Portal:Physics
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Portal:Physics

The Physics Portal

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Various examples of physical phenomena

Physics (from Ancient Greek: (), romanizedphysik? (epist?m?), lit. 'knowledge of nature', from phýsis 'nature') is the natural science that studies matter, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, and its main goal is to understand how the universe behaves.

Physics is one of the oldest academic disciplines and, through its inclusion of astronomy, perhaps the oldest. Over much of the past two millennia, physics, chemistry, biology, and certain branches of mathematics were a part of natural philosophy, but during the Scientific Revolution in the 17th century these natural sciences emerged as unique research endeavors in their own right. Physics intersects with many interdisciplinary areas of research, such as biophysics and quantum chemistry, and the boundaries of physics are not rigidly defined. New ideas in physics often explain the fundamental mechanisms studied by other sciences and suggest new avenues of research in academic disciplines such as mathematics and philosophy.

Advances in physics often enable advances in new technologies. For example, advances in the understanding of electromagnetism, solid-state physics, and nuclear physics led directly to the development of new products that have dramatically transformed modern-day society, such as television, computers, domestic appliances, and nuclear weapons; advances in thermodynamics led to the development of industrialization; and advances in mechanics inspired the development of calculus.

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Photons are emitted in a threaded laser beam

The photon is a type of elementary particle. It is the quantum of the electromagnetic field including electromagnetic radiation such as light and radio waves, and the force carrier for the electromagnetic force. Photons are massless, and they always move at the speed of light in vacuum, .

Like all elementary particles, photons are currently best explained by quantum mechanics and exhibit wave-particle duality, their behavior featuring properties of both waves and particles. The modern photon concept originated during the first two decades of the 20th century with the work of Albert Einstein, who built upon the research of Max Planck. While trying to explain how matter and electromagnetic radiation could be in thermal equilibrium with one another, Planck proposed that the energy stored within a material object should be regarded as composed of an integer number of discrete, equal-sized parts. Einstein introduced the idea that light itself is made of discrete units of energy. Experiments validated Einstein's approach, and in 1926, Gilbert N. Lewis popularized the term photon for these energy units. Read more...
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Motion of Sun (yellow), Earth (blue), and Mars (red). At left, Copernicus' heliocentric motion. At right, traditional geocentric motion, including the retrograde motion of Mars.
For simplicity, Mars' period of revolution is depicted as 2 years instead of 1.88, and orbits are depicted as perfectly circular or epitrochoid.

The Copernican Revolution was the paradigm shift from the Ptolemaic model of the heavens, which described the cosmos as having Earth stationary at the center of the universe, to the heliocentric model with the Sun at the center of the Solar System. This revolution consisted of two phases; the first being extremely mathematical in nature and the second phase starting in 1610 with the publication of a pamphlet by Galileo. Beginning with the publication of Nicolaus Copernicus's De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, contributions to the "revolution" continued until finally ending with Isaac Newton's work over a century later. Read more...

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Blackness of space with black marked as center of donut of orange and red gases
The supermassive black hole at the core of supergiant elliptical galaxy Messier 87, with a mass ~7 billion times the Sun's, as depicted in the first image released by the Event Horizon Telescope (10 April 2019). Visible are the crescent-shaped emission ring and central shadow, which are gravitationally magnified views of the black hole's photon ring and the photon capture zone of its event horizon. The crescent shape arises from the black hole's rotation and relativistic beaming; the shadow is about 2.6 times the diameter of the event horizon.

A black hole is a region of spacetime where gravity is so strong that nothing--no particles or even electromagnetic radiation such as light--can escape from it. The theory of general relativity predicts that a sufficiently compact mass can deform spacetime to form a black hole. The boundary of the region from which no escape is possible is called the event horizon. Although the event horizon has an enormous effect on the fate and circumstances of an object crossing it, according to general relativity it has no locally detectable features. In many ways, a black hole acts like an ideal black body, as it reflects no light. Moreover, quantum field theory in curved spacetime predicts that event horizons emit Hawking radiation, with the same spectrum as a black body of a temperature inversely proportional to its mass. This temperature is on the order of billionths of a kelvin for black holes of stellar mass, making it essentially impossible to observe.

Objects whose gravitational fields are too strong for light to escape were first considered in the 18th century by John Michell and Pierre-Simon Laplace. The first modern solution of general relativity that would characterize a black hole was found by Karl Schwarzschild in 1916, although its interpretation as a region of space from which nothing can escape was first published by David Finkelstein in 1958. Black holes were long considered a mathematical curiosity; it was not until the 1960s that theoretical work showed they were a generic prediction of general relativity. The discovery of neutron stars by Jocelyn Bell Burnell in 1967 sparked interest in gravitationally collapsed compact objects as a possible astrophysical reality. Read more...

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Fundamentals: Concepts in physics | Constants | Physical quantities | Units of measure | Mass | Length | Time | Space | Energy | Matter | Force | Gravity | Electricity | Magnetism | Waves

Basic physics: Mechanics | Electromagnetism | Statistical mechanics | Thermodynamics | Quantum mechanics | Theory of relativity | Optics | Acoustics

Specific fields: Acoustics | Astrophysics | Atomic physics | Molecular physics | Optical physics | Computational physics | Condensed matter physics | Nuclear physics | Particle physics | Plasma physics

Tools: Detectors | Interferometry | Measurement | Radiometry | Spectroscopy | Transducers

Background: Physicists | History of physics | Philosophy of physics | Physics education | Physics journals | Physics organizations

Other: Physics in fiction | Pseudophysics | Physics lists | Physics software | Physics stubs

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Physics topics

Classical physics traditionally includes the fields of mechanics, optics, electricity, magnetism, acoustics and thermodynamics. The term Modern physics is normally used for fields which rely heavily on quantum theory, including quantum mechanics, atomic physics, nuclear physics, particle physics and condensed matter physics. General and special relativity are usually considered to be part of modern physics as well.

Fundamental Concepts Classical Physics Modern Physics Cross Discipline Topics
Continuum Solid Mechanics Fluid Mechanics Geophysics
Motion Classical Mechanics Analytical mechanics Mathematical Physics
Kinetics Kinematics Kinematic chain Robotics
Matter Classical states Modern states Nanotechnology
Energy Chemical Physics Plasma Physics Materials Science
Cold Cryophysics Cryogenics Superconductivity
Heat Heat transfer Transport Phenomena Combustion
Entropy Thermodynamics Statistical mechanics Phase transitions
Particle Particulates Particle physics Particle accelerator
Antiparticle Antimatter Annihilation physics Gamma ray
Waves Oscillation Quantum oscillation Vibration
Gravity Gravitation Gravitational wave Celestial mechanics
Vacuum Pressure physics Vacuum state physics Quantum fluctuation
Random Statistics Stochastic process Brownian motion
Spacetime Special Relativity General Relativity Black holes
Quanta Quantum mechanics Quantum field theory Quantum computing
Radiation Radioactivity Radioactive decay Cosmic ray
Light Optics Quantum optics Photonics
Electrons Solid State Condensed Matter Symmetry breaking
Electricity Electrical circuit Electronics Integrated circuit
Electromagnetism Electrodynamics Quantum Electrodynamics Chemical Bonds
Strong interaction Nuclear Physics Quantum Chromodynamics Quark model
Weak interaction Atomic Physics Electroweak theory Radioactivity
Standard Model Fundamental interaction Grand Unified Theory Higgs boson
Information Information science Quantum information Holographic principle
Life Biophysics Quantum Biology Astrobiology
Conscience Neurophysics Quantum mind Quantum brain dynamics
Cosmos Astrophysics Cosmology Observable universe
Cosmogony Big Bang Mathematical universe Multiverse
Chaos Chaos theory Quantum chaos Perturbation theory
Complexity Dynamical system Complex system Emergence
Quantization Canonical quantization Loop quantum gravity Spin foam
Unification Quantum gravity String theory Theory of Everything

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