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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


  • 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

Can you please help me with some questions
Janet Reply
I know this is unrelated to physics, but how do I get the MCQs and essay to work. they arent clickable.
Jake Reply
20cm3 of 1mol/dm3 solution of a monobasic acid HA and 20cm3 of 1mol/dm3 solution of NaOH are mixed in a calorimeter and a temperature rise of 274K is observed. If the heat capacity of the calorimeter is 160J/K, calculate the enthalpy of neutralization of the acid.(SHCw=4.2J/g/K) Formula. (ms*cs+C)*T
Lilian Reply
why is a body moving at a constant speed able to accelerate
Lilian Reply
20cm3 of 1mol/dm3 solution of a monobasic acid HA and 20cm3 of 1mol/dm3 solution of NaOH are mixed in a calorimeter and a temperature rise of 274K is observed. If the heat capacity of the calorimeter is 160J/K, calculate the enthalpy of neutralization of the acid.(SHCw=4.2J/g/K) Formula. (ms*cs+C)*T
because it changes only direction and the speed is kept constant
Why is the sky blue...?
Star Reply
It's filtered light from the 2 forms of radiation emitted from the sun. It's mainly filtered UV rays. There's a theory titled Scatter Theory that covers this topic
A heating coil of resistance 30π is connected to a 240v supply for 5min to boil a quantity of water in a vessel of heat capacity 200jk. If the initial temperature of water is 20°c and it specific heat capacity is 4200jkgk calculate the mass of water in a vessel
fasawe Reply
A thin equi convex lens is placed on a horizontal plane mirror and a pin held 20 cm vertically above the lens concise in position with its own image the space between the undersurface of d lens and the mirror is filled with water (refractive index =1•33)and then to concise with d image d pin has to
Azummiri Reply
Be raised until its distance from d lens is 27cm find d radius of curvature
what happens when a nuclear bomb and atom bomb bomb explode add the same time near each other
FlAsH Reply
A monkey throws a coconut straight upwards from a coconut tree with a velocity of 10 ms-1. The coconut tree is 30 m high. Calculate the maximum height of the coconut from the top of the coconut tree? Can someone answer my question
Fatinizzah Reply
v2 =u2 - 2gh 02 =10x10 - 2x9.8xh h = 100 ÷ 19.6 answer = 30 - h.
why is the north side is always referring to n side of magnetic
sam Reply
who is a nurse
Chilekwa Reply
A nurse is a person who takes care of the sick
a nurse is also like an assistant to the doctor
explain me wheatstone bridge
Malik Reply
good app
Wheatstone bridge is an instrument used to measure an unknown electrical resistance by balancing two legs of a bridge circuit, one leg of which includes the unknown component.
Rockwell Software is Rockwell Automation’s "Retro Encabulator". Now, basically the only new principle involved is that instead of power being generated by the relative motion of conductors and fluxes, it’s produced by the modial interaction of magneto-reluctance and capacitive diractance. The origin
what refractive index
Adjah Reply
write a comprehensive note on primary colours
Harrison Reply
relationship between refractive index, angle of minimum deviation and angle of prism
Who knows the formula for binding energy,and what each variable or notation stands for?
Agina Reply
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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