Support materials only that illustrate some possible contexts for exploring Science as a Human Endeavour concepts in relation to Science Understanding content.
Radiometric dating of materials utilises a variety of methods depending on the age of the substances to be dated. The presence of natural radioisotopes in materials such as carbon, uranium, potassium and argon and knowledge about their half life and decay processes enables scientists to develop accurate geologic timescales and geologic history for particular regions (ACSPH011). This information is used to inform study of events such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and helps scientists to predict their behaviour based on past events (ACSPH014). Dating of wood and carbon-based materials has also led to improvements in our understanding of more recent history through dating of preserved objects (ACSPH014).
Knowledge of the process of nuclear fission has led to the ability to use nuclear power as a possible long-term alternative to fossil fuel electricity generation (ACSPH013). Nuclear power has been used very successfully to produce energy in many countries but has also caused significant harmful consequences in a number of specific instances (ACSPH013). Analysis of health and environmental risks and weighing these against environmental and cost benefits is a scientific and political issue in Australia which has economic, cultural and ethical aspects (ACSPH012). The management of nuclear waste is based on knowledge of the behaviour of radiation. Current proposals for waste storage in Australia attempt to address the unintended harmful consequences of the use of radioactive substances (ACSPH013).
Energy production in stars was attributed to gravity until knowledge of nuclear reactions enabled understanding of nuclear fusion. Almost all the energy used on Earth has its origin in the conversion of mass to energy that occurs when hydrogen nuclei fuse together to form helium in the core of the sun (ACSPH010). According to the Big Bang Theory, all the elements heavier than helium have been created by fusion in stars. The study of nuclear fusion in the sun has produced insights into the formation and life cycle of stars (ACSPH010). An unexpected consequence of early understanding of fusion in stars was its use to inform the development of thermonuclear weapons (ACSPH010). Research is ongoing into the use of fusion as an alternative power source (ACSPH013).