Physics is Essential
Physics is Essential The status of physics is the subject of great concern. More students are going on to university than ever before and yet many universities in the UK are struggling to keep their physics departments going. Should we worry about this? Why is physics important?
On a personal level, physics is important if you would like to have an interesting career. A wide variety of companies employ physics graduates because they have very good analytical and problem solving skills. If you enjoy solving puzzles and understanding how things work, then physics is a fascinating subject that will enrich your life and advance your career. At a more fundamental level, studying physics is important because it seeks to understand the world at its most basic level. It is satisfying to know why the world is how it is. Even the most mundane objects have hidden in them a multitude of physics. As I write this article, I have on my table a glass of cherry-aide which absorbs most of the incident white light except for the red part of the spectrum which is why I see it is red in colour. The glass is stationary which mean the forces acting on it are in equilibrium. There is a downward force from the glass on the table and an equal and opposite force from the table pushing on the glass. We can look at the growth of bubbles of carbon dioxide in the liquid and how they form on the aspirates of the glass or on a particle of dust. The cohesvie forces of the molecules at the surface create surface tension. There is also the adhesive force of liquid to the glass which are greater than the surface tension, causing the liquid to rise at the edge of the glass forming a meniscus. If I move the glass sharply, the surface of the liquid oscillates with a well defined period. The viscosity of the fluid damps the oscillations. Light passing through the glass is refracted and the produces a image which is horizontally reflected and there are many more.
The principles of physics applied with engineering creates the technology which we all use without thinking. All the machines that we use in life depend work using physics can be analysed using physics to a certain extent. In fact it is difficult to explain how physics has changed our lives because the physics has been around for such a long time that we just don’t think about it. However, there is one area of our lives that has been revolutionised due to our understanding of the so called modern physics.
At the beginning of the 20th century, it seemed that we pretty much knew all the physics required to describe everything. However, this was in fact far from the truth. As physicists explored the structure of matter, we found that instead of answering questions more questions were posed.
Our view of the structure of matter was a changed by the discovery of the electron by J. J. Thompson in 1897. At the time, Thompson remarked, “Could anything at first sight seem more impractical than a body which is so small that its mass is an insignificant fraction of the mass of an atom of hydrogen?” It was soon realised that electrical current results from the flow of electrons, it makes the electron just about the most practical sub-atomic particle ever discovered.
When physicists tried to applied the laws of physics that applied to objects much larger than electrons or atoms such as snooker balls or cars, they found that these rules no longer worked. For example there was a problem with the radiation emitted by hot objects known as blackbody radiation.