Unformatted text preview: Physics ~ What is it about?
Introduction What is the content of the science which goes under the title “Physics.” Put succinctly,
Physics encompasses two ﬁelds of intellectual endeavor. In the ﬁrst, the purpose is to provide the simplest, most economical and most elegant
description of “nature as we know it.” The last part of the previous sentence of necessity implies
that physics is an experimental science. No matter how persuasive a body of thought, if it is not
supported by any observation it does not belong in the realm of physics. Of course, since new
observational techniques based on what is already known are continuously under development, it
may take decades before new results emerge. So one must maintain an open mind and be willing
to accept that literally nothing is ever totally complete. A new ﬁnding may be just around the
corner and if severally observed and conﬁrmed, it will be enthusiastically incorporated. The second ﬁeld is in many ways more fundamental, deeper and also more challenging.
In our discussions in Physics 121/122 we will encounter only one or two examples of it. In this
case, the purpose is not to formulate a credible description of what is already known but rather to
appeal to intuition and the ﬂights of imagination Which are a fundamental attribute of the human
brain. As Einstein said, “unmitigated curiosity is the most powerful driver for the discovery of
new knowledge.” Time and again, a physicist comes along to point out that something is missing from the
existing relationships and in a bold and courageous step proposes an entirely new idea which
challenges the experimentalist to devise methods to test the legitimacy of the proposal. If the
idea is correct, eventually an observation will be made conﬁrming the prediction. Its universal
adoption will follow as more and more experimental results appear in accord with the initial
claim. Nature, of course, is our ultimate teacher. Once again, it pays to recall Einstein’s
statement, “The most incomprehensible thing about nature is that nature is comprehensible.”
Indeed, we have every reason to claim that nature may be complex and sometimes very puzzling
but never capricious. In PHYSlZl we will deal with natural phenomena pertaining to motion of particles and
rigid bodies supplemented by a brief discussion of Thermodynamics. Arguably, physics ’
provides the bases for all scientiﬁc endeavors and is itself deeply imbedded in mathematics.
Algebra and trigonometry will be used throughout. ‘ ...
View Full Document
- Spring '10