Introduction to physics: origin of this science that deals with the interactions between matter and energy and which began in ancient Greece together with philosophical thought.
“Science is made of facts, just as a house is made of bricks, but a pile of facts is not science, any more than a pile of bricks is a house.”
This phrase is from the brilliant French physicist and mathematician Henry Poincaré, who described what it was for him to “do” science. Science requires that data be collected, analyzed and interpreted in a very detailed way, from there, a law that represents the phenomenon studied is sought and a theory is created, and who knows, some time later this theory will be being applied in new technologies that contribute to the well-being of society.
From this point of view, physics is one of the most successful branches of knowledge. Few areas have stood out so much in the production of knowledge, allied to technological development. It is an experimental science that deals with the interaction between matter and energy, it is one of the so-called “natural sciences”. It involves research, data collection and organization and the formulation of hypotheses, this way of studying phenomena was inaugurated by the Italian physicist Galileo Galilei in the 17th century, and is called the scientific method; previously knowledge was based on observations.
The history of physics began with Greek philosophers, such as Thales of Miletus, who probably lived around 624 BC Already at that time he was able to observe the electrical property of matter when he noticed that a fossilized plant resin, called amber, attracted small pieces of straw and dry leaves when rubbed with wool and animal skins. Other philosophers over the centuries also studied issues related to movement and time, among them Aristotle of Stagira (384 BC – 322 BC). In this way, knowledge grew exponentially and was divided into different areas, including physics.
In addition to the ancient Greek philosophers, many scientists made great contributions to the development of physics, some of them with great prominence, among them we can mention:
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543): he was the one who announced the heliocentric model, “placing” the Sun at the center of the solar system,
- Tycho Brahe (1546 – 1601): pioneered use of measuring equipment to map positions of celestial bodies, contributing immensely to astronomy.
- Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642): in addition to inaugurating the scientific method, he studied the movement of bodies in free fall.
- Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727): with his laws he managed to explain practically all types of motion.
- James Clerk Maxwell (1831 – 1879): united electricity and magnetism, giving rise to electromagnetism.
- Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955): published in 1905 three extraordinary articles: Special Theory of Relativity; Photoelectric effect; Brownian motion.
It is important to know that everyone made a significant contribution, Newton himself said: “If I could see further, it was because I was supported on the shoulders of giants”.
Physics has developed so much that it ended up being divided into areas: Classical Physics and Modern Physics; in classical physics are the phenomena that can be explained through Newton’s laws, while in modern physics there are phenomena related to theories that emerged from the mid-twentieth century, such as the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.
Didactically, most authors end up opting for a division that basically follows this sequence: Mechanics, Thermology, Optics, Wave, Electricity and Modern Physics.
- Mechanics: studies motion. It is subdivided into: kinematics, dynamics, gravitation, statics and hydrostatics.
- Thermology: studies the thermal phenomena. It is subdivided into thermometry, calorimetry and thermodynamics.
- Optics: studies the phenomena related to light and can be subdivided into geometric optics and physical optics.
- Wave: studies waves and encompasses acoustics, which deals with sound waves.
- Electricity: studies electrical and magnetic phenomena, it is subdivided into electrostatics, electrodynamics and electromagnetism.
- Modern physics: involves special relativity, quantum mechanics, and nuclear physics.
So, if you are starting your studies in physics, know that, although we have a didactic division, there is only one physics and all areas are related.