What is Physics?

What is Physics? Thumbnail

Newton's Cradle

When you are looking out the window of an airplane, do you ever wonder what keeps your flight up? Humans have always wanted to fly like birds. Some even made machines that would mimic birds and attain flight. These were amateur students of physics and some were very gifted, like Leonardo da Vinci. Eventually, the Wright brothers were able to get it right and the dreams became a reality.

But what is physics and why is it considered a natural science? Physics is the study of matter, energy and the interplay of matter and energy. The airplane with its passengers is matter and the fuel that the airplane burns has energy which keeps the plane going. Physics keeps your flight up.

How else does physics help us?

If you think your computer and your mobile could have been possible without the efforts of those who study physics, then you should learn more about how these electrical devices work. We would not have entered into the Digital Age without physics taking and guiding us by our hands. The study of the electron greatly accelerated our understanding of one of the most fundamental forces of nature, namely electricity, and helped us wield the power in our hands. Now, we can make all kinds of devices, even those that can detect hidden treasures in the sands of the beaches.

Physics deals with much bigger objects, too

So far we have seen that physics includes study of sub-atomic particle like electron and a big object like an airplane. How about planets and moons and stars? Or what about black holes? The knowledge of physics has helped us achieve a deep understanding of these celestial objects. We can predict the location of any planet in our galaxy at any time in the future. We can also predict the future by knowing when it will rain and in which part on Earth with the help of physics. Without the help of physics, we probably would have to build a rocket that could fly to the sun’s surface and back to know the distance between the Earth and the sun. But without the help of physics, we would not be able to even build the rocket, let alone find a way to make it survive sun’s heat.

But why is there mathematics in physics?

Physics tells you the story about what is actually happening when you throw a ball up in the air and it comes back. Physics can tell you that the Earth pulls the ball back towards itself with a force called gravity and that the air resists the motion of the ball through it with a force called friction. But these words cannot tell us what will happen next. The language of mathematics is needed to put this information into a form that can be manipulated and information can be extracted from it. With the help of equations of physics written in mathematical language we can predict what will happen to the ball, when it will hit the ground and with what speed. Physics without mathematics is incomplete and mathematical equations without real-world physical examples are meaningless.

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