Physics is an organized way of conversing with nature. Physicists ask questions; nature responds. For many questions, the answers are almost predictable, but when the question is a particularly good one, the answer can be unexpected and gives us new knowledge of the way the world works. These are the moments physicists live for.
The fundamental ideas of physics underlie all basic science–astronomy, biology, chemistry, and geology. Physics also is essential to the applied science and engineering that has taken our world from the horse and the buggy to the supersonic jet, from the candle to the laser, from the pony express to the fax, from the beads of an abacus to the chips of a computer.
Today physics is as exciting as ever. The animated conversation between physicists and nature goes on and it shows no sign of stopping.
PHYSICS IN EVERYDAY LIFE
The most basic of the sciences, physics, is all around us every day. If you’ve ever wondered what makes lightning, why a boomerang returns, how ice skaters can spin so fast, how Michael Jordan can “fly,” why waves crash on the beach, how that tiny computer can do complicated problems, or how long it takes light from a star to reach us, you have been thinking about some of the same things physicists study every day.
Physicists like to ask questions. They try to find answers for almost everything–from when the universe began to why soda fizzes. If you like to explore and figure out why things are the way they are, you might like physics.
If you’ve had a back-row seat at a rock concert, and could still hear, you experienced physics at work! Physicists studying sound contribute to the design of concert halls and the amplication equipment. Knowing more about how things move and interact can be used to manage the flow of traffic and help cities avoid gridlock.
Lasers and radioactive elements are tools in the war on cancer and other diseases. Geophysicists are developing methods to give advance warning of earthquakes.
The work of physicists made possible the computer chips that are in your digital watch, CD player, electronic games, and hand-held calculator.