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Various examples of physical phenomena

Physics (from Ancient Greek: φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), romanizedphysikḗ (epistḗmē), lit. 'knowledge of nature', from φύσις phýsis 'nature') is the natural science that studies matter, 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 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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General relativity (GR, also known as the general theory of relativity or GTR) is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1915 and the current description of gravitation in modern physics. General relativity generalizes special relativity and refines Newton's law of universal gravitation, providing a unified description of gravity as a geometric property of space and time, or spacetime. In particular, the curvature of spacetime is directly related to the energy and momentum of whatever matter and radiation are present. The relation is specified by the Einstein field equations, a system of partial differential equations.

Some predictions of general relativity differ significantly from those of classical physics, especially concerning the passage of time, the geometry of space, the motion of bodies in free fall, and the propagation of light. Examples of such differences include gravitational time dilation, gravitational lensing, the gravitational redshift of light, and the gravitational time delay. The predictions of general relativity in relation to classical physics have been confirmed in all observations and experiments to date. Although general relativity is not the only relativistic theory of gravity, it is the simplest theory that is consistent with experimental data. However, unanswered questions remain, the most fundamental being how general relativity can be reconciled with the laws of quantum physics to produce a complete and self-consistent theory of quantum gravity. Read more...

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Albert Einstein's official portrait after receiving the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics

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Computer simulation of the Earth's field in a period of normal polarity between reversals. The lines represent magnetic field lines, blue when the field points towards the center and yellow when away. The rotation axis of the Earth is centered and vertical. The dense clusters of lines are within the Earth's core.

Earth's magnetic field, also known as the geomagnetic field, is the magnetic field that extends from the Earth's interior out into space, where it interacts with the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emanating from the Sun. The magnetic field is generated by electric currents due to the motion of convection currents of molten iron in the Earth's outer core: these convection currents are caused by heat escaping from the core, a natural process called a geodynamo. The magnitude of the Earth's magnetic field at its surface ranges from 25 to 65 microteslas (0.25 to 0.65 gauss). As an approximation, it is represented by a field of a magnetic dipole currently tilted at an angle of about 11 degrees with respect to Earth's rotational axis, as if there were a bar magnet placed at that angle at the center of the Earth. The North geomagnetic pole, currently located near Greenland in the northern hemisphere, is actually the south pole of the Earth's magnetic field, and conversely.

While the North and South magnetic poles are usually located near the geographic poles, they slowly and continuously move over geological time scales, but sufficiently slowly for ordinary compasses to remain useful for navigation. However, at irregular intervals averaging several hundred thousand years, the Earth's field reverses and the North and South Magnetic Poles respectively, abruptly switch places. These reversals of the geomagnetic poles leave a record in rocks that are of value to paleomagnetists in calculating geomagnetic fields in the past. Such information in turn is helpful in studying the motions of continents and ocean floors in the process of plate tectonics. 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

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Image credit: Luc Viatour

Plasma lamps are a type of gas discharge lamp energized by radio frequency (RF) power. They are distinct from the novelty plasma lamps that were popular in the 1980s.

The internal-electrodeless lamp was invented by Tesla after his experimentation with high-frequency currents in evacuated glass tubes for the purposes of lighting and the study of high voltage phenomena. The first practical plasma lamps were the sulfur lamps manufactured by Fusion Lighting. This lamp suffered a number of practical problems and did not prosper commercially. Plasma lamps with an internal phosphor coating are called external electrode fluorescent lamps (EEFL); these external electrodes or terminal conductors provide the radio frequency electric field. Read more...

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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
Kinects 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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