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Physics and Its Branches

Physics and Its Branches

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Published by: physics_freak on May 30, 2010
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06/04/2013

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Physics is the scientific study of matterandenergy and how they interact with each other. This energy can take the form of motion, light, electricity, radiation, gravity . . . just about anything,honestly. Physics deals with matter on scales ranging from sub-atomic particles (i.e. the particles thatmake up the atom and the particles that make up
those
particles) to stars and even entire galaxies.
How Physics Works
As an
experimental 
science, physics utilizes thescientific methodto formulate andtest hypotheses  that are based on observation of the natural world. The goal of physics is to use the results of theseexperiments to formulatescientific laws, usually expressed in the language of mathematics, which canthen be used to predict other phenomena.
The Role of Physics in Science
In a broader sense, physics can be seen as the most fundamental of the natural sciences. Chemistry,for example, can be viewed as a complex application of physics, as it focuses on the interaction of energy and matter in chemical systems. We also know that biology is, at its heart, an application of chemical properties in living things, which means that it is also, ultimately, ruled by the physical laws.Over the years, one thing scientists have discovered is that nature is generally more complex than wegive it credit for. The following laws of physics are considered fundamental, but many of them refer toidealized, closed systems, which are hard to obtain in the real world. Also, some are altered slightly indifferent circumstances. The laws that Newton developed, for example, are modified by the findings of thetheory of relativity, but they are still basically valid in most regular cases that you'll run into.
Newton's Three Laws of Motion:
Sir Isaac Newton developed theThree Laws of Motion, which describe basic rules about how themotion of physical objects change. Newton was able to define the fundamental relationship betweentheacceleration of an object and the total forcesacting upon it.
"Law" of Gravity:
Newton developed his "Law of Gravity" to explain the attractive force between a pair of masses. In thetwentieth century, it became clear that this is not the whole story, asEinstein's theory of generalrelativityhas provided a more comprehensive explanation for the phenomenon of gravity. Still,Newton's law of gravity is an accurate low-energy approximation that works for most of the cases thatyou'll explore in physics.
Conservation of Mass-Energy:
The totalenergyin a closed or isolated system is constant, no matter what happens. Another lawstated that the mass in an isolated system is constant. When Einstein discovered the relationship
=
mc 
2
(in other words that mass was a manifestation of energy) the law was said to refer to theconservation of mass-energy. The total of both mass and energy is retained, although some maychange forms. The ultimate example of this is a nuclear explosion, where mass transforms intoenergy.
 
Conservation of Momentum:
The total momentum in a closed or isolated system remains constant. An alternative of this is the lawof conservation of angular momentum.
Laws of Thermodynamics:
Thelaws of thermodynamicsare actually specific manifestations of the law of conservation of mass-energy as it relates to thermodynamic processes.
Thezeroeth law of thermodynamicsmakes the notion of temperaturepossible.
Thefirst law of thermodynamicsdemonstrates the relationship between internal energy, addedheat, and work within a system.
Thesecond law of thermodynamicsrelates to the natural flow of heat within a closed system.
Thethird law of thermodynamicsstates that it is impossible to create a thermodynamic processwhich is perfectly efficient.
Electrostatic Laws:
Coulomb's law and Gauss's law are formulations of the relationship between electrically chargedparticles to create electrostatic force and electrostatic fields. The formulas, it turns out, parallel thelaws of universal gravitation in structure. There also exist similar laws relating to magnetism andelectromagnetism as a whole.
Invariance of the Speed of Light:
Einstein's major insight, which led him to theTheory of Relativity, was the realization that the speedof light in a vacuum is constant and is not measured differently for observers in different inertialframes of reference, unlike all other forms of motion. Some theoretical physicists have conjectureddifferent variable speed of light (VSL) possibilities, but these are highly speculative. Most physicistsbelieve that Einstein was right and the speed of light is constant.
Modern Physics & Physical Laws:
In the realm of relativityandquantum mechanics, scientists have found that these laws still apply, although their interpretation requires some refinement to be applied, resulting in fields such asquantum electronics and quantum gravity. Care should be taken in applying them in these situations.Physics is a diverse area of study and in order to make sense of it scientists have been forced to focustheir attention on one or two smaller areas of the discipline. This allows them to become experts inthat narrow field, without getting bogged down in the sheer volume of knowledge that exists regardingthe natural world.Below is a list - by no comprehensive - of different disciplines of physics. The list will be updated withnew additions and definitions as appropriate.
- the study of sound & sound waves
- the study of space
- the study of the physical properties of objects in space
 
- the study of atoms, specifically the electron properties of the atom
- the study of physics in living systems
Chaos
- the study of systems with strong sensitivity to initial conditions, so a slight change atthe beginning quickly become major changes in the system
- the study of physics in chemical systems
Computational Physics
- the application of numerical methods to solve physical problems forwhich a quantitative theory already exists
- the study of the universe as a whole, including its origins and evolution
- the study of physical properties inlow temperature situations, far below the freezing point of water
Crystallography
- the study of crystals and crystalline structures
- the study of electrical and magnetic fields, which are two aspects of thesame phenomenon
- the study of the flow of electrons, generally in a circuit
Fluid Dynamics / Fluid Mechanics
- the study of the physical properties of "fluids," specificallydefined in this case to be liquids and gases
- the study of the physical properties of the Earth
High Energy Physics
- the study of physics in extremely high energy systems, generally withinparticle physics
High Pressure Physics
- the study of physics in extremely high pressure systems, generallyrelated to fluid dynamics
- the study of the physical properties of lasers
Mathematical Physics
- applying mathematically rigorous methods to solving problems withinphysics
- the study of the motion of bodies in a frame of reference
- the physics of the weather
- the study of physical properties of molecules
- the science of building circuits and machines from single molecules andatoms
- the study of the physical properties of the atomic nucleus
- the study of the physical properties of light
- the study of fundamental particles and the forces of their interaction
Plasma Physics
- the study of matter in the plasma phase
- the study of how electrons and photons interact at the quantummechanical level
- the study of science where the smallest discretevalues, or quanta, of matter and energy become relevant
- the application of quantum physics to light
- the application of quantum physics to fields, including thefundamentalforces of the universe 
- the application of quantum physics to gravity and unification of gravity withthe otherfundamental particle interactions 
- the study of systems displaying the properties of Einstein's theory of relativity,which generally involves moving at speeds very close to the speed of light

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