When learning about and discussing physics, we focus heavily on energy, the core element of the science. To better understand this connection, it helps to refer to a solid working definition of physics.
Physics. The science in which matter and energy are studied both separately and in combination with one another.
And a more detailed working definition of physics may be: The science of nature, or that which pertains to natural objects, which deals with the laws and properties of matter and the forces which act upon them. Quite often, physics concentrates upon the forces having an impact upon matter, that is, gravitation, heat, light, magnetism, electricity, and others.
B. Physics and Mathematics
As a whole, physics is closely related to mathematics, for it provides the logical structure in which physical laws may be formulated and their predictions quantified. A great many of physics’ definitions, models, and theories are expressed using mathematical symbols and formulas.
The central difference between physics and mathematics is that ultimately physics is concerned with descriptions of the material world whereas mathematics is focused on abstract logical patterns that may extend beyond the real world.
Because physics concentrates on the material world, it tests its theories through the process known as observation or experimentation. In theory, it may seem relatively easier to detect where physics leaves off and mathematics picks up. However, in reality, such a clean-cut distinction does not always exist. Hence, the gray areas in between physics and mathematics tend be called “mathematical physics.”
Both engineering and technology also have ties to physics. For instance, electrical engineering studies the practical application of electromagnetism. That is why you will quite often find physics to be a component in the building of bridges, or in the creation of electronic equipment, nuclear weaponry, lasers, barometers, and other valuable measurement devices.
C. Physics. Range of Fields
• Acoustics. Study of sound and sound waves.
• Astronomy. Study of space.
• Astrophysics. Study of the physical properties of objects in space.
• Atomic Physics. Study of atoms, specifically the electron properties of the atom.
• Biophysics. Study of physics in living systems.
• Chaos. Study of systems with strong sensitivity to initial conditions, so that a slight change at the beginning quickly becomes major changes in the system.
• Chemical Physics. Study of physics in chemical systems.
• Computational Physics. Application of numerical methods to solve physical problems for which a quantitative theory already exists.
• Cosmology. Study of the universe as a whole, including its origins and evolution.
• Cryophysics, Cryogenics, and Low Temperature Physics. Study of physical properties in low temperature situations, far below the freezing point of water.
• Crystallography. Study of crystals and crystalline structures.
• Electromagnetism. Study of electrical and magnetic fields, which are two aspects of the same phenomenon.
• Electronics. Study of the flow of electrons, generally in a circuit.
• Fluid Dynamics and Fluid Mechanics. Study of the physical properties of “fluids,” specifically defined in this case to be liquids and gases.
• Geophysics. Study of the physical properties of the Earth.
• High Energy Physics. Study of physics in extremely high energy systems, generally within particle physics.
• High Pressure Physics. Study of physics in extremely high pressure systems, generally related to fluid dynamics.
• Laser Physics. Study of the physical properties of lasers.
• Mathematical Physics. Discipline in which rigorous mathematical methods are applied to solving problems related to physics.
• Mechanics. Study of the motion of bodies in a frame of reference.
• Meteorology and Weather Physics. Physics of weather.
• Molecular Physics. Study of physical properties of molecules.
• Nanotechnology. Science of building circuits and machines from single molecules and atoms.
• Nuclear Physics. Study of the physical properties of the atomic nucleus.
• Optics and Light Physics. Study of the physical properties of light.
• Particle Physics. Study of fundamental particles and the forces of their interaction.
• Plasma Physics. Study of matter in the plasma phase.
• Quantum Electrodynamics. Study of how electrons and photons interact at the quantum mechanical level.
• Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Physics. Study of science where the smallest discrete values, or quanta, of matter and energy become relevant.
• Quantum Optics. Application of quantum physics to light.
• Quantum Field Theory. Application of quantum physics to fields, including the fundamental forces of the universe.
• Quantum Gravity. Application of quantum physics to gravity and the unification of gravity with the other fundamental particle interactions.
• Relativity. Study of systems displaying the properties of Einstein’s theory of relativity, which generally involves moving at speeds very close to the speed of light.
• Statistical Mechanics. Study of large systems by statistically expanding the knowledge of smaller systems.
• String Theory and Superstring Theory. Study of the theory that all fundamental particles are vibrations of one-dimensional strings of energy, in a higher-dimensional universe.
• Thermodynamics. Physics of heat.