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A high-resolution image of gold sheet obtained from S T M.
Using a scanning tunneling microscope (STM), scientists can see the individual atoms that compose this sheet of gold. (credit: Erwinrossen)

Some of the most spectacular advances in science have been made in modern physics. Many of the laws of classical physics have been modified or rejected, and revolutionary changes in technology, society, and our view of the universe have resulted. Like science fiction, modern physics is filled with fascinating objects beyond our normal experiences, but it has the advantage over science fiction of being very real. Why, then, is the majority of this text devoted to topics of classical physics? There are two main reasons: Classical physics gives an extremely accurate description of the universe under a wide range of everyday circumstances, and knowledge of classical physics is necessary to understand modern physics.

Modern physics itself consists of the two revolutionary theories, relativity and quantum mechanics. These theories deal with the very fast and the very small, respectively. Relativity must be used whenever an object is traveling at greater than about 1% of the speed of light or experiences a strong gravitational field such as that near the Sun. Quantum mechanics must be used for objects smaller than can be seen with a microscope. The combination of these two theories is relativistic quantum mechanics, and it describes the behavior of small objects traveling at high speeds or experiencing a strong gravitational field. Relativistic quantum mechanics is the best universally applicable theory we have. Because of its mathematical complexity, it is used only when necessary, and the other theories are used whenever they will produce sufficiently accurate results. We will find, however, that we can do a great deal of modern physics with the algebra and trigonometry used in this text.

A friend tells you he has learned about a new law of nature. What can you know about the information even before your friend describes the law? How would the information be different if your friend told you he had learned about a scientific theory rather than a law?

Without knowing the details of the law, you can still infer that the information your friend has learned conforms to the requirements of all laws of nature: it will be a concise description of the universe around us; a statement of the underlying rules that all natural processes follow. If the information had been a theory, you would be able to infer that the information will be a large-scale, broadly applicable generalization.

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Phet explorations: equation grapher

Learn about graphing polynomials. The shape of the curve changes as the constants are adjusted. View the curves for the individual terms (e.g. y = bx size 12{y=bx} {} ) to see how they add to generate the polynomial curve.

Equation Grapher

Summary

  • Science seeks to discover and describe the underlying order and simplicity in nature.
  • Physics is the most basic of the sciences, concerning itself with energy, matter, space and time, and their interactions.
  • Scientific laws and theories express the general truths of nature and the body of knowledge they encompass. These laws of nature are rules that all natural processes appear to follow.

Conceptual questions

Models are particularly useful in relativity and quantum mechanics, where conditions are outside those normally encountered by humans. What is a model?

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How does a model differ from a theory?

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If two different theories describe experimental observations equally well, can one be said to be more valid than the other (assuming both use accepted rules of logic)?

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What determines the validity of a theory?

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Certain criteria must be satisfied if a measurement or observation is to be believed. Will the criteria necessarily be as strict for an expected result as for an unexpected result?

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Can the validity of a model be limited, or must it be universally valid? How does this compare to the required validity of a theory or a law?

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Classical physics is a good approximation to modern physics under certain circumstances. What are they?

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When is it necessary to use relativistic quantum mechanics?

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Can classical physics be used to accurately describe a satellite moving at a speed of 7500 m/s? Explain why or why not.

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Questions & Answers

What interference
Moyinoluwa Reply
What is a polarized light called?
Moyinoluwa
what is a half life
Mama Reply
the time taken for a radioactive element to decay by half of its original mass
ken
what is radioactive element
mohammed
Half of the total time required by a radioactive nuclear atom to totally disintegrate
Justice
radioactive elements are those with unstable nuclei(ie have protons more than neutrons, or neutrons more than protons
Justice
in other words, the radioactive atom or elements have unequal number of protons to neutrons.
Justice
state the laws of refraction
Fabian
state laws of reflection
Fabian
Why does a bicycle rider bends towards the corner when is turning?
Mac
When do we say that the stone thrown vertically up wards accelerate negatively?
Mac
Give two importance of insulator placed between plates of a capacitor.
Mac
Macho had a shoe with a big sole moving in mudy Road, shanitah had a shoe with a small sole. Give reasons for those two cases.
Mac
when was the name taken from
Biola Reply
retardation of a car
Biola
when was the name retardation taken
Biola
did you mean a motion with velocity decreases uniformly by the time? then, the vector acceleration is opposite direction with vector velocity
Sphere
Atomic transmutation
Basirat Reply
An atom is the smallest indivisible particular of an element
mosco Reply
what is an atomic
Awene Reply
reference on periodic table
Titus Reply
what Is resonance?
Mozam Reply
phenomena of increasing amplitude from normal position of a substance due to some external source.
akif
What is a black body
Amey Reply
Black body is the ideal body can absorb and emit all radiation
Ahmed
the emissivity of black body is 1. it is a perfect absorber and emitter of heat.
Busayo
Why is null measurement accurate than standard voltmeter
Neemat Reply
that is photoelectric effect ?
Sabir Reply
It is the emission of electrons when light hits a material
Anita
Yeah
yusuf
is not just a material
Neemat
it is the surface of a metal
Neemat
what is the formula for time of flight ,maxjmum height and range
agangan Reply
what is an atom
Awene
how does a lightning rod protect a building from damage due to lightning ?
Faith Reply
due to its surface lustre but due to some factors it can corrode but not easily as it lightning surface
babels
pls what is mirage
babels
light rays bend to produce a displaced image of distant objects; it's an natural & optical phenomenon......
Deepika
what is the dimensional formula for torque
Otto Reply
L2MT-2
Jolly
same units of energy
Baber
what is same units of energy?
Baber
Nm
Sphere
Ws
Sphere
CV
Sphere
M L2 T -2
Dokku
it is like checking the dimension of force. which is ML2T-2
Busayo
ML2T-2
Joshua
M L2 T-2
Samuel
what is the significance of moment of inertia?
study
an object of mass 200g moves along a circular path of radius 0.5cm with a speed of 2m/s. calculate the angular velocity ii period iii frequency of the object
Faith Reply
w = 2/(0.005) period = PIE(0.005) f = 1/(PIE(0.005)) assuming uniform motion idk..
Georgie
w=2/(0.005)×100
isaac
supposed the speed on the path is constant angular velocity w (rad/s) = v (m/s) : R (m) period T (s) = 2*Pi * R : v frequency f ( Hz) = 1: T
Sphere
a=w.w.r=mv.v/r,w=mv/r=0.2×2/0.005=80rads-s
Mac
Practice Key Terms 9

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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