The tracks of an α-source are observed in a diffusion cloud chamber in

which a trace amount of helium is introduced. Sketch the tracks observed
when there is an oblique collision between an α-particle and a helium
atom. Show, with mathematical derivation, how the mass of an α-particle
can be deduced from these tracks. (The speed of the helium atom before
collision is assumed to be negligible.)
(10 marks)

(b) Explain, through analogous comparison with throwing dice, what is meant by
radioactive decay being a ‘random process’. Hence deduce from first
principles the exponential law of decay of a radioactive source. (No need to
describe the dice experiment.) (Given: ∫ = ln x + C ) (6 marks)

- End of Paper -
98 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1998 Essay Type Question

1. (a) Explain what a simple harmonic motion (s.h.m.) is, and why it is called an
isochronous oscillation. (2 marks)

(b) A light spring of force constant k is connected to a block of mass m on a

frictionless surface inclined at an angle θ to the horizontal. The block is
displaced from its equilibrium position O and then released. Suppose at a
certain instant the displacement of the block from the equilibrium position is x
as shown.


(i) In terms of the symbols given, express the initial extension e0 of the spring
when the block is at its equilibrium position. Show that the period of
oscillation of the subsequent motion is independent of the angle of
inclination θ.

(ii) The motion of the block can be described by the equation x = A cos 2πft
where t is the time. State the physical meaning of the quantities A and f.
On what factor(s) does each of these quantities depend?

(iii) Sketch, for one cycle, three separate graphs to show how the displacement,
velocity and acceleration of the block vary with time. Comment on their
phase relationship. (No mathematical derivation is required.)
(8 marks)
98 AL Physics/Essay/P.2


The above figure shows a simple pendulum which consists of a bob suspended
by a light, inextensible string of length L from a fixed point. If the bob is
slightly displaced to one side and then released, it will perform s.h.m. The set-
up can be used to measure the acceleration due to gravity g.

(i) Which force provides the restoring force for the bob to perform s.h.m.?

(ii) Give TWO reasons why a small spherical heavy bob is usually used in the

(iii) The period of oscillation of the pendulum is given by T = 2π .
Describe briefly how the gravitational acceleration g can be determined
from this experiment using a graphical method. State TWO precautions
that should be taken in this experiment.
(6 marks)

2. (a) Explain what is meant by the normal adjustment for an astronomical refracting
telescope and why it is used in this way. (2 marks)

(b) (i) Draw a diagram to show the passage of three light rays passing through an
astronomical refracting telescope from a point on a distant object (not on
the axis of the telescope) when it is used with normal adjustment. Mark the
foci of the objective lens (F0) and eyepiece (Fe) clearly on your diagram.
State the functions of the objective lens and eyepiece.

(ii) What is the meaning of the magnifying power of the astronomical refracting
telescope with normal adjustment? State the ways of increasing the
magnifying power and discuss the limitations on its value.

(iii) What is the major disadvantage of the astronomical refracting telescope for
viewing objects on the ground? With the help of a suitable diagram, show
how this disadvantage can be overcome.
(10 marks)
98 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

(c) An astronomical refracting telescope may not be able to produce bright images
due to reflection from the lens surfaces. Describe and explain a way to reduce
the amount of reflected light from the lens surfaces. Why does the objective
lens of such a telescope look purple in colour? (No mathematical derivation is
required.) (4 marks)

3. (a) (i)



The figure shows a rectangular metallic loop ABCD being pulled with
constant speed out of a magnetic field, which points into the paper. State
Lenz’s law and use it together with the idea of changing flux to find the
direction of the induced current flowing in the loop. Briefly explain your

(ii) What do you understand by the principle of conservation of energy?

Referring to the above example, justify whether Lenz’s law satisfies the
principle of conservation of energy.
(6 marks)

(b) (i) Explain why electrical energy is classified as ‘high grade’ while thermal
energy is classified as ‘low grade’.

(ii) If energy is conserved, why is there an energy crisis?

(iii) Discuss THREE advantages and THREE disadvantages of the domestic

use of solar energy.
(6 marks)

(c) (i) Give TWO reasons why the energy in coal or oil is usually converted into
electrical energy first instead of being used directly.

(ii) Describe the major energy conversions in a coal-fired power station. State
a typical conversion efficiency for this kind of power station.
(4 marks)
98 AL Physics/Essay/P.4

4. (a) (i) Draw a labelled diagram of a simple d.c. motor using permanent magnets.
Indicate the direction of rotation of the motor and state the function of the

(ii) Describe and explain THREE modifications for improving the turning
effect in practical d.c. motors.

(iii) The magnetic fields of some electric motors are provided by

electromagnets. Give the advantages of using electromagnets over
permanent magnets.
(7 marks)

coil resistance r


The above figure shows a simple motor circuit, in which a constant voltage V is
applied to a motor M with coil resistance r while the current flowing is I.

(i) Explain why a back e.m.f. (Eb) is generated when the motor rotates and
express Eb in terms of I, V and r. Hence explain carefully why the coil of a
motor is liable to be damaged when a motor is first switched on or when a
running motor is suddenly jammed.

(ii) Discuss the variation of current in the above circuit and describe the
corresponding changes in the motor’s rotation speed and driving torque

(I) the switch S is closed and the motor does not carry any mechanical

(II) a mechanical load is connected to a steadily running motor.

(9 marks)
98 AL Physics/Essay/P.5

5. (a) Compare how electrons are emitted from metal surfaces in

(i) thermionic emission and

(ii) photoelectric emission.

Suggest TWO reasons why thermionic emission and not photoelectric emission
is usually employed in a cathode ray tube for the production of electrons. (3

(b) (i) State TWO experimental facts about photoelectric effect which cannot be
explained by the wave theory of light.

(ii) Based on the photon theory of light and his photoelectric equation Kmax =
hν - φ (Kmax = maximum kinetic energy of emitted photoelectrons), Einstein
explained the experimental observation of photoelectric effect described

(I) State the significance of the terms hν and φ in Einstein’s equation.

(II) Explain carefully how Einstein can account for each of the two
experimental facts in (b)(i).
(6 marks)

(c) (i) Explain the origin of the characteristic lines in the hydrogen emission
spectrum and the X-ray spectrum. Why do the lines in the X-ray spectrum
have much shorter wavelengths?

(ii) Explain why there is a continuous spectrum with a minimum wavelength in

the X-ray spectrum.
(7 marks)

- End of Paper -
99 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


1999 Essay Type Question

1. (a) A small ball is projected horizontally with a certain speed from a height of 1 m
above a smooth expanse of ground. The ball falls under gravity, hits the ground and
bounces up.

(i) Assuming that no energy is lost in the process, sketch graphs to show how the
vertical component of the velocity and the acceleration of the ball vary with
time to the point when the ball bounces up to the original level. Label the axes
wherever possible. Describe the force(s) acting on the ball and briefly
explain the shape of the graphs.

(ii) State the change(s), if any, to the graphs in (a)(i) for the following cases.
Briefly explain your answer.

(I) A ball of greater mass is used

(II) The projection speed is increased
(III) Some kinetic energy is lost when the ball hits the ground

(iii) Discuss whether the momentum of the ball is conserved when it hits the
(12 marks)

(b) With the apparatus available in a school laboratory, describe a simple experiment
to investigate the dependence of the stopping distance of a vehicle on its initial
kinetic energy under the action of a constant resistive force. State and describe
how to verify the expected result. State the source(s) of error. (4 marks)

2. (a) (i) With the aid of a diagram, explain how stationary waves are formed.

(ii) Explain the following by referring to various phenomena of waves:

(I) Radio waves of long wavelengths can propagate long distances.

(II) The voice of one of your teachers can be heard and identified before he
enters the classroom.
(III) Two violin players are playing the same note together for a few seconds
and a listener finds that the intensity of the sound seems to vary with time.
(IV) A radio receiver seems to work better in some parts of a room than in
other parts.
(V) Polaroid sunglasses can effectively reduce the glare of the sun reflected
from the sea.
(10 marks)
99 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

(b) You are asked to measure the wavelength of red light using a diffraction grating.
With the aid of a diagram, describe how you would carry out the experiment and
state any precautions. List the measurements that you would take and the major
source of error.
(6 marks)

3. (a) A parallel-plate capacitor of capacitance C and a resistor of large resistance R are

connected in series with a battery of e.m.f. ε having negligible internal resistance.

ε S


(i) Sketch graphs to show the time variation of the voltage across the capacitor
and the current in the circuit after closing switch S. Briefly explain your

(ii) A student uses a voltmeter of resistance R to check the voltage across the
capacitor and finds that the reading falls from an initial value ε to a final
steady value ε/2. Briefly explain why this is so.

(iii) With switch S closed, the plates of the capacitor are pulled apart slightly.
Describe and explain the possible change(s) in the charge and the energy
stored in the capacitor when the steady state is reached.
(8 marks)

(b) (i) You are asked to demonstrate the change in the terminal p.d. of a supply when
delivering a current. With the aid of a diagram, describe how you would carry
out the experiment using a 12 V 24 W ray box lamp and some additional
apparatus. Explain how the internal resistance of the supply could be
estimated and state the source(s) of error.

(ii) (I) State and discuss the significance of the order of magnitude of the internal
resistance of a 5 kV E.H.T.
(II) A 12 V car battery is designed to deliver a current of a hundred amperes
to operate the starting motor. Explain why the headlights would dim when
a car is started with the headlights on.
(8 marks)
99 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

4. (a) (i) With reference to the intermolecular forces, kinetic energy and potential
energy of water molecules, describe the changes involved in changing an ice
cube at 0 °C to steam at 100 °C. Do you agree that skin burnt by steam at 100
°C is more severe than water at 100 °C? Explain briefly.

(ii) Distinguish the terms heat, work and internal energy. Illustrate your answer
by describing the energy conversions in a steam turbine.
(9 marks)

(b) (i) To check for oil leaks in underground pipelines, a radioactive source is put
into the pipeline and the radiation is detected on the ground. Discuss what
kind of radioactive sources is/are suitable for this purpose.

Radioactive substance Half-life Radiation emitted
Radon-222 3.8 days α
Iodine-131 8 days γ

(I) Radon gas is usually present in the environment of concrete buildings.

Explain why radon is considered to be hazardous to human beings and
why opening windows is a way to minimize its hazardous effects.
(II) Iodine-131 is used for investigating the absorption of iodine by the
thyroid gland. Discuss the suitability of using iodine-131 for this
(7 marks)

5. (a) (i) Using a solenoid connected to an a.c. source of variable frequency, describe a
simple experiment to investigate how the induced e.m.f. in a coil depends on
the rate of change of magnetic flux linkage through it. List the apparatus used
and describe the observation.

(ii) State THREE factors that would affect the magnetic flux linkage through a coil.
(9 marks)

(b) Referring to appropriate physical laws, explain the following:

(i) Sparks occur when opening the switch of a circuit with an electromagnet in it.

(ii) There is potential difference developed between the wingtips of an aircraft

when it is flying horizontally in air.

(iii) The pointer of a moving-coil meter stops at the final steady value as soon as it
reaches that value and shows no further oscillation.
(7 marks)

- End of Paper -
00 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


2000 Essay Type Question

1. (a) Explain briefly whether the linear momentum of each of the following underlined
objects is conserved:

(i) A billiard ball strikes the smooth cushion of a billiard table at an angle and
rebounds with the same speed.

(ii) A rocket rises vertically upward during launching in the atmosphere near the
earth’s surface.

(iii) A radioactive nucleus emits an α-particle.

(3 marks)

(b) A ball of mass m1 moving with velocity u1 undergoes head-on collision with
another ball of mass m2 which is initially at rest on a smooth horizontal surface.
The collision is perfectly elastic.

m1 m2

(i) What is meant by a perfectly elastic collision? Show that the velocity of the
ball of mass m1 after collision is given by

 m1 − m2 
 u1
 m1 + m2 

(ii) Use the result in (i) to describe examples of collision where

(I) m1 is much greater than m2;

(II) m1 equal m2; and
(III) m1 is much small than m2.

Hence explain the implication for the choice of materials used as moderators
for neutrons in a nuclear reactor.
(7 marks)
00 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

(c) The diagram shows a set-up used to measure the speed of a bullet in the laboratory.


The bullet (of mass m, in the form of a small metal ball) is ‘fired’ horizontally
towards a block of wood (of mass M, in which a hole has been drilled) suspended
from two vertical inextensible strings (each of length L). On striking the block, the
bullet is embedded and the block rises by swinging through an angle θ as shown.

(i) Suggest a simple method to ‘fire’ the bullet in laboratory. How can we ensure
that the bullet will be embedded in the block without rebound?

(ii) Show that the speed of the bullets is given by the relation v =
m+ M 
  2 gL (1 − cos θ) where g is the acceleration due to gravity. Indicate
 m 
clearly the conservation laws applied in deriving the relation. Discuss the
account for the discrepancy between the experimental and theoretical values of
v. (Neglect the effects of air resistance.)
(6 marks)

2. (a) (i) What is Huygens’ principle in describing wave propagation?

(ii) Use Huygens’ construction method to explain the refraction of plane waves
incident at an angle from air to an optically denser medium. Also derive a
relation between the refractive index of the medium and the speed of light in
each of the two media.
(5 marks)

(b) Young’s double slit experiment shows that light propagates as a wave motion.

(i) Briefly discuss the precautions of the experiment and the requirements on the
set-up in order that best results are obtained when a filament lamp is used.
(No need to describe the procedures of the experiment.)

(ii) Explain why the two slits cannot be replaced by two light bulbs.
(6 marks)

(c) The wave theory of light is inadequate for giving a complete explanation of the
photoelectric effect, which shows that electromagnetic radiation possesses
particle-like properties.

(i) What is the photoelectric effect?

(ii) Identify and explain TWO experimental results in photoelectric experiments

which demonstrate the inadequacy of the wave theory of light.
00 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

(5 marks)

3. (a) (i) Give TWO necessary conditions under which the relation Vs : Vp ≈ Ns : Np
holds for a transformer.

(ii) State and explain TWO designs for a transformer to achieve high efficiency.

(iii) The figure below shows a practical transformer with a light bulb connected
across the secondary coil.

If an identical light bulb is connected in parallel with the first one, describe
what would happen to the secondary current, the secondary voltage, the back
e.m.f. in the primary coil and the primary current.
(6 marks)

(b) Using a simple current balance, describe an experiment to investigate how the
magnetic force depends on the length of the current-carrying conductor in the
magnetic field. State the precautions for this experiment. (5 marks)

(c) (i) Consider a moving-coil meter with a certain current flowing in it. Explain

(I) why the magnitude of the deflecting torque due to the current remains the
same when the coil rotates, and

(II) how equilibrium is achieved at the steady state.

(ii) Do you agree that a moving-coil meter would be more accurate when it works
in a vacuum? Explain briefly.

(iii) Describe and explain what would happen when a d.c. moving-coil meter is
used to measure the a.c. mains.
(5 marks)

4. (a) (i) Explain the meaning of the marking ‘50 V 470 µF’ on a capacitor.

(ii) Explain qualitatively the meaning of self induction by referring to a coil with a
decreasing current.
(3 marks)

(b) A charged ideal capacitor is connected across an ideal inductor. The charges Q
d 2Q − 1
oscillating in the circuit satisfies = Q.
dt 2 LC

(i) Sketch a graph to show the time variation of the energies in the capacitor and
the inductor within a period.

(ii) Through energy considerations, make an analogy between this capacitor-

inductor circuit and the mass-spring system that ‘correspond’ to the charge, the
00 AL Physics/Essay/P.4

current, the capacitance and the inductance. (Assume no energy loss in both

(iii) Explain why it would be difficult to sustain such an electromagnetic

oscillation in practice. With the aid of a graph, describe how the current in the
circuit actually varies with time.
(10 marks)

(c) When each of the components, a resistor, a capacitor and an inductor, is connected
to a sinusoidal a.c. supply of variable frequencies, describe how its impedance
varies with the applied frequency. Hence explain, with the aid of a circuit diagram,
how two of them can be employed to obtain the low frequency component(s) from a
multi-frequency a.c. signal. (3 marks)

5. (a) (i) Explain qualitatively, with an example, whether the following laws are
consistent with the law of conservation of energy.

(I) the first law of thermodynamics

(II) Lenz’s law of electromagnetic induction

(ii) A student suggests that any allowed physical processes which satisfy the
principle of conservation of energy will occur spontaneously. Use an
example to show that this is wrong.
(5 marks)

(b) Energy is released in radioactive decay and nuclear fission. Both processes
involve the activities of an atomic nucleus.

(i) State THREE differences between these two processes.

(ii) Sketch a graph of the binding energy per nucleus against nucleon number and
explain why energy can be released in a nuclear fission. Indicate the
approximate portion of the graph within which fission may occur.
(6 marks)

(c) (i) What is meant by a chain reaction? Discuss whether a chain reaction can be
sustained in a nuclear reactor if natural uranium is used.

(ii) Explain the function of the control rods and the moderator in the steady
generation of power inside a nuclear reactor.
(5 marks)

- End of Paper -
01 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


2001 Essay Type Question

1. (a) (i) What is meant by inertia? Briefly explain its relation to force.

(ii) Use an example to illustrate that an object may not necessarily be at rest when
the net force acting on it is zero.
(3 marks)

(b) (i) Give an example in which a body is accelerating but its speed remains
unchanged. Briefly explain the motion by using the concepts of force and the
change of momentum.

(ii) Briefly outline an experiment to show the following relation:

force ∝ mass × acceleration

Under what condition(s) would the relation become an equation? (8 marks)

(c) By considering a head-on collision between two moving spheres of different

masses, show clearly that the principle of conservation of momentum follows from
Newton’s laws of motion. (5 marks)

2. (a) Distinguish between mechanical and electromagnetic waves in terms of their

nature and propagation. State the factors governing the speed of mechanical waves
in a solid. (3 marks)

(b) (i) Describe an experiment, involving a double-slit arrangement, to demonstrate

the wave nature of light and to estimate its wavelength.

(ii) What further evidence would suggest that a light wave is (I) electromagnetic
and (II) transverse?
(7 marks)

(c) What is the principle of superposition? Use this principle to explain (i) the
formation of beats and (ii) the formation of stationary waves. (6 marks)

3. (a) Define electric field intensity and electric potential at a point in an electric field.
Derive a relationship between these two quantities. (4 marks)

(b) (i) What do you understand by the capacitance of an isolated conductor? Suggest
TWO practical applications of capacitors.

(ii) With the aid of a diagram, explain how the electric potential and the
capacitance of a positive charged, isolated conductor would be affected by a
neutral isolated conductor nearby.
(6 marks)

(c) Describe a method of measuring the capacitance of a parallel-plate air capacitor

using a reed switch. Discuss the factors limiting the accuracy of the method.
(There is no need to describe the mechanism of the reed switch.) (6 marks)
01 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

4. (a) (i) Explain how the SI unit of magnetic field strength, the tesla, is defined.

(ii) Explain why two infinitely long straight wires carrying currents in the same
direction exert forces on each other.
(3 marks)

(b) Describe how you would produce a uniform magnetic field using a current-carrying
conductor. Briefly describe an experiment using a Hall probe to show that the field
is uniform. (6 marks)

(c) A metal rod PQ of length l is moved with constant velocity across a uniform
magnetic field of flux density B as shown. A potential difference of magnitude Blv
is developed across PQ.

uniform magnetic
field (into paper)


(i) By considering the force(s) acting on an electron in the rod, explain how the
potential difference is developed and why it remains constant.

(ii) Show that the result is consistent with the law of electromagnetic induction.

(iii) What would the situation be if the rod is moved with acceleration? Explain
(7 marks)

5. (a) Give TWO pieces of experimental evidence which support the nuclear model of an
atom with energy levels. Briefly explain the implications associated with these
pieces of experimental evidence. (4 marks)

(b) The energy levels of a hydrogen atom, in eV, are given by

En = -13.6/n2 where n = 1, 2, 3, …

(i) With the aid of an energy level diagram, explain the terms ground state and
ionization potential as applied to a hydrogen atom.

(ii) Describe TWO ways to bring about excitation of a hydrogen atom. How does
the concept of energy levels explain the emission line spectrum of hydrogen?
(7 marks)

(c) Under certain circumstances, electrons can be emitted from substances by

photoelectric effect, thermionic emission or radioactivity. For each process,
01 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

briefly describe the condition(s) for electron emission and compare the maximum
kinetic energy of the emitted electrons. (5 marks)

- End of Paper -
02 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


2002 Essay Type Question

1. (a) With the aid of examples, state the magnitude and direction of the resultant force
acting on an object that performs (i) projectile motion, (ii) uniform circular
motion, and (iii) simple harmonic motion. How does the resultant force bring
about the motion in each case? (8 marks)

(b) (i) A boy starts to jump vertically from a horizontal ground. Identify all action
and reaction pairs involved. Account for his initial acceleration.

(ii) Use the concept of action and reaction to explain the launching of rockets.
(5 marks)

(c) Consider the head-on collision of an α-particle with an isolated gold nucleus
that is stationary initially. Explain whether or not the linear momentum of the
system is conserved. Describe the energy change during the collision process.
(Assume that no excitation of the gold nucleus occurs.) (3 marks)

2. (a) (i) With the aid of a diagram, describe an experiment to demonstrate the
interference of a 3 cm microwave using one microwave transmitter. State
the appropriate spatial arrangement of the apparatus and briefly explain the
experimental result.

(ii) State and explain a practical application involving the interference of

(6 marks)

(b) Large fishing boats are usually equipped with radars and sonars. Describe the
working principles of each equipment and state their respective functions.
(4 marks)

(c) Tidal energy is a renewable energy source.

(i) Why is tidal energy classified as ‘renewable’? Describe the principles of

a method of harnessing it.

(ii) Discuss the factors that need to be considered in harnessing tidal energy
near the mouth of a river.
(6 marks)

3. (a) (i) Explain the meaning of forced oscillation and resonance. State the phase
relationship, in the case of resonance, between the driving force and the
displacement of the system that is being driven.
02 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

(ii) Sketch graphs to show how the amplitude of forced oscillation depends on
the driving frequency when the damping is (I) light and (II) heavy. State
and explain TWO considerations in the design of the suspension of a car by
referring to the graphs sketched.
(8 marks)

(b) Describe a practical example of resonance which is (i) acoustic and (ii)
electrical. For each example, discuss the factor(s) affecting the resonant
frequency. (5 marks)

(c) Briefly explain how a laser can produce an intense, monochromatic beam.
(There is no need to describe the setting up of an inverted population.) (3 marks)

4. (a) (i) Describe the principles of an experiment that can reveal the sign of the
charge carriers in a current-carrying conductor.

(ii) Describe and explain, with the aid of graphs, the relation between the
current and the applied voltage for (I) a tungsten filament lamp in daily use
and (II) a semiconductor diode. Explain in each case any deviation from
Ohm’s law.
(9 marks)

(b) A rectangular coil of N turns, each of area A, is placed with its plane
perpendicular to a uniform magnetic field of flux density B as shown. At time t
= 0 s, the coil is rotated in a clockwise direction with a uniform angular speed

ω uniform
field B

axis of rotation coil

(i) Derive an expression for the variation of the induced e.m.f. in the coil with
time. Sketch a graph to show its variation within one cycle and indicate
when the plane of the coil is parallel to the magnetic field.

(ii) In an actual a.c. generator the coil is wound around a soft iron cylinder,
which is laminated. State and explain TWO advantages of such a design.
(7 marks)
02 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

5. (a) Give the meaning of the terms atomic number, mass number and isotopes.
(2 marks)

(b) You are given some isotopes of a certain element. The isotopes are ionized so
that they can carry the same charge Q, and enter a speed selector as shown.
Only those isotopes with a definite speed can pass straight through the mutually
perpendicular uniform electric and magnetic fields in the speed selector. The
whole set-up is in a vacuum environment.

speed selector

a beam of

(i) Explain how the speed selector works.

(ii) Describe and explain how the isotopes can be distinguished experimentally
by directing the emerging beam of ionized isotopes into a uniform magnetic
(7 marks)

(c) (i) Give THREE sources of background radiation.

(ii) Describe an experiment to show that only α-particles and γ-rays are
emitted from a given radioactive source. Account for the experimental
(7 marks)

- End of Paper -
03 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


2003 Essay Type Question

1. (a) (i) A block moving with a certain initial speed is acted upon by a constant
resultant force F along its direction of motion. Show that the work done
by F is equal to the change in kinetic energy of the block.

(ii) An electron is projected with an initial velocity v into a region with a

uniform magnetic field perpendicular to v. Discuss the work done by the
magnetic force acting on the electron and its change in kinetic energy.
(Neglect the effects of gravity.)
(5 marks)

(b) An object is thrown vertically upward from the earth’s surface with a certain
initial speed. It rises to a maximum height and then falls back to the starting

(i) What is the work done by the gravitational force in the process? Explain.

(ii) Discuss the effect(s), if any, of the air resistance and upthrust on the final
speed of the object when it returns to the starting point. Referring to this
example, explain the principle of conservation of mechanical energy and
state the necessary condition for it to be valid. (Note: When an object is
immersed in a fluid, a constant upward force or upthrust acts on it by the
(6 marks)

(c) Based on the kinetic theory model of an ideal gas, we have the equation
pV = Nmc 2 .

(i) State TWO assumptions of the kinetic theory model of an ideal gas.
Besides pressure p and volume V of an ideal gas, what do the rest of the
symbols in the equation represent?

(ii) Use the given equation to show how the average kinetic energy of the
molecules of an ideal gas is related to its absolute temperature. Explain
(5 marks)

2. (a) State THREE major differences between sound waves and light waves in terms
of their physical nature and properties. (3 marks)

(b) (i) Describe how Huygens’ construction method can be used to show that

(I) light travels in straight lines, and

03 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

(II) light refracts when it goes from one medium to another.

(ii) Account for the dispersion of white light into different colours by a prism.
(Label only the red and violet light rays if you choose to draw a diagram.)
(7 marks)

(c) Describe an experiment to determine the speed of sound in air. Give the theory
and show how the speed of sound is calculated from the measurements. State
the source(s) of error of the experiment. (6 marks)

3. (a) (i) A circuit consists of a battery and a resistor connected by conducting wires.
Explain why the potential difference across the terminals of the battery is
smaller than its e.m.f.

(ii) Consider an accumulator being charged by a voltage source, explain the

relation between the potential difference across the accumulator and its
e.m.f. Briefly describe the energy conversion inside the accumulator
during charging.
(4 marks)

(b) (i) Explain why the order of magnitude of the drift velocity of the free
electrons in a circuit is much smaller than their random speeds (~105 ms-1).

(ii) Explain why an electric current starts to flow at every point in a circuit
almost at the same instant when the switch is closed.
(5 marks)

(c) (i) Based on the torque acting on a rectangular current-carrying coil in a

magnetic field, describe and explain the design feature(s) of a moving-coil
galvanometer that give a linear scale. (Mathematical derivation is

(ii) Discuss TWO factors that determine the current sensitivity of the
(7 marks)

4. (a) Explain why sparking would occur between the switch contacts if the current in
a coil is interrupted when the circuit breaks but not when it is closed. Explain
the energy change when the circuit breaks and how sparking can be prevented
by adding a capacitor to the circuit. (5 marks)

(b) A source of sinusoidal a.c. voltage V = V0 sin (2π f t) is applied across a coil of
resistance R and inductance L.

(i) Sketch the graphs of current and voltage of the coil against time for 2π f L
>> R and explain their phase relationship.
03 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

(ii) Illustrate the difference between resistance and reactance by stating their
physical meaning. Explain why the size of the current depends on the
frequency f of the source.
(5 marks)

(c) The figure shows the circuit for a power pack.


220 V D
a.c. B
C1 C2 output

(i) Briefly explain how the rectification unit ABCD works. Sketch and
explain the output voltage if capacitor C2 and inductor L are absent.

(ii) Sketch the voltage across L as well as the output voltage. Account for
their shapes by explaining the respective functions of C2 and L.
(6 marks)

5. (a) (i) Briefly describe how a hydrogen spectrum can be produced and observed
in the laboratory.

(ii) Explain why the existence of spectral series of hydrogen supports the
theory of discrete energy levels in atoms.
(5 marks)

(b) Account for the dark lines in the sun’s spectrum. Explain how the elements in
the sun’s atmosphere can be identified by studying these dark lines. (4 marks)

(c) In an X-ray tube, electrons are accelerated through a large potential difference
so that X-rays are produced when the electrons strike a tungsten target.
Describe and explain the characteristics of the X-ray spectrum produced.
(There is no need to describe the structure of the X-ray tube.) (7 marks)

- End of Paper -
04 AL Physics/Essay/P.1


2004 Essay Type Question

1. (a) (i) The figure shows a particle moving with uniform speed v in a horizontal
circle of radius r.

With the aid of a vector diagram, find an expression for the change in
velocity ∆v as the particle moves from, say, point A to an adjacent point
B in time ∆t. Hence, determine the magnitude and direction of its
acceleration at point A.

(ii) A pendulum bob is attached to a string

and made to revolve in a horizontal
circle as shown. If the length of the
string is L, derive the relation between
the period of motion and the angle that
the string makes with the vertical.
(Neglect air resistance.)

(iii) With the aid of a diagram, explain why a person on a bicycle has to lean
inwards when riding round a horizontal circular track.
(10 marks)

(b) Consider the earth as a sphere of uniform density and take RE as the radius of
the earth.

(i) Explain why, and by how much, an object’s apparent weight indicated by
a spring balance at the equator differs from that at the poles.

(ii) A simple pendulum and a vertical mass-spring system are set into small
oscillations at the equator. Discuss the change in the period of oscillation,
if any, for each system if both are set to oscillate at the poles. (Assume
that the string of the pendulum is inextensible and the spring is of
negligible mass. Neglect air resistance.)
(6 marks)

2. (a) Describe how you would demonstrate the existence of electromagnetic

radiation just beyond the two ends of the visible spectrum. (5 marks)
04 AL Physics/Essay/P.2

(b) What is meant by the diffraction of light? Discuss qualitatively how the size
of the obstacle or aperture affects diffraction. Explain whether using red light
or blue light can minimize diffraction effects when photographing tiny objects
through a microscope. (5 marks)

(c) (i) For a parallel beam of light incident normally on a diffraction grating,
show, with the aid of a diagram, how the diffracted waves reinforce with
each other strongly in certain directions.

(ii) State TWO advantages of a diffraction grating compared with a prism for
the study of spectra.
(6 marks)

3. (a) Explain the meaning of the capacitance of an isolated conductor

(2 marks)

(b) Consider an isolated metal sphere of radius R carrying a charge +Q,

(i) sketch the variation of the electric potential due to the charged sphere for
all points at a distance r from its centre. Briefly explain the shape of the

(ii) derive an expression for the capacitance of the metal sphere. In terms of
capacitance, or otherwise, explain the saying that when a charged metal
sphere is connected to the earth, it acquires a practical zero of potential.
(7 marks)

(c) (i) A parallel-plate capacitor of capacitance C is charged by a battery to a

potential difference V between its plates. Show, from flfst principles, that
the energy stored in it is given by E = CV 2 . With the capacitor
disconnected from the battery, how would the energy stored in it be
affected when a metal plate is inserted in between?

(ii) Suggest TWO uses of capacitors other than energy storage.

(7 marks)
04 AL Physics/Essay/P.3

4. (a) Give the meaning of magnetic flux density B in terms of the magnetic force on
a current-carrying wire in a uniform magnetic field. (2 marks)

(b) (i) What is the relation between magnetic flux Φ and magnetic flux density B?

(ii) With the aid of an example, explain the meaning of the equation

ε = −N for electromagnetic induction.


Consider a bar magnet being moved towards a coil connected to a

galvanometer as shown, illustrate Lenz'
s law and how energy is
transferred in this process.
(7 marks)

(c) Referring to a simple d.c. motor, explain the meaning of back e.m.f. An
unloaded simple d.c. motor is connected to a constant voltage source.
Describe and explain how the back e.m.f. and the current in the coil of the
motor change

(i) before the motor attains its maximum steady speed, and

(ii) when a mechanical load is added to the motor, which then runs steadily to
raise the load.
(7 marks)

5. (a) Referring to a molecular model of a gas, explain

(i) the pressure exerted by the gas on its container (no mathematical
derivation is required), and

(ii) the meaning of internal energy.

(4 marks)

(b) (i) Identify TWO differences between an ideal gas and a real gas.

(ii) Sketch the distribution of molecular speeds at a certain temperature for a

fixed mass of an ideal gas. Hence, explain the effect of temperature
increase on the proportion of molecules having speeds higher than a
certain value.
04 AL Physics/Essay/P.4

(iii) For an ideal gas under a certain temperature, find the relation between the
root-mean-square speed of the gas molecules and its molecular mass.
Hence, determine the ratio of root-mean-square speeds of hydrogen to
oxygen, assuming both behave ideally, at room temperature. (Given:
relative atomic mass of oxygen is 16.)
(6 marks)

(c) (i) Despite the fact that energy is conserved, we still have an energy crisis.

(ii) From either economic or environmental point of view, discuss ONE

advantage and ONE disadvantage of using the following as an alternative
energy source to fossil fuels.

(I) nuclear energy

(II) hydroelectric power

(6 marks)

- End of Paper -