Friday, October 07, 2016

Friday Science: Classifying Physics

So I've taken a shot at categorizing math and chemistry. Today's physics.

1. What do physics majors take?
  • I didn't really find many university catalogs very helpful.
  • So there's a first semester introductory course, typically covering Mechanics, then advanced mechanics later
  • Then there's a second semester course, perhaps covering Thermodynamics, then advanced thermodynamics later, statistical mechanics
  • Then there's a third introductory course, usually Electromagnetism, then more advanced electromagnetism later
  • Optics
  • Quantum physics, particle physics, and relativity
  • Electronics
  • Computational physics
  • Astrophysics
2. Here are the classifications of Dewey and the Library of Congress:

So the Library of Congress adds geophysics and meteorology. I suppose fluid mechanics wasn't exactly mentioned above either.

3. Then there are physics textbooks. Here are the units in one I have:
  • Mechanics
  • Waves
  • Thermodynamics
  • Electromagnetism
  • Optics
  • Modern Physics
4. OK, so here's my recombobulation, with the math cross-overs I can think of:

I. Classical Mechanics
  • Kinematics - describing motion, including rotational motion
  • Dynamics - the forces that cause motion
  • The math required to do these well includes basic algebra, trig, differential and integral calculus; there is at least some minimal treatment of vectors, radian measurement, partial differential equations
  • wave mechanics (mechanical, fluid, sound)
  • add logarithms to the math of sound waves
II. Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
  • Great deal of overlap here with those aspects of chemistry relating to changes of states.
  • zeroth, first and second laws of thermodynamics
  • natural logarithms and e pop up occasionally
  • statistical mechanics gets into summation functions and probabilistic functions
  • I suppose meteorology and geophysics go here.
III. Electromagnetism and Optics
  • Maxwell's four laws and beyond
  • Not much new mathematically, surface integrals
IV. Modern Physics
  • relativity, special and general
  • Relativity required some new math, especially non-Euclidean geometry
  • cosmic physics
  • quantum mechanics
  • Quantum mechanics involves a lot of linear algebra, including matrix algebra. It involves complex analysis, that is, extensive use of complex numbers. There is e.
V. Tools and Equipment
  • There is of course the standard and exotic equipment, including everything from particle accelerators to voltmeters to the Hubble Space telescope.
  • Computers have increasingly played a role in doing physics, to where computational physics is an important piece of the puzzle

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