The Basics of Physics in Scientific Study

Crash Course in Physics

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Physics is a systematic study of the natural world, particularly the interaction between matter and energy. It is a discipline that attempts to quantify reality through a precise application of observation coupled with logic and reason.

In order to make use of such a discipline, you must first understand certain fundamentals. Only by learning the basics of physics can you build upon it and dive deeper into this field of science. Whether you are pursuing a career in physics or merely interested in its findings, it certainly is fascinating to learn about.

What Is Considered Physics?

To begin the study of physics, you must first understand what physics actually means. Understanding what falls within the realm of physics—and what does not—helps focus the field of study so you can formulate meaningful physics questions.

Behind every question in physics lies four very important terms you will want to understand: hypothesis, model, theory and law

Physics can be either experimental or theoretical. In experimental physics, physicists address a scientific problem using techniques such as the scientific method in an attempt to prove a hypothesis. Theoretical physics is often more conceptual in that physicists are focused on developing scientific laws, such as the theory of quantum mechanics. 

These two forms of physics are related to each other and connected to other forms of scientific study. Quite often, experimental physics will test the hypotheses of theoretical physics. Physicists themselves can specialize in a variety of fields, from astronomy and astrophysics to mathematical physics and nanotechnology. Physics also plays a role in other fields of science, such as chemistry and biology.

The Fundamental Laws of Physics

The goal of physics is to develop precise models of physical reality. The best case scenario is to develop a series of very fundamental rules to describe how these models function. These rules are frequently called "laws" after they have been used successfully for many years.

Physics is complicated, but it does fundamentally rely on a number of accepted laws of nature. Some are historical and groundbreaking discoveries in science. These include Sir Isaac Newton's Law of Gravity as well as his Three Laws of Motion. Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity and the laws of thermodynamics also fall into this category.

Modern physics is building off those monumental truths to study things such as quantum physics which explores the invisible universe. Similarly, particle physics seeks to understand the smallest bits of matter in the universe. This is the field where strange words like quarks, bosons, hadrons, and leptons enter the scientific dialogue that makes headlines today.

The Tools Used in Physics

The tools that physicists use range from the physical to the abstract. They include balance scales and laser beam emitters as well as mathematics. Understanding this wide range of tools and the methods for applying them is essential to understanding the process that physicists go through in studying the physical world.

The physical tools include things like superconductors and synchrotrons, which are used to create intense magnetic fields. These can be applied in studies like the Large Hadron Collider or practically in the development of magnetic levitation trains.

Mathematics is at the heart of physics and is vital in all fields of science. As you begin to explore physics, fundamentals such as using significant figures and going beyond the basics of the metric system will be important. Math and physics go much deeper as well and concepts like vector mathematics and the mathematical properties of waves are crucial to the work of many physicists.

History's Famous Physicists

Physics does not exist in a vacuum (even though some physics is practiced in an actual vacuum). The forces of history have shaped the development of physics as much as any other field in history. Quite often, it is useful to understand the historical perspectives which led to our current understanding. That includes the ​many incorrect paths that were faltered along the way.

It is also useful and intriguing to learn about the lives of the famous physicists of the past. The ancient Greeks, for instance, combined philosophy with the study of natural laws and are particularly known for an interest in astronomy.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Galileo Galilei further studied, observed, and experimented with the laws of nature. Though he was persecuted in his time, he is regarded today as "the father of science" (coined by Einstein) as well as modern physics, astronomy, and observational science.

Galileo inspired and was followed by famous scientists like Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Richard P. Feynman, and Stephen Hawking. These are just a few of the names of physics history that have shaped our understanding of how our world works. Their abilities to challenge accepted theories and devise new ways of looking at the universe have inspired physicists who continue to achieve scientific breakthroughs.

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "The Basics of Physics in Scientific Study." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2021, December 6). The Basics of Physics in Scientific Study. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "The Basics of Physics in Scientific Study." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 23, 2023).