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Physics is the natural science of matter, involving the study of matter, its fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, with its main goal being to understand how the universe behaves. A scientist who specializes in the field of physics is called a physicist.
Physics is one of the oldest academic disciplines and, through its inclusion of astronomy, perhaps the oldest. Over much of the past two millennia, physics, chemistry, biology, and certain branches of mathematics were a part of natural philosophy, but during the Scientific Revolution in the 17th century these natural sciences emerged as unique research endeavors in their own right. Physics intersects with many interdisciplinary areas of research, such as biophysics and quantum chemistry, and the boundaries of physics are not rigidly defined. New ideas in physics often explain the fundamental mechanisms studied by other sciences and suggest new avenues of research in these and other academic disciplines such as mathematics and philosophy.
Advances in physics often enable advances in new technologies. For example, advances in the understanding of electromagnetism, solid-state physics, and nuclear physics led directly to the development of new products that have dramatically transformed modern-day society, such as television, computers, domestic appliances, and nuclear weapons; advances in thermodynamics led to the development of industrialization; and advances in mechanics inspired the development of calculus. (Full article...)
A quark (/kwɔːrk, kwɑːrk/) is a type of elementary particle and a fundamental constituent of matter. Quarks combine to form composite particles called hadrons, the most stable of which are protons and neutrons, the components of atomic nuclei. All commonly observable matter is composed of up quarks, down quarks and electrons. Owing to a phenomenon known as color confinement, quarks are never found in isolation; they can be found only within hadrons, which include baryons (such as protons and neutrons) and mesons, or in quark–gluon plasmas. For this reason, much of what is known about quarks has been drawn from observations of hadrons.Quarks have various intrinsic properties, including electric charge, mass, color charge, and spin. They are the only elementary particles in the Standard Model of particle physics to experience all four fundamental interactions, also known as fundamental forces (electromagnetism, gravitation, strong interaction, and weak interaction), as well as the only known particles whose electric charges are not integer multiples of the elementary charge. (Full article...)
Did you know -
- ... that lasers can be used to separate two isotopes very efficiently?
- ... that your feet are slightly younger than your head, because time runs slow at a lower Gravitational Potential. This is a consequence of Gravitational Time Dilation
- ...that Max Planck created a system of measurement based solely on natural units?
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In modern physics, the double-slit experiment is a demonstration that light and matter can display characteristics of both classically defined waves and particles; moreover, it displays the fundamentally probabilistic nature of quantum mechanical phenomena. This type of experiment was first performed by Thomas Young in 1801, as a demonstration of the wave behavior of visible light. At that time it was thought that light consisted of either waves or particles. With the beginning of modern physics, about a hundred years later, it was realized that light could in fact show behavior characteristic of both waves and particles. In 1927, Davisson and Germer demonstrated that electrons show the same behavior, which was later extended to atoms and molecules. Thomas Young's experiment with light was part of classical physics long before the development of quantum mechanics and the concept of wave–particle duality. He believed it demonstrated that Christiaan Huygens' wave theory of light was correct, and his experiment is sometimes referred to as Young's experiment or Young's slits. (Full article...)
The Frisch–Peierls memorandum was the first technical exposition of a practical nuclear weapon. It was written by expatriate German-Jewish physicists Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls in March 1940 while they were both working for Mark Oliphant at the University of Birmingham in Britain during World War II.
The memorandum contained the first calculations about the size of the critical mass of fissile material needed for an atomic bomb. It revealed that the amount required might be small enough to incorporate into a bomb that could be delivered by air. It also anticipated the strategic and moral implications of nuclear weapons. (Full article...)
Fredrik Carl Mülertz Størmer (3 September 1874 – 13 August 1957) was a Norwegian mathematician and astrophysicist. In mathematics, he is known for his work in number theory, including the calculation of π and Størmer's theorem on consecutive smooth numbers. In physics, he is known for studying the movement of charged particles in the magnetosphere and the formation of aurorae, and for his book on these subjects, From the Depths of Space to the Heart of the Atom. He worked for many years as a professor of mathematics at the University of Oslo in Norway. A crater on the far side of the moon is named after him. (Full article...)
PSR B1937+21 is a pulsar located in the constellation Vulpecula a few degrees in the sky away from the first discovered pulsar, PSR B1919+21. The name PSR B1937+21 is derived from the word "pulsar" and the declination and right ascension at which it is located, with the "B" indicating that the coordinates are for the 1950.0 epoch. PSR B1937+21 was discovered in 1982 by Don Backer, Shri Kulkarni, Carl Heiles, Michael Davis, and Miller Goss.
It is the first discovered millisecond pulsar, with a rotational period of 1.557708 milliseconds, meaning it completes almost 642 rotations per second. This period was far shorter than astronomers considered pulsars capable of reaching, and led to the suggestion that pulsars can be spun-up by accreting mass from a companion. (Full article...)
Bruno Pontecorvo (Italian: [ponteˈkɔrvo]; Russian: Бру́но Макси́мович Понтеко́рво, Bruno Maksimovich Pontecorvo; 22 August 1913 – 24 September 1993) was an Italian and Soviet nuclear physicist, an early assistant of Enrico Fermi and the author of numerous studies in high energy physics, especially on neutrinos. A convinced communist, he defected to the Soviet Union in 1950, where he continued his research on the decay of the muon and on neutrinos. The prestigious Pontecorvo Prize was instituted in his memory in 1995.
The fourth of eight children of a wealthy Jewish-Italian family, Pontecorvo studied physics at the University of Rome La Sapienza, under Fermi, becoming the youngest of his Via Panisperna boys. In 1934 he participated in Fermi's famous experiment showing the properties of slow neutrons that led the way to the discovery of nuclear fission. He moved to Paris in 1934, where he conducted research under Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie. Influenced by his cousin, Emilio Sereni, he joined the French Communist Party, as did his sisters Giuliana and Laura and brother Gillo. The Italian Fascist regime's 1938 racial laws against Jews caused his family members to leave Italy for Britain, France and the United States. (Full article...)
- A tamper is an optional layer of dense material surrounding the fissile material. It is used in nuclear weapon design to reduce the critical mass of a nuclear weapon and to delay the expansion of the reacting material through its inertia. Due to its inertia it delays the thermal expansion of the fissioning fuel mass, keeping it supercritical for longer. Often the same layer serves both as tamper and as neutron reflector. The weapon disintegrates as the reaction proceeds and this stops the reaction, so the use of a tamper makes for a longer-lasting, more energetic, and more efficient explosion. The yield can be further enhanced through the use of a fissionable tamper.
The first nuclear weapons used heavy natural uranium or tungsten carbide tampers, but a heavy tamper necessitates a larger high-explosive implosion system, and makes the entire device larger and heavier. The primary stage of a modern thermonuclear weapon may instead use a lightweight beryllium reflector, which is also transparent to X-rays when ionized, allowing the primary's energy output to escape quickly to be used in compressing the secondary stage. More exotic tamper materials such as gold are used for special purposes like emitting large amounts of X-rays or maximizing or minimizing radioactive fallout. (Full article...)
- John Clive Ward, FRS (1 August 1924 – 6 May 2000) was a British-Australian physicist. He introduced the Ward–Takahashi identity, also known as "Ward Identity" (or "Ward's Identities"). Andrei Sakharov said Ward was one of the titans of quantum electrodynamics. He made significant contributions to quantum solid-state physics, statistical mechanics and the Ising model.
Ward was one of the authors of the Standard Model of gauge particle interactions: his contributions were published in a series of papers he co-authored with Abdus Salam. He is also credited with being an early advocate of the use of Feynman diagrams. It has been said that physicists have made use of his principles and developments "often without knowing it, and generally without quoting him." (Full article...)
Wu Zhonghua (Chinese: 吴仲华; 27 July 1917 – 19 September 1992), also known as Chung-Hua Wu, was a Chinese physicist. He was a National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) researcher, Tsinghua University professor, and Founding Director of the Institute of Engineering Thermophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). He pioneered the general theory of three-dimensional flow for turbomachinery, which has been widely used in aircraft engine designs. Wu and his wife Li Minhua were both academicians of the CAS.
Born in Shanghai, Wu's college education at Tsinghua University was interrupted by the Second Sino-Japanese War. He graduated from the temporary National Southwestern Associated University and was awarded a Boxer Indemnity Scholarship to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States. After earning his Ph.D., he joined the NACA, the predecessor of NASA, where he developed the theory of three-dimensional flow. (Full article...)
In nuclear physics and particle physics, the weak interaction, which is also often called the weak force or weak nuclear force, is one of the four known fundamental interactions, with the others being electromagnetism, the strong interaction, and gravitation. It is the mechanism of interaction between subatomic particles that is responsible for the radioactive decay of atoms: The weak interaction participates in nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. The theory describing its behaviour and effects is sometimes called quantum flavourdynamics (QFD); however, the term QFD is rarely used, because the weak force is better understood by electroweak theory (EWT).
The effective range of the weak force is limited to subatomic distances and is less than the diameter of a proton. (Full article...)
The metric system is a system of measurement that succeeded the decimalised system based on the metre that had been introduced in France in the 1790s. The historical development of these systems culminated in the definition of the International System of Units (SI) in the mid-20th century, under the oversight of an international standards body. Adopting the metric system is known as metrication.
The historical evolution of metric systems has resulted in the recognition of several principles. Each of the fundamental dimensions of nature is expressed by a single base unit of measure. The definition of base units has increasingly been realised from natural principles, rather than by copies of physical artefacts. For quantities derived from the fundamental base units of the system, units derived from the base units are used—e.g., the square metre is the derived unit for area, a quantity derived from length. These derived units are coherent, which means that they involve only products of powers of the base units, without empirical factors. For any given quantity whose unit has a special name and symbol, an extended set of smaller and larger units is defined that are related by factors of powers of ten. The unit of time should be the second; the unit of length should be either the metre or a decimal multiple of it; and the unit of mass should be the gram or a decimal multiple of it. (Full article...)
Boyce Dawkins McDaniel (June 11, 1917 – May 8, 2002) was an American nuclear physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project and later directed the Cornell University Laboratory of Nuclear Studies (LNS). McDaniel was skilled in constructing "atom smashing" devices to study the fundamental structure of matter and helped to build the most powerful particle accelerators of his time. Together with his graduate student, he invented the pair spectrometer.
During World War II, McDaniel used his electronics expertise to help develop cyclotrons used to separate Uranium isotopes. McDaniel is also noted as having performed the final check on the first atomic bomb prior to its detonation in the Trinity test. (Full article...)
- Sir Ernest William Titterton CMG FRS FAA (4 March 1916 – 8 February 1990) was a British nuclear physicist.
A graduate of the University of Birmingham, Titterton worked in a research position under Mark Oliphant, who recruited him to work on radar for the British Admiralty during the first part of the Second World War. In 1943, he joined the Manhattan Project's Los Alamos Laboratory, where he helped develop the first atomic bombs. He eventually became one of the laboratory's group leaders. He participated in the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests at the Bikini Atoll in 1946, where he performed the countdown for both tests. With the passage of the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, known as the McMahon Act, all British government employees had to leave. He was the last member of the British Mission to do so, in April 1947. (Full article...)
Insects are the only group of invertebrates that have evolved wings and flight. Insects first flew in the Carboniferous, some 350 to 400 million years ago, making them the first animals to evolve flight. Wings may have evolved from appendages on the sides of existing limbs, which already had nerves, joints, and muscles used for other purposes. These may initially have been used for sailing on water, or to slow the rate of descent when gliding.
Two insect groups, the dragonflies and mayflies, have flight muscles attached directly to the wings. In other winged insects, flight muscles attach to the thorax, which make it oscillate in order to induce the wings to beat. Of these insects, some (flies and some beetles) achieve very high wingbeat frequencies through the evolution of an "asynchronous" nervous system, in which the thorax oscillates faster than the rate of nerve impulses. (Full article...)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to form pictures of the anatomy and the physiological processes of the body. MRI scanners use strong magnetic fields, magnetic field gradients, and radio waves to generate images of the organs in the body. MRI does not involve X-rays or the use of ionizing radiation, which distinguishes it from CT and PET scans. MRI is a medical application of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) which can also be used for imaging in other NMR applications, such as NMR spectroscopy.
MRI is widely used in hospitals and clinics for medical diagnosis, staging and follow-up of disease. Compared to CT, MRI provides better contrast in images of soft-tissues, e.g. in the brain or abdomen. However, it may be perceived as less comfortable by patients, due to the usually longer and louder measurements with the subject in a long, confining tube, though "Open" MRI designs mostly relieve this. Additionally, implants and other non-removable metal in the body can pose a risk and may exclude some patients from undergoing an MRI examination safely. (Full article...)
The celestial spheres, or celestial orbs, were the fundamental entities of the cosmological models developed by Plato, Eudoxus, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Copernicus, and others. In these celestial models, the apparent motions of the fixed stars and planets are accounted for by treating them as embedded in rotating spheres made of an aetherial, transparent fifth element (quintessence), like jewels set in orbs. Since it was believed that the fixed stars did not change their positions relative to one another, it was argued that they must be on the surface of a single starry sphere.
In modern thought, the orbits of the planets are viewed as the paths of those planets through mostly empty space. Ancient and medieval thinkers, however, considered the celestial orbs to be thick spheres of rarefied matter nested one within the other, each one in complete contact with the sphere above it and the sphere below. When scholars applied Ptolemy's epicycles, they presumed that each planetary sphere was exactly thick enough to accommodate them. By combining this nested sphere model with astronomical observations, scholars calculated what became generally accepted values at the time for the distances to the Sun: about 4 million miles (6.4 million kilometres), to the other planets, and to the edge of the universe: about 73 million miles (117 million kilometres). The nested sphere model's distances to the Sun and planets differ significantly from modern measurements of the distances, and the size of the universe is now known to be inconceivably large and continuously expanding. (Full article...)
- The Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS) classifies hurricanes—which in the Western Hemisphere are tropical cyclones that exceed the intensities of tropical depressions and tropical storms—into five categories distinguished by the intensities of their sustained winds. This measuring system was formerly known as the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale, or SSHS.
To be classified as a hurricane, a tropical cyclone must have one-minute-average maximum sustained winds at 10 m above the surface of at least 74 mph (64 kn, 119 km/h; Category 1). The highest classification in the scale, Category 5, consists of storms with sustained winds of at least 157 mph (137 kn, 252 km/h). The classifications can provide some indication of the potential damage and flooding a hurricane will cause upon landfall. (Full article...)
- 1 April 1997 – Comet Hale-Bopp at perihelion
- 12 April 1633 – Galileo Galilei's trial starts
- 15 April 1707 – Leonhard Euler's birthday
- 18 April 1955 – Albert Einstein's death
- 22 April 1904 – J. Robert Oppenheimer's birthday
- 23 April 1858 – Max Planck's birthday
- 24 April 1990 – Hubble Space Telescope launched
- 25 April 1990 – Hubble Space Telescope deployed from the shuttle Discovery
- 30 April 1777 – Carl Friedrich Gauss's birthday
Star maps by the 11th-century Chinese polymath Su Song are the oldest known woodblock-printed star maps to have survived to the present day. This example, dated 1092, employs cylindrical projection. (from History of physics)
point-contact transistor in Bell labs (from Condensed matter physics)A replica of the first
gravitation is a result of masses (or their equivalent energies) curving ("bending") the spacetime in which they exist, altering the paths they follow within it. (from History of physics)Einstein proposed that
Bose–Einstein condensate observed in a gas of ultracold rubidium atoms. The blue and white areas represent higher density. (from Condensed matter physics)The first
Heike Kamerlingh Onnes and Johannes van der Waals with the helium liquefactor at Leiden in 1908 (from Condensed matter physics)
Standard Model. (from History of physics)The
al-Khwārizmī's Algebra. (from History of physics)A page from
(1646–1716) (from History of physics)
(1596–1650) (from History of physics)
(1901–1976) (from History of physics)
(1745–1827) (from History of physics)
(1629–1695) (from History of physics)
edicts of Ashoka (3rd century BCE) display this number system being used by the Imperial Mauryas. (from History of physics)The Hindu-Arabic numeral system. The inscriptions on the
Archimedes, famous for his ideas regarding fluid mechanics and buoyancy. (from History of physics)The ancient Greek mathematician
(384–322 BCE) (from History of physics)
(1844-1906) (from History of physics)
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) is remembered for his development of a heliocentric model of the Solar System. (from History of physics)The Polish astronomer
magnet levitating above a high-temperature superconductor. Today some physicists are working to understand high-temperature superconductivity using the AdS/CFT correspondence. (from Condensed matter physics)A
fullerene molecules. It is hoped that advances in nanoscience will lead to machines working on the molecular scale. (from Condensed matter physics)Computer simulation of nanogears made of
(1642–1727) (from History of physics)
Richard Feynman's Los Alamos ID badge (from History of physics)
(1867–1934) (from History of physics)
(1791–1867) (from History of physics)
protein crystal. (from Condensed matter physics)Image of X-ray diffraction pattern from a
J. J. Thomson (1856–1940) discovered the electron and isotopy and also invented the mass spectrometer. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1906. (from History of physics)
Jupiter (lefthand side) and its four Galilean moons (top to bottom: Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto). (from History of physics)A composite montage comparing
Galileo Galilei, early proponent of the modern scientific worldview and method
(1564–1642) (from History of physics)
Classical physics is usually concerned with everyday conditions: speeds are much lower than the speed of light, sizes are much greater than that of atoms, yet very small in astronomical terms. Modern physics, however, is concerned with high velocities, small distances, and very large energies. (from Modern physics)
Feynman diagram representing (left to right) the production of a photon (blue sine wave) from the annihilation of an electron and its complementary antiparticle, the positron. The photon becomes a quark–antiquark pair and a gluon (green spiral) is released. (from History of physics)A
Ibn al-Haytham (c. 965–1040). (from History of physics)
(1858–1947) (from History of physics)
(1700–1782) (from History of physics)
Albert Einstein (1879–1955), photographed here in around 1905 (from History of physics)
Rayleigh–Jeans law, black line) failed to explain black-body radiation – the so-called ultraviolet catastrophe. The quantum description (Planck's law, colored lines) is said to be modern physics. (from Modern physics)Classical physics (
Newton's cradle, named after physicist Isaac Newton (from History of physics)A
William Thomson (Lord Kelvin)
(1824–1907) (from History of physics)
quantum Hall effect: Components of the Hall resistivity as a function of the external magnetic field (from Condensed matter physics)The
proton–proton collision. It decays almost immediately into two jets of hadrons and two electrons, visible as lines. (from History of physics)One possible signature of a Higgs boson from a simulated
James Clerk Maxwell
(1831–1879) (from History of physics)
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Classical physics traditionally includes the fields of mechanics, optics, electricity, magnetism, acoustics and thermodynamics. The term Modern physics is normally used for fields which rely heavily on quantum theory, including quantum mechanics, atomic physics, nuclear physics, particle physics and condensed matter physics. General and special relativity are usually considered to be part of modern physics as well.
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