What is physics?

What is physics? You probably think of a high school class about rolling balls down hills. Dictionaries just say it’s the study of matter and energy. But there’s a lot more to it!

In first year college physics, you do study kinematics, the motion of objects, and Newton’s laws. But you also delve into more cool topics, like Einstein’s theory of relativity. The next semester, you study how electricity and magnets work, topics in thermodynamics – the study of heat, energy, and things like entropy – and also get an introduction to quantum mechanics.

But after getting exposed to the basics, physicists have the tools study all sorts of awesome things. Here are just a few:

  • Astronomy – planets and black holes and stardust, oh my! (yes, we do have real live Stardust in our department)
  • Biophysics –  how molecules and cells move around and interact
  • Condensed matter physics – the study of solids and liquids, everything from superconductors to ultracold atoms
  • Cosmology – a combination of history and fortune-telling: uncovering the Universe’s past and predicting its future
  • Geophysics – earthquakes, the movement of water in the ocean, the Earth’s magnetic field, and more!
  • Gravity – that thing that’s always pushing down on you
  • Nuclear physics – BOOM
  • Optics – lasers!
  • Particle physics – the smallest and most exotic components of the universe, from protons and neutrons to quarks and the “God particle”
  • Quantum information/quantum computers
  • String theory – a “theory of everything”

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