08 February 2011

Physics is a very fundamental science which explores nature from the scale of the tiniest particles to the behaviour of the universe and many things in between. Most of the other sciences such as biology, chemistry, geology, medicine rely heavily on techniques and ideas from physics. For example, many of the diagnostic instruments used in medicine (MRI, x-ray) were developed by physicists. All fields of technology and engineering are very strongly based on physics principles. Much of the electronics and computer industry is based on physics principles. Much of the communication today occurs via fiber optical cables which were developed from studies in physics. Also the World Wide Web was invented at the famous physics laboratory called the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN). Thus anyone who plans to work in any sort of technical area needs to know the basics of physics.

How Physics Works: As an experimental science, physics utilizes the scientific method to formulate and test hypotheses that are based on observation of the natural world. The goal of physics is to use the results of these experiments to formulate scientific laws, usually expressed in the language of mathematics, which can then 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 appplication 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.

Below is a list. The list will be updated with new additions and definitions as appropriate.

Acoustics - The study of sound and sound waves
Astronomy - The study of space
Astrophysics - The study of physical properties of objects in space
Atomic Physics - The study of atoms, specifically the electron properties of the atom
Biophysics - The study of physics in living systems
Chaos - The study of systems with strong sensitivity to initial conditions, so a slight change at the beginning quickly become major changes in the system
Chemical Physics - The study of physics in chemical systems
Computational Physics - The application of numerical methods to slove physical problems for which a quantitative theory already exists
Cosmology - The study of the universe as a whole, including its origins and evolution
Cryophysics / Cryogenics / Low Temperature Physics - The study of physical properties in low temperature situations, far below the freezing point of water
Crystallography - The study of crystals and crystalline structures
Electromagnetism - The study of electrical and magnetic fields, which are two aspects of the same phenomenon
Electronics - The study of the flow of electrons, generally in a circuit
Fluid Dynamics / Fluid Mechanics - The study of the physical properties of "fluids", specifically defined in this case to be lilquids and gases
Geophysics - The study of the physica properties of the Earth
High Energy Physics - The study of physics in extremely high energy systems, generally within particle physics
High Pressure Physics - The study of physics in extremely high pressure systems, generally related to fluid dynamics
Laser Physics - the study of the physical properties of lasers
Mathematical Physics - Applying mathematically rigorous methods to solving problems within physics
Mechanics - The study of the motion of bodies in a frame of reference
Meteorology / Weather Physics - The physics of the weather
Molecular Physics - the study of physical properties of molecules
Nanotechnology - The science of building circuits and machines from single molecules and atoms
Nuclear Physics - The study of the physical properties of the atomic nucleus
Optics / Light Physics - The study of the physical properties of light
Particle Physics - The study of fundamental particles and the forces of their interaction
Plasma Physics - The study of matter in the plasma phase
Quantum electrodynamics - The study of how electrons and photons interact at the quantum mechanical level
Quantum Mechanics - The study of science where the smallest discrete values, or quanta, of matter and energy become relevant
Quantum Optics - The application of quantum physics to light
Quantum Field Theory - The application of quantum physics to fields, includin the fundamental forces of the universe
Quantum Gravity - The application of quantum physics to gravity and unification of gravity with the other fundamental particle interactions
Relativity - The study of systems displaying the properties of Eintein's theory of relativity, which generally involves moving at speeds very close to the speed o light
Statistical Mechanics - The study of large systems by statistically expandin the knowledge of smaller systems
String Theory / Superstring Theory - The study of the theory that all fundamental particles are vibrations of one dimensional strings of energy, in a higher dimensional universe
Thermodynamics - The physics of heat