Saturday, February 11, 2006

What are the Various Fields Within Physics?

What sort of specific things do physicists study?
Physics incorporates many subfields, including (but not limited to):

  • Acoustics
  • Astronomy
  • Astrophysics
  • Atomic Physics
  • Biophysics
  • Chaos
  • Chemical Physics
  • Computational Physics
  • Cosmology
  • Crystallography
  • Electromagnetism
  • Electronics
  • Fluid Dynamics
  • General Relativity
  • Geophysics
  • High Energy Physics
  • High Pressure Physics
  • Laser Physics
  • Light Physics
  • Low Temperature physics/Cryophysics/Cryogenics
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Mechanics
  • Meteorology/Weather Physics
  • Molecular Physics
  • Nanotechnology
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Optics
  • Particle Physics
  • Plasma Physics
  • Quantum Physics
  • Quantum Optics
  • Quantum Field Theory
  • Quantum Gravity
  • Statistical Mechanics
  • String Theory - Superstring Theory
  • Thermodynamics

Most of these fields have both experimental and theoretical sides - few physicists these days do both experimental and theoretical physics. The last physicists to truly excel at both sides of the science was Enrico Fermi.

Amongst the purely physics fields listed above, you will notice fields like geophysics, biophysics and chemical physics where physics research has expanded into fields that are traditionally thought of as separate (geology, biology and chemistry). Physicists bring to these fields the tools and methodology of physics, which often allows new solutions to problems experienced in the original field to be solved with tools that were originally created to solve physics problems.

In a nutshell, physicists study whatever is interesting to them. Physicists are as often found studying things that would seem far afield from "physics" as they are found doing "typical" physics experiments.

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