We've asked a variety of physics authors how they would answer the question "What is Physics?" See what they had to say!
"Physics? It’s figuring out the world we live in and building the instruments to help with the figuring! Let me elaborate: physics strives to understand the inner workings of natural and technical phenomena and explains complex processes through a few basic assumptions. But validating this reasoning involves experiments that often require instruments beyond the state of the art: for example, telescopes that scan the universe to detect radio and gravitational waves, and cutting-edge experiments at particle accelerators, which are used to examine the microscopic world."- Volker Ziemann
Jerry J. Battista
"Physics has a special place as a highly quantitative and reproducible science with exceptional predictive power. It lays out a set of key principles developed by pioneers like Newton and Einstein, among others who then further developed quantum theory, particle theory, and modern astronomy with cosmological implications. From basic principles, one can understand atomic and nuclear emissions, trajectories of rockets in space, and how extremely large objects orbit within our vast universe. A black hole was recently imaged by a network of earth-based satellites and its features matched expectations from Einstein’s theory of a gravitationally-distorted space.
In summary, physics encapsulates the core elements of physical phenomena and beyond within a compact set of “laws” that have stood the test of space-time from subnuclear particles to blood flow in arteries to astronomically massive objects located in galaxies millions of light-years away. This is an impressive achievement in prediction from a set of physics equations!" -Jerry Battista
"The word physics comes from ancient Greek “physika”, quite literally the natural things. So, for me, physics is the language spoken by nature. A language that is capable of describing nature’s manifestations across scales (from tiny sub-atomic particles to vast galaxies) and across boundaries (from living organisms to inanimate matter). And while, like any other language, it can be spoken to different degrees of sophistication and poetical expression, it too relies on a remarkable set of simple grammatical rules: its conservation principles and the intricate interplay between space and time. That these rules should remain universally valid is where physics’ - and nature’s! - beauty reveals.”- Marialuisa Aliotta
“In high school, I had a classic education: Greek, Latin and Philosophy. So, I developed a natural inclination to study nature with precision and mathematical tools (as Galileo Galilei wrote, “the Book of Nature is written in a mathematical language”) which brought me to enroll in the physics course at University. Physics is a very diversified discipline, so I quickly decided to focus my interests in astronomy.
Why astronomy? For many reasons. An important one was the profound questions that all humans have pondered throughout time: our role in the Universe and the uniqueness (or not) of the human species. Another one, still valid for me even today in the era of sophisticated instruments on the ground and in space, is how discoveries - say a crucially important supernova or a spectacular comet - can be made by a single person with their naked eye. And, of course, it goes without saying that it’s difficult not to want to study astronomy because of the aesthetics and beauty of the cosmos.
In a way, astronomy is the most humanistic of all scientific disciplines and, thanks to physics, I can ponder some of the biggest questions faced by humankind, reach out to so many people, and sometimes encourage young students to follow my steps.”-Cesare Barbieri
"Galileo wrote, ‘This grand book -- I mean the universe -- is written in the language of mathematics.’ Physics is the discipline that takes this idea most seriously. It is the goal of physics to describe every object and phenomenon as the consequences of equations, from the largest-scale structures in cosmology to the smallest elementary particles, but also everything in between -- the patterns seen in water waves, crystals, zebras, and the motion of continents. It is amazing that this is possible. It is more amazing that, often, phenomena of very different type are described by the same equations, each illuminating the other.”- Michael Peskin
Find out more about Michael here: www.slac.stanford.edu/~mpeskin/
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