What Are the Fields of Physics?

Learn About Physics Disciplines

Physics is a broad science that encompasses many specialized fields of study.
Physics is a broad science that encompasses many specialized fields of study. H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock, Getty Images

Question: What are the Fields of Physics?

List of the Fields of Physics

Physics is a diverse area of study. In order to make sense of it, scientists have been forced to focus their attention on one or two smaller areas of the discipline. This allows them to become experts in that narrow field, without getting bogged down in the sheer volume of knowledge that exists regarding the natural world.

Below is a list - by no comprehensive - of different disciplines of physics.

  • Acoustics - the study of sound & sound waves

     

  • Astronomy - the study of space

     

  • Astrophysics - the study of the 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 solve 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 liquids and gases

     

  • Geophysics - the study of the physical 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 / Quantum Physics - the study of science where the smallest discrete values, or quanta, of matter and energy become relevant

     

    It should become obvious that there is some overlap. For example, the difference between astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology can be virtually meaningless at times... to everyone, that is, except the astronomers, astrophysicists, and cosmologists, who can take the distinctions very seriously.

    Edited by Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.