Classical physics refers to theories of physics that predate modern, more complete, or more widely applicable theories. If a currently accepted theory is considered to be modern, and its introduction represented a major paradigm shift, then the previous theories, or new theories based on the older paradigm, will often be referred to as belonging to the realm of "classical physics".
As such, the definition of a classical theory depends on context. Classical physical concepts are often used when modern theories are unnecessarily complex for a particular situation. Most usually classical physics refers to pre-1900 physics, while modern physics refers to post-1900 physics which incorporates elements of quantum mechanics and relativity.
Classical theory has at least two distinct meanings in physics. In the context of quantum mechanics, classical theory refers to theories of physics that do not use the quantisation paradigm, which includes classical mechanics and relativity. Likewise, classical field theories, such as general relativity and classical electromagnetism, are those that do not use quantum mechanics. In the context of general and special relativity, classical theories are those that obey Galilean relativity.
Depending on point of view, among the branches of theory sometimes included in classical physics are variably:
In contrast to classical physics, "modern physics" is a slightly looser term which may refer to just quantum physics or to 20th and 21st century physics in general. Modern physics includes quantum theory and relativity, when applicable.
A physical system can be described by classical physics when it satisfies conditions such that the laws of classical physics are approximately valid. In practice, physical objects ranging from those larger than atoms and molecules, to objects in the macroscopic and astronomical realm, can be well-described (understood) with classical mechanics. Beginning at the atomic level and lower, the laws of classical physics break down and generally do not provide a correct description of nature. Electromagnetic fields and forces can be described well by classical electrodynamics at length scales and field strengths large enough that quantum mechanical effects are negligible. Unlike quantum physics, classical physics is generally characterized by the principle of complete determinism, although deterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics do exist.
From the point of view of classical physics as being non-relativistic physics, the predictions of general and special relativity are significantly different than those of classical theories, particularly concerning the passage of time, the geometry of space, the motion of bodies in free fall, and the propagation of light. Traditionally, light was reconciled with classical mechanics by assuming the existence of a stationary medium through which light propagated, the luminiferous aether, which was later shown not to exist.
Mathematically, classical physics equations are those in which Planck's constant does not appear. According to the correspondence principle and Ehrenfest's theorem, as a system becomes larger or more massive the classical dynamics tends to emerge, with some exceptions, such as superfluidity. This is why we can usually ignore quantum mechanics when dealing with everyday objects and the classical description will suffice. However, one of the most vigorous on-going fields of research in physics is classical-quantum correspondence. This field of research is concerned with the discovery of how the laws of quantum physics give rise to classical physics found at the limit of the large scales of the classical level.
Today a computer performs millions of arithmetic operations in seconds to solve a classical differential equation, while Newton (one of the fathers of the differential calculus) would take hours to solve the same equation by manual calculation, even if he were the discoverer of that particular equation.
Computer modeling is essential for quantum and relativistic physics. Classic physics is considered the limit of quantum mechanics for large number of particles. On the other hand, classic mechanics is derived from relativistic mechanics. For example, in many formulations from special relativity, a correction factor (v/c)2 appears, where v is the velocity of the object and c is the speed of light. For velocities much smaller than that of light, one can neglect the terms with c2 and higher that appear. These formulas then reduce to the standard definitions of Newtonian kinetic energy and momentum. This is as it should be, for special relativity must agree with Newtonian mechanics at low velocities. Computer modeling has to be as real as possible. Classical physics would introduce an error as in the superfluidity case. In order to produce reliable models of the world, we can not use classic physics. It is true that quantum theories consume time and computer resources, and the equations of classical physics could be resorted to provide a quick solution, but such a solution would lack reliability.
Computer modeling would use only the energy criteria to determine which theory to use: relativity or quantum theory, when attempting to describe the behavior of an object. A physicist would use a classical model to provide an approximation before more exacting models are applied and those calculations proceed.
In a computer model, there is no need to use the speed of the object if classical physics is excluded. Low energy objects would be handled by quantum theory and high energy objects by relativity theory.
In physics, action is an attribute of the dynamics of a physical system from which the equations of motion of the system can be derived. It is a mathematical functional which takes the trajectory, also called path or history, of the system as its argument and has a real number as its result. Generally, the action takes different values for different paths. Action has the dimensions of [energy]⋅[time] or [momentum]⋅[length], and its SI unit is joule-second.Condensed matter physics
Condensed matter physics is the field of physics that deals with the macroscopic and microscopic physical properties of matter. In particular it is concerned with the "condensed" phases that appear whenever the number of constituents in a system is extremely large and the interactions between the constituents are strong. The most familiar examples of condensed phases are solids and liquids, which arise from the electromagnetic forces between atoms. Condensed matter physicists seek to understand the behavior of these phases by using physical laws. In particular, they include the laws of quantum mechanics, electromagnetism and statistical mechanics.
The most familiar condensed phases are solids and liquids while more exotic condensed phases include the superconducting phase exhibited by certain materials at low temperature, the ferromagnetic and antiferromagnetic phases of spins on crystal lattices of atoms, and the Bose–Einstein condensate found in ultracold atomic systems. The study of condensed matter physics involves measuring various material properties via experimental probes along with using methods of theoretical physics to develop mathematical models that help in understanding physical behavior.
The diversity of systems and phenomena available for study makes condensed matter physics the most active field of contemporary physics: one third of all American physicists self-identify as condensed matter physicists, and the Division of Condensed Matter Physics is the largest division at the American Physical Society. The field overlaps with chemistry, materials science, and nanotechnology, and relates closely to atomic physics and biophysics. The theoretical physics of condensed matter shares important concepts and methods with that of particle physics and nuclear physics.A variety of topics in physics such as crystallography, metallurgy, elasticity, magnetism, etc., were treated as distinct areas until the 1940s, when they were grouped together as solid state physics. Around the 1960s, the study of physical properties of liquids was added to this list, forming the basis for the new, related specialty of condensed matter physics. According to physicist Philip Warren Anderson, the term was coined by him and Volker Heine, when they changed the name of their group at the Cavendish Laboratories, Cambridge from Solid state theory to Theory of Condensed Matter in 1967, as they felt it did not exclude their interests in the study of liquids, nuclear matter, and so on. Although Anderson and Heine helped popularize the name "condensed matter", it had been present in Europe for some years, most prominently in the form of a journal published in English, French, and German by Springer-Verlag titled Physics of Condensed Matter, which was launched in 1963. The funding environment and Cold War politics of the 1960s and 1970s were also factors that lead some physicists to prefer the name "condensed matter physics", which emphasized the commonality of scientific problems encountered by physicists working on solids, liquids, plasmas, and other complex matter, over "solid state physics", which was often associated with the industrial applications of metals and semiconductors. The Bell Telephone Laboratories was one of the first institutes to conduct a research program in condensed matter physics.References to "condensed" state can be traced to earlier sources. For example, in the introduction to his 1947 book Kinetic Theory of Liquids, Yakov Frenkel proposed that "The kinetic theory of liquids must accordingly be developed as a generalization and extension of the kinetic theory of solid bodies. As a matter of fact, it would be more correct to unify them under the title of 'condensed bodies'".Free particle
In physics, a free particle is a particle that, in some sense, is not bound by an external force, or equivalently not in a region where its potential energy varies. In classical physics, this means the particle is present in a "field-free" space. In quantum mechanics, it means a region of uniform potential, usually set to zero in the region of interest since potential can be arbitrarily set to zero at any point (or surface in three dimensions) in space.Glossary of classical physics
This article is a glossary of classical physics. It is some of the most common terms in classical physics and how they are used.Inertia
Inertia is the resistance, of any physical object, to any change in its velocity. This includes changes to the object's speed, or direction of motion.
An aspect of this property is the tendency of objects to keep moving in a straight line at a constant speed, when no forces are upon them—and this aspect in particular is also called inertia.
The principle of inertia is one of the fundamental principles in classical physics that are still used today to describe the motion of objects and how they are affected by the applied forces on them.
Inertia comes from the Latin word, iners, meaning idle, sluggish. Inertia is one of the primary manifestations of mass, which is a quantitative property of physical systems. Isaac Newton defined inertia as his first law in his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which states:
The vis insita, or innate force of matter, is a power of resisting by which every body, as much as in it lies, endeavours to preserve its present state, whether it be of rest or of moving uniformly forward in a straight line.
In common usage, the term "inertia" may refer to an object's "amount of resistance to change in velocity" (which is quantified by its mass), or sometimes to its momentum, depending on the context. The term "inertia" is more properly understood as shorthand for "the principle of inertia" as described by Newton in his First Law of Motion: an object not subject to any net external force moves at a constant velocity. Thus, an object will continue moving at its current velocity until some force causes its speed or direction to change.
On the surface of the Earth, inertia is often masked by the effects of friction and air resistance, both of which tend to decrease the speed of moving objects (commonly to the point of rest), and gravity. This misled the philosopher Aristotle to believe that objects would move only as long as force was applied to them:
...it [body] stops when the force which is pushing the travelling object has no longer power to push it along...Inertial frame of reference
An inertial frame of reference in classical physics and special relativity is a frame of reference in which a body with zero net force acting upon it is not accelerating; that is, such a body is at rest or it is moving at a constant speed in a straight line. In analytical terms, it is a frame of reference that describes time and space homogeneously, isotropically, and in a time-independent manner. Conceptually, the physics of a system in an inertial frame have no causes external to the system. An inertial frame of reference may also be called an inertial reference frame, inertial frame, Galilean reference frame, or inertial space.All inertial frames are in a state of constant, rectilinear motion with respect to one another; an accelerometer moving with any of them would detect zero acceleration. Measurements in one inertial frame can be converted to measurements in another by a simple transformation (the Galilean transformation in Newtonian physics and the Lorentz transformation in special relativity). In general relativity, in any region small enough for the curvature of spacetime and tidal forces to be negligible, one can find a set of inertial frames that approximately describe that region.In a non-inertial reference frame in classical physics and special relativity, the physics of a system vary depending on the acceleration of that frame with respect to an inertial frame, and the usual physical forces must be supplemented by fictitious forces. In contrast, systems in non-inertial frames in general relativity don't have external causes, because of the principle of geodesic motion. In classical physics, for example, a ball dropped towards the ground does not go exactly straight down because the Earth is rotating, which means the frame of reference of an observer on Earth is not inertial. The physics must account for the Coriolis effect—in this case thought of as a force—to predict the horizontal motion. Another example of such a fictitious force associated with rotating reference frames is the centrifugal effect, or centrifugal force.Introduction to quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics is the science of the very small. It explains the behavior of matter and its interactions with energy on the scale of atoms and subatomic particles. By contrast, classical physics explains matter and energy only on a scale familiar to human experience, including the behavior of astronomical bodies such as the Moon. Classical physics is still used in much of modern science and technology. However, towards the end of the 19th century, scientists discovered phenomena in both the large (macro) and the small (micro) worlds that classical physics could not explain. The desire to resolve inconsistencies between observed phenomena and classical theory led to two major revolutions in physics that created a shift in the original scientific paradigm: the theory of relativity and the development of quantum mechanics. This article describes how physicists discovered the limitations of classical physics and developed the main concepts of the quantum theory that replaced it in the early decades of the 20th century. It describes these concepts in roughly the order in which they were first discovered. For a more complete history of the subject, see History of quantum mechanics.
Light behaves in some aspects like particles and in other aspects like waves. Matter—the "stuff" of the universe consisting of particles such as electrons and atoms—exhibits wavelike behavior too. Some light sources, such as neon lights, give off only certain frequencies of light. Quantum mechanics shows that light, along with all other forms of electromagnetic radiation, comes in discrete units, called photons, and predicts its energies, colors, and spectral intensities. A single photon is a quantum, or smallest observable amount, of the electromagnetic field because a partial photon has never been observed. More broadly, quantum mechanics shows that many quantities, such as angular momentum, that appeared continuous in the zoomed-out view of classical mechanics, turn out to be (at the small, zoomed-in scale of quantum mechanics) quantized. Angular momentum is required to take on one of a set of discrete allowable values, and since the gap between these values is so minute, the discontinuity is only apparent at the atomic level.
Many aspects of quantum mechanics are counterintuitive and can seem paradoxical, because they describe behavior quite different from that seen at larger scales. In the words of quantum physicist Richard Feynman, quantum mechanics deals with "nature as She is – absurd". For example, the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics means that the more closely one pins down one measurement (such as the position of a particle), the less accurate another measurement pertaining to the same particle (such as its momentum) must become.Magnetic susceptibility
In electromagnetism, the magnetic susceptibility (Latin: susceptibilis, "receptive"; denoted χ) is a measure of how much a material will become magnetized in an applied magnetic field. Mathematically, it is the ratio of magnetization M (magnetic moment per unit volume) to the applied magnetizing field intensity H. This allows a simple classification of most materials' response to an applied magnetic field into two categories: an alignment with the magnetic field, χ>0, called paramagnetism, or an alignment against the field, χ<0, called diamagnetism.
This alignment has several effects. First, the magnetic susceptibility indicates whether a material is attracted into or repelled out of a magnetic field. Paramagnetic materials align with the field, so are attracted to the magnetic field. Diamagnetic materials are anti-aligned, so are pushed away from magnetic fields. Second, on top of the applied field, the magnetic moment of the material adds its own magnetic field, causing the field lines to concentrate in paramagnetism, or be excluded in diamagnetism. Quantitative measures of the magnetic susceptibility also provide insights into the structure of materials, providing insight into bonding and energy levels.
Fundamentally, the magnetic moment of materials comes from the magnetism of the particles they are made of. Usually, this is dominated by the magnetic moments of electrons. Electrons are present in all materials, but without any external magnetic field, the magnetic moments of the electrons are usually in some way either paired up or randomized so the overall magnetism is zero.(the exception to this usual case is ferromagnetism) The fundamental reasons why the magnetic moments of the electrons line up or don't can be very complex, and can not be explained with classical physics. However, it is a useful simplification to simply measure the magnetic susceptibility of a material, and apply the macroscopic form of Maxwell's equations. This allows classical physics to make useful predictions without getting into the underlying quantum mechanical details.Mechanics
Mechanics (Greek μηχανική) is that area of science concerned with the behaviour of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment.
The scientific discipline has its origins in Ancient Greece with the writings of Aristotle and Archimedes (see History of classical mechanics and Timeline of classical mechanics). During the early modern period, scientists such as Galileo, Kepler, and Newton laid the foundation for what is now known as classical mechanics.
It is a branch of classical physics that deals with particles that are either at rest or are moving with velocities significantly less than the speed of light.
It can also be defined as a branch of science which deals with the motion of and forces on objects. The field is yet less widely understood in terms of quantum theory.Modern physics
Modern physics is the post-Newtonian conception of physics. It implies that classical descriptions of phenomena are lacking, and that an accurate, "modern", description of nature requires theories to incorporate elements of quantum mechanics or Einsteinian relativity, or both. In general, the term is used to refer to any branch of physics either developed in the early 20th century and onwards, or branches greatly influenced by early 20th century physics.
Small velocities and large distances is usually the realm of classical physics. Modern physics, however, often involves extreme conditions: quantum effects typically involve distances comparable to atoms (roughly 10−9 m), while relativistic effects typically involve velocities comparable to the speed of light (roughly 3 108 m/s). In general, quantum and relativistic effects exist across all scales, although these effects can be very small in everyday life.Philosophical interpretation of classical physics
Classical Newtonian physics has, formally, been replaced by quantum mechanics on the small scale and relativity on the large scale. Because most humans continue to think in terms of the kind of events we perceive in the human scale of daily life, it became necessary to provide a new philosophical interpretation of classical physics. Classical mechanics worked extremely well within its domain of observation but made inaccurate predictions at very small scale – atomic scale systems – and when objects moved very fast or were very massive. Viewed through the lens of quantum mechanics or relativity, we can now see that classical physics, imported from the world of our everyday experience, includes notions for which there is no actual evidence. For example, one commonly held idea is that there exists one absolute time shared by all observers. Another is the idea that electrons are discrete entities like miniature planets that circle the nucleus in definite orbits.
The correspondence principle says that classical accounts are approximations to quantum mechanics that are for all practical purposes equivalent to quantum mechanics when dealing with macro-scale events.
Various problems occur if classical mechanics is used to describe quantum systems, such as the ultraviolet catastrophe in black-body radiation, the Gibbs paradox, and the lack of a zero point for entropy.
Since classical physics corresponds more closely to ordinary language than modern physics does, this subject is also a part of the philosophical interpretation of ordinary language, which has other aspects, as well.Physics
Physics (from Ancient Greek: φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), translit. physikḗ (epistḗmē), lit. 'knowledge of nature', from φύσις phýsis "nature") is the natural science that studies matter and its motion and behavior through space and time and that studies 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 the last 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 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.Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics (QM; also known as quantum physics, quantum theory, the wave mechanical model, or matrix mechanics), including quantum field theory, is a fundamental theory in physics which describes nature at the smallest scales of energy levels of atoms and subatomic particles.Classical physics, the physics existing before quantum mechanics, describes nature at ordinary (macroscopic) scale. Most theories in classical physics can be derived from quantum mechanics as an approximation valid at large (macroscopic) scale.
Quantum mechanics differs from classical physics in that energy, momentum, angular momentum and other quantities of a bound system are restricted to discrete values (quantization); objects have characteristics of both particles and waves (wave-particle duality); and there are limits to the precision with which quantities can be measured (uncertainty principle).Quantum mechanics gradually arose from theories to explain observations which could not be reconciled with classical physics, such as Max Planck's solution in 1900 to the black-body radiation problem, and from the correspondence between energy and frequency in Albert Einstein's 1905 paper which explained the photoelectric effect. Early quantum theory was profoundly re-conceived in the mid-1920s by Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg, Max Born and others. The modern theory is formulated in various specially developed mathematical formalisms. In one of them, a mathematical function, the wave function, provides information about the probability amplitude of position, momentum, and other physical properties of a particle.
Important applications of quantum theory include quantum chemistry, quantum optics, quantum computing, superconducting magnets, light-emitting diodes, and the laser, the transistor and semiconductors such as the microprocessor, medical and research imaging such as magnetic resonance imaging and electron microscopy. Explanations for many biological and physical phenomena are rooted in the nature of the chemical bond, most notably the macro-molecule DNA.Semiclassical physics
Semiclassical physics, or simply semiclassical refers to a theory in which one part of a system is described quantum-mechanically whereas the other is treated classically. For example, external fields will be constant, or when changing will be classically described. In general, it incorporates a development in powers of Planck's constant, resulting in the classical physics of power 0, and the first nontrivial approximation to the power of (−1). In this case, there is a clear link between the quantum-mechanical system and the associated semi-classical and classical approximations, as it is similar in appearance to the transition from physical optics to geometric optics.Stochastic quantum mechanics
Stochastic quantum mechanics (or the stochastic interpretation) is an interpretation of quantum mechanics.
The modern application of stochastics to quantum mechanics involves the assumption of spacetime stochasticity, the idea that the small-scale structure of spacetime is undergoing both metric and topological fluctuations (John Archibald Wheeler's "quantum foam"), and that the averaged result of these fluctuations recreates a more conventional-looking metric at larger scales that can be described using classical physics, along with an element of nonlocality that can be described using quantum mechanics. A stochastic interpretation of quantum mechanics due to persistent vacuum fluctuation. The main idea is that vacuum or spacetime fluctuations are the reason for quantum mechanics and not a result of it as it is usually considered.Stress tensor
Stress tensor may refer to:
Cauchy stress tensor, in classical physics
Stress deviator tensor, in classical physics
Piola–Kirchhoff stress tensor, in continuum mechanics
Viscous stress tensor, in continuum mechanics
Stress–energy tensor, in relativistic theories
Maxwell stress tensor, in electromagnetism
Electromagnetic stress–energy tensor, in relativistic physicsSupersymmetry breaking
In particle physics, supersymmetry breaking is the process to obtain a seemingly non-supersymmetric physics from a supersymmetric theory which is a necessary step to reconcile supersymmetry with actual experiments. It is an example of spontaneous symmetry breaking. In supergravity, this results in a slightly modified counterpart of the Higgs mechanism where the gravitinos become massive.
Supersymmetry breaking occurs at supersymmetry breaking scale. The superpartners, whose mass would otherwise be equal to the mass of the regular particles in the absence of the SUSY breaking, become much heavier.
In the domain of applicability of stochastic differential equations including, e.g, classical physics, spontaneous supersymmetry breaking encompasses such nonlinear dynamical phenomena as chaos, turbulence, pink noise, etc.Time evolution
Time evolution is the change of state brought about by the passage of time, applicable to systems with internal state (also called stateful systems). In this formulation, time is not required to be a continuous parameter, but may be discrete or even finite. In classical physics, time evolution of a collection of rigid bodies is governed by the principles of classical mechanics. In their most rudimentary form, these principles express the relationship between forces acting on the bodies and their acceleration given by Newton's laws of motion. These principles can also be equivalently expressed more abstractly by Hamiltonian mechanics or Lagrangian mechanics.
The concept of time evolution may be applicable to other stateful systems as well. For instance, the operation of a Turing machine can be regarded as the time evolution of the machine's control state together with the state of the tape (or possibly multiple tapes) including the position of the machine's read-write head (or heads). In this case, time is discrete.
Stateful systems often have dual descriptions in terms of states or in terms of observable values. In such systems, time evolution can also refer to the change in observable values. This is particularly relevant in quantum mechanics where the Schrödinger picture and Heisenberg picture are (mostly) equivalent descriptions of time evolution.Ultraviolet catastrophe
The ultraviolet catastrophe, also called the Rayleigh–Jeans catastrophe, was the prediction of late 19th century/early 20th century classical physics that an ideal black body (also blackbody) at thermal equilibrium will emit radiation in all frequency ranges, emitting more energy as the frequency increases. By calculating the total amount of radiated energy (i.e., the sum of emissions in all frequency ranges), it can be shown that a blackbody is likely to release an arbitrarily high amount of energy. This would cause all matter to instantaneously radiate all of its energy until it is near absolute zero - indicating that a new model for the behaviour of blackbodies was needed.
The term "ultraviolet catastrophe" was first used in 1911 by Paul Ehrenfest, but the concept originated with the 1900 statistical derivation of the Rayleigh–Jeans law. The phrase refers to the fact that the Rayleigh–Jeans law accurately predicts experimental results at radiative frequencies below 105 GHz, but begins to diverge with empirical observations as these frequencies reach the ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Since the first appearance of the term, it has also been used for other predictions of a similar nature, as in quantum electrodynamics and such cases as ultraviolet divergence.