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A stylized depiction of a Lithium atom.

Physics (from Greek φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), i.e. "knowledge of nature", from φύσις, physis "nature"), is the natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.

Physics is one of the oldest academic disciplines, perhaps the oldest through its inclusion of astronomy. Evidence exists that the earliest civilizations dating back to beyond 3000 BCE, such as the Sumerians, Ancient Egyptians, and the Indus Valley Civilization, all had a predictive knowledge and a very basic understanding of the motions of the Sun, Moon, and stars. Although originally part of other physical sciences and mathematics, Physics emerged to become a unique modern science during the Scientific Revolution of the 16th century.

Physics is both significant and influential, in part because advances in its understanding have often translated into new technologies, but also because new ideas in physics often resonate with other sciences, mathematics, and philosophy. For example, advances in the understanding of electromagnetism or nuclear physics led directly to the development of new products which have dramatically transformed modern-day society (e.g., television, computers, domestic appliances, atomic power, and nuclear weapons); advances in thermodynamics led to the development of motorized transport and advances in aviation engineering; and advances in mechanics inspired the development of calculus.

Physics also has philosophical implications. It can be historically traced back to ancient Greek philosophy. From Thales' first attempt to characterize matter, to Democritus' deduction that matter ought to reduce to an invariant state, the Ptolemaic astronomy of a crystalline firmament, and Aristotle's book Physics, different Greek philosophers advanced their own theories of nature. Well into the 18th century, physics was known as "Natural philosophy". By the 19th century physics was realized as a positive science and a distinct discipline separate from philosophy and the other sciences. Physics, as with the rest of science, relies on philosophy of science to give an adequate description of the scientific method.

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The Copernican Revolution

The Copernican Revolution was the paradigm shift from the Ptolemaic model of the heavens, which described the cosmos as having Earth stationary at the center of the universe, to the heliocentric model with the Sun at the center of the Solar System. Beginning with the publication of Nicolaus Copernicus’s De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, contributions to the “revolution” continued until finally ending with Isaac Newton’s work over 200 years later.

Motion of Sun, Earth, and Mars according to heliocentrism (left) and to geocentrism (right), before the Copernican-Galilean-Newtonian revolution. Note the retrograde motion of Mars on the right. Yellow dot, Sun; blue, Earth; red, Mars.

Did you know...

Mock mirage of the setting sun
  • ...that your watch would run slower when orbiting a black hole than it would on earth?
  • ...that Aristotle's ideas of physics held that because an object could not move without an immediate source of energy, arrows created a vacuum behind them that pushed them through the air.
  • ...that nuclear fusion reactions are probably occurring at or above the sun's photosphere; it is a process called solar surface fusion.
Artist's depiction of the WMAP satellite measuring the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation to help scientists understand the Big Bang
  • ...that neutron stars are so dense that a teaspoonful (5 mL) would have ten times the mass of all human world population?
  • ...that every year, the Moon moves 3.82 cm away from Earth?
  • ...that Neptune was discovered by its gravitational pull on Uranus?

Suggest a fact

Physics news

  • November 26, 2013. The 2nd Bangkok International Conference on Biological Engineering & Natural Science scheduled for January 18, 2014 to January 20, 2014. See: Nature events directory.
  • October 9, 2013. With an online academic journal to be made available Spring 2014, Nature Publishing Group will fill a noted weak area of research - data sets that are often not published or only partially published will be published in this new journal. See: Nature Editorial.

September anniversaries



Things you can do


Whether you are an expert or a novice, be bold, improve an article by editing it. Practice in the sandbox if you must. But hurry back to fix that glaring error that has been bothering you.

Check list for physics novices and experts new to wikipedia

Whether you are an expert or a novice, be bold, improve an article by editing it. Practice in the sandbox if you must. But hurry back to fix that glaring error that has been bothering you.

Activities for physics novices and experts familiar with wikipedia

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