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Relationships Between Physical & Life Sciences

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  • 0:02 Physical & Life Sciences
  • 0:29 Relationships
  • 2:07 Chemistry as a Bridge
  • 2:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After completing this lesson, you will be able to explain the differences between physical and life sciences, and how they overlap in certain fields. A short quiz will follow.

What Are Physical and Life Sciences?

Physical science is concerned with the study of natural but inanimate objects. These sciences include astronomy, physics, chemistry, and earth science (although earth science is sometimes given its own category). Life science, on the other hand, is the scientific study of living organisms, including animals (and humans), plants, and microorganisms.

Relationships Between Physical and Life Sciences

At first glance, it may seem like physical science and life science are polar opposites. How can there be any overlap between the science of living organisms and inanimate objects? But, the truth is a little more complex than that.

For one thing, the goal of physics is to explain everything in the universe on a fundamental level. In theory, if physics ever succeeds in creating a so-called theory of everything, this should not only explain why inanimate objects are the way they are, but also why living organisms are the way they are. Living organisms are, after all, only made of chemical elements, which are made of subatomic particles that physics seeks to explain. But at least in the short term, the connection between physics and life sciences could be seen as weak.

Weak does not, however, mean non-existent. There are real cases where biologists and physicists can find ways to work together. The field is called biophysics.

Biophysics is a field of study where physics theories and methods are used to study biological systems. Biophysics generally tries to explain a lot of the same phenomena as biochemistry and molecular biology, but tries to do so numerically, creating equations that can describe what is being observed. Physics technology can also be used in this field to explain some of these observations, including spectroscopy, x-ray crystallography, scattering effects, and the use of electron microscopes.

All of these technologies are mainstays of physics research, but are less used in life sciences. Physics' understandings of statistical mechanics and thermodynamics can also be used in biophysics to understand biological systems.

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