Outline of physical science

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The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to physical science:

Physical science – branch of natural science that studies non-living systems, in contrast to the biological sciences. It in turn has many branches, each referred to as a "physical science", together called the "physical sciences". However, the term "physical" creates an unintended, somewhat arbitrary distinction, since many branches of physical science also study biological phenomena (organic chemistry, for example).

What type of thing is physical science?[edit]

Physical science can be described as all of the following:

  • A branch of science – systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.[1][2][3]
    • A branch of natural science – natural science is a major branch of science, that tries to explain and predict nature's phenomena, based on empirical evidence. In natural science, hypotheses must be verified scientifically to be regarded as scientific theory. Validity, accuracy, and social mechanisms ensuring quality control, such as peer review and repeatability of findings, are amongst the criteria and methods used for this purpose. Natural science can be broken into 2 main branches: biology, and physical science. Each of these branches, and all of their sub-branches, are referred to as natural sciences.

Branches of physical science[edit]

History of physical science[edit]

General principles of the physical sciences[edit]

  • Principle – law or rule that has to be, or usually is to be followed, or can be desirably followed, or is an inevitable consequence of something, such as the laws observed in nature or the way that a system is constructed. The principles of such a system are understood by its users as the essential characteristics of the system, or reflecting system's designed purpose, and the effective operation or use of which would be impossible if any one of the principles was to be ignored.

Basic principles of physics[edit]

Physics – branch of science that studies matter[4] and its motion through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force.[5] Physics is one of the "fundamental sciences" because the other natural sciences (like biology, geology etc.) deal with systems that seem to obey the laws of physics. According to physics, the physical laws of matter, energy and the fundamental forces of nature govern the interactions between particles and physical entities (such as planets, molecules, atoms or the subatomic particles). Some of the basic pursuits of physics, which include some of the most prominent developments in modern science in the last millennium, include:

Basic principles of astronomy[edit]

Astronomyscience of celestial bodies and their interactions in space. Its studies includes the following:

  • The life and characteristics of stars and galaxies
  • Origins of the universe. Physical science uses the Big Bang theory as the commonly accepted scientific theory of the origin of the universe.
  • A heliocentric Solar System. Ancient cultures saw the Earth as the centre of the Solar System or universe (geocentrism). In the 16th century, Nicolaus Copernicus advanced the ideas of heliocentrism, recognizing the Sun as the centre of the Solar System.
  • The structure of solar systems, planets, comets, asteroids, and meteors
  • The shape and structure of Earth (roughly spherical, see also Spherical Earth)
  • Earth in the Solar System
  • Time measurement
  • The composition and features of the Moon
  • Interactions of the Earth and Moon

(Note: Astronomy should not be confused with astrology, which assumes[citation needed] that people's destiny and human affairs in general correlate to the apparent positions of astronomical objects in the sky - although the two fields share a common origin, they are quite different; astronomers embrace the scientific method, while astrologers do not.)

Basic principles of chemistry[edit]

Chemistry – branch of science that studies the composition, structure, properties and change of matter.[6][7] Chemistry is chiefly concerned with atoms and molecules and their interactions and transformations, for example, the properties of the chemical bonds formed between atoms to create chemical compounds. As such, chemistry studies the involvement of electrons and various forms of energy in photochemical reactions, oxidation-reduction reactions, changes in phases of matter, and separation of mixtures. Preparation and properties of complex substances, such as alloys, polymers, biological molecules, and pharmaceutical agents are considered in specialized fields of chemistry.

Chemistry, the central science, partial ordering of the sciences proposed by Balaban and Klein.

Basic principles of earth science[edit]

Earth science – the science of the planet Earth, as of 2014 the only identified life-bearing planet. Its studies include the following:

Notable physical scientists[edit]

Earth scientists[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wilson, Edward O. (1998). Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1st ed.). New York, NY: Vintage Books. pp. 49–71. ISBN 0-679-45077-7. 
  2. ^ "... modern science is a discovery as well as an invention. It was a discovery that nature generally acts regularly enough to be described by laws and even by mathematics; and required invention to devise the techniques, abstractions, apparatus, and organization for exhibiting the regularities and securing their law-like descriptions." —p.vii, J. L. Heilbron, (2003, editor-in-chief). The Oxford Companion to the History of Modern Science. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-511229-6.
  3. ^ "science". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Inc. Retrieved 2011-10-16. "3 a: knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method b: such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena" 
  4. ^ At the start of The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Richard Feynman offers the atomic hypothesis as the single most prolific scientific concept: "If, in some cataclysm, all [] scientific knowledge were to be destroyed [save] one sentence [...] what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is [...] that all things are made up of atoms – little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another ..." (Feynman, Leighton & Sands 1963, p. I-2)
  5. ^ "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in other words, to the regular succession of events." (Maxwell 1878, p. 9)
  6. ^ "What is Chemistry?". Chemweb.ucc.ie. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  7. ^ Chemistry. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary. Retrieved August 19, 2007.

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