Back To CourseThermodynamics Study Guide
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Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.
Most people hear the word 'physics' and run for cover. But it's not just for rocket scientists! You are surrounded by physics all the time, and whether you realize it or not, you use physics every day. Physics, the study of matter and energy, is an ancient and broad field of science.
The word 'physics' comes from the Greek 'knowledge of nature,' and in general, the field aims to analyze and understand the natural phenomena of the universe.
One thing that may come to mind when you think of physics is the many scientific laws, which are statements describing phenomena that have been repeatedly tested and confirmed. This is actually an important part of physics. Physicists perform and repeat experiments, sometimes ad nauseam, to formulate these laws and explain how our universe works. These laws (such as gravity and Newton's laws of motion) are so thoroughly tested that they are accepted as 'truths,' and they can be used to help us predict how other things will behave.
Because physics explains natural phenomena in the universe, it's often considered to be the most fundamental science. It provides a basis for all other sciences - without physics, you couldn't have biology, chemistry, or anything else!
Physics has been around for a long, long time. We consider the Ancient Greeks to be the 'founders' of early physics, as they pushed for a better understanding of the natural world around them. This includes some major players you are likely familiar with, like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
Modern physics came centuries later, with folks like Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton during the 15- and 1600s. There were many critical scientific breakthroughs during this time as people discovered more and more about our universe.
In fact, much of the knowledge we take for granted was discovered during this Scientific Revolution. For example, Copernicus was the first to demonstrate that the earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around.
Galileo described many fundamental physical concepts, but he also made many astronomical discoveries, such as sunspots and planetary satellites, by perfecting the telescope.
Physics certainly wouldn't be the same without Isaac Newton, who you will no doubt learn much about in your physics studies. He is probably most famous for his three laws of motion and the law of universal gravitation. Newton is also credited with inventing calculus, though you may or may not agree with that being a good thing!
Physics is a broad and complex field. It covers everything from sound and light to nuclear science and geology. Because of this, it's been divided into different branches so that scientists can specialize in their knowledge of physics.
Mechanics is one major branch of physics, and this focuses on the behavior of objects and the forces that act upon them. Classical mechanics and quantum mechanics are two sub-fields of this branch.
Another is thermodynamics, which is just what it sounds like: the study of heat, temperature, and energy. Though this is but a branch of physics, it is a broad and complex field all in itself, studied by many different types of scientists and engineers.
Because physics includes the study of light and sound, you can bet there are branches dealing with each of these. Acoustics is the study of sound and waves, and optics is the study of light and its properties. Both of these fields help describe how we interact with the world around us through two of our most important senses.
Electromagnetism is the study of electrical and magnetic forces, both of which are major components of physics. Without this field of study we wouldn't have electricity to power our homes, so I'm a big fan of this one!
Fluid dynamics is a unique field of physics in that it is the study of fluids and their physical properties. Fluids can be liquids or gases, and this is an exciting field if you like studying things that flow.
Ever heard of a guy named Albert Einstein? He's pretty famous in the world of physics, partly because of his theory of relativity, from which a branch of physics was developed. Simply called relativity, this branch specifically looks at systems with properties of the theory of relativity.
Of course, this is just a short list, and there are many interdisciplinary branches of physics as well. Fields like biophysics, physical chemistry, geophysics, and astrophysics exist as well, and these help bridge gaps between other natural sciences and the fundamentals of physics.
Without physics you would have a difficult time living, breathing, or doing just about anything. Physics is the study of matter and energy, but that simple description doesn't really do it justice.
Physics encompasses a wealth of topics - fluids, heat, light, sound, forces, electricity, and magnetism, just to name a few.
Physics is considered the most fundamental science because it provides a basis for all other sciences. Just try to do biology or chemistry without physics and you'll find you come up short.
Physics has a long and rich history. Humans have been trying to explain natural phenomena for as long as they have been on Earth, but modern physics is considered to have come about through the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries. Thanks to the hard work of scientific pioneers like Galileo, Newton, Copernicus and others, we now have a vast and scientifically supported body of knowledge about our natural world.
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Back To CourseThermodynamics Study Guide
6 chapters | 51 lessons