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Physics

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Physics

Physics is a central subject of study throughout formal education. It is relevant to everyone, offering a window to understand the universe. Some people think of physics as the Swiss knife of science.

Students of engineering, chemistry, and biology cover many physics topics too. A good grasp of the basics of physics can help you understand technical problems and models in other science and engineering fields.

No matter which class you are currently in or which school you are attending, StudySmarter has something for everyone!
From modern particle accelerators on the left to the most basic swing on the right, all devices and phenomena in the world include physics.

How can StudySmarter support me with physics?

The free content at StudySmarter can help you prepare for different levels of study and exams in physics. In addition, the StudySmarter app:

  • Creates an intelligent learning plan just for you.
  • Tracks your progress and motivates you with badges and awards.
  • It lets you quickly create notes and flashcards and share them with other students in your class. You can also join a wider learning community of other physics students.

Physics through the ages

The word ‘physics’ comes from ancient Greek and means ‘knowledge of nature’, although physics is older than this. Other cultures knew it as ‘the study of natural phenomena’, and the knowledge obtained was used to predict, calculate, and create applications, including:

  • Rudimentary electroplating from the Moche culture of ancient Peru, around 100-700 AC.
  • Magnetism studies in ancient China, around 400 BC.
  • Scientific method and reproducibility of results in Ancient Egypt/Iran, around 1000 AC.
  • Prediction of astronomical events based on observations and measurements in Mexico, around 500 BC.
  • First philosophy of atomism in India, around 200-600 BC.

From old Roman aqueducts to modern space technology, physics has long been a tool to create and develop solutions, enabling us to modify our world.

In modern times, physics has matured into a well-defined system of knowledge. This knowledge is used at any scale from atoms to galaxies and in any discipline from medicine to engineering.

Theoretical and experimental physics

Physics is divided into theoretical physics and experimental physics.

Theoretical physics focuses on making laws, theories, and hypotheses that can describe patterns or things observed in the world.

Experimental physics makes observations on different phenomena using carefully designed experiments through the scientific method, which uses evidence to justify a belief or knowledge.

Experimental physics will observe patterns that theoretical physics will later try to describe. Theoretical physics makes predictions and creates models, and experimental physics can corroborate these observations.

Applied physics

Physics may be highly theoretical, but it converts a lot of knowledge into applications.
Here’s a list of areas that use physics:

  • Medicine: Imaging techniques to observe internal parts of the body using sound or radiation, radiotherapy to target cancer cells, optics for implants in the eye, creating devices for endoscopy.
    Mechanical engineering: Design of devices modeled after the laws of movement and energy exchange interactions.
  • Aerospace: Applied theoretical aerodynamics for designing planes and other aircraft.
    Energy industry: Applications of thermal and energy exchanges and the study of electricity to generate and consume energy.
  • Electrical engineering and electronics: applied/theoretical knowledge modeling, designing and creating circuits, electronic devices, and electrical networks.
  • Sensors: Used in physical chemistry, thermal engineering, optics, and others to create devices that can measure data.
  • Optics: Applications for sensing and manipulating visible light and other electromagnetic spectra.
  • Naval: Fluid mechanics and its applications to seafaring and ship technology.
  • Materials and structures: Knowledge of the forces applied to structures and objects. The composition of materials and how this composition can affect structures or the objects used in construction, medicine, and other areas.
  • Food industry: applications that range from sterilization to sample analysis.

Physics topics on StudySmarter

StudySmarter covers the following topics in physics.

  • Physical quantities and units: how to use units correctly and carry out calculations.
  • Measurements: how to measure directly and estimate errors in our measurements.
  • Radiation: important parts, laws, and characteristics of the subatomic world, covering the atom, antimatter, and electromagnetic radiation.
  • Waves: laws and characteristics that can be applied to wave phenomena, from ocean waves to sound and light.
  • Mechanics and materials: Laws of motion, kinetic and potential energy of objects. Properties of materials such as elasticity, density, and the use of vectors and scalars.
  • Electricity: The application of electricity to basic circuits, including resistances and power sources.
  • Further mechanics and thermal mechanics: Heat and how it moves between objects. Systems that move in circular motion and systems that describe an oscillatory pattern (harmonic systems).
  • Fields: Forces produced without contact such as gravity, magnetic forces and electrical forces. How planets and charges move in these fields.
  • Astrophysics: Observational tools such as telescopes and radio telescopes, and how they work. Planets and stars. The basic mechanics of physical laws include the Doppler effect, Hubble law, and black body radiation.
  • Medical physics: applications of physics in medicine.
  • Applications of physics: Thermodynamics and rotational mechanics.
  • Turning points in physics: moments that changed physics forever.

Physics and maths

Physics requires an understanding of some areas of mathematics, including:

  • Calculus.
  • Differential equations.
  • Statistics.
  • Probability.
  • Algebra.
  • Mathematical analysis.

Study Smarter also provides topics and materials for chemistry, biology, and many other scientific areas related to physics.

Physics Flashcards, Summaries, and contents

StudySmarter provides summaries, key takeaways, and flashcards for each topic.

  • Summaries: Summaries help you to understand the subject more intuitively without losing the formality of physics. They include key formulae and easy-to-follow examples, and the content is friendly and approachable.
  • Key takeaways: Detailing important information that you need to remember from each summary.
  • Flashcards: Questions that challenge what you read and what you understand. The questions mix content from the article you read, challenging you through the process in a non-linear way. The flashcards include some easier problems with hints on how to solve them, theoretical questions, and multiple-choice questions.

Final Physics Quiz

Question

Who discovered the electron?

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Answer

J. J. Thomson.

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When was the electron discovered?

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Answer

In 1897.

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Question

Were cathode ray tubes used in the discovery of the electron?


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Answer

Yes, they were.

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Question

What was the first subatomic particle that was discovered?


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Answer

Electron.

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Question

Did the discovery of the electron disprove the idea of an indivisible atom?

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Answer

Yes, it did.

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Who proposed the theory of special relativity?

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Answer

 Albert Einstein.

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When was the theory of special relativity developed?


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Answer

In 1905.

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Which famous equation was provided by special relativity?


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Answer

E = mc².

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Who proposed wave-particle duality?


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Answer

Louis de Broglie.

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When was wave-particle duality proposed?


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Answer

In 1923.

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Which scientists studied wave-particle duality?


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Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Louis de Broglie, Erwin Schrödinger, Niels Bohr, and Arthur Compton.

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What are the two parts of modern relativity? 


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Answer

The theory of special relativity and the theory of general relativity.

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What disproved the idea of a homogenous atom particle? 


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Answer

The discovery of the electron.

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Question

Do light and matter have characteristics that are both wave-like and particle-like?


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Answer

Yes, they do.

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Question

Can you name the symbol for the speed of light?

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Answer

 It is c.

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Who discovered the granularity of electricity?


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Answer

J. J. Thomson.

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Question

Who was exploring relativity centuries before Einstein?


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Answer

Galileo and Newton.

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Which of these discoveries was the most important one for our understanding of space and time?


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Answer

Special relativity.

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Did wave-particle duality help to develop the model of the atom?

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Answer

Yes, it did.

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Question

According to Einstein, is time relative?


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Answer

Yes, it is.

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What does ‘to measure’ mean?

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Answer

To compare the magnitude of a value against a standard or pattern.

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What do we measure in an object?

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Answer

We measure a physical quantity or property.

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Question

We need units when doing measurements. True or false?

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Answer

True.

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What is the advantage of using units when measuring?

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Answer

It allows us to reproduce measurements.

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How can we graphically represent measurements?

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Answer

We can represent measurements using a plot.

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When measuring with a scale, we need to set the scale to 0 every time. True or false?

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Answer

True.

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Question

What is the name of the error when we are not careful reading a value using marks on the instrument?

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Answer

Parallax error.

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Question

State the three steps for taking correct measurements.

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Answer

Set instruments to zero, read all values carefully, and repeat the measurements.

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What is a plot?

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Answer

A plot is the graphical relationship of two or more variables.

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 What are the two ways you can measure things?

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Answer

Using formal units or by reference.

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Are measurements, units, and physical quantities related?

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Answer

Yes, they are.

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How are measurements, units, and physical quantities related?

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Answer

You ‘measure’ a ‘physical quantity’ using ‘units’.

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Question

When you make a measurement, what are you doing?

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Answer

Comparing a physical quantity to a standard or accepted pattern.

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Question

When you track the speed of a car, what property are you measuring, and which units do you use?

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Answer

Speed, km/h or mph.

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When you check the weather, what property are you measuring, and which units do you use?

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Answer

Temperature, Fahrenheit or celsius.

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Question

Usually, in a plot, what is the name given to ‘y’?

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Answer

The dependent variable.

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Usually, in a plot, what is the name given to ‘x’?

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Answer

The independent variable.

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Question

Did the plum pudding model say atoms have a neutral total charge?

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Answer

Yes, it did.

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Question

Were cathode-ray tubes used in Thomson's experiment?


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Answer

Yes

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Question

What is the concept of the plum pudding model?


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Answer

 Negative particles are floating around in a positively charged soup in an atom.

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Question

Who did the gold foil experiment?


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Answer

Ernest Rutherford.

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When did the gold foil experiment take place?


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Answer

 In 1909.

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Question

What was the big discovery of the gold foil experiment?


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Answer

 The nucleus

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Question

Does the nucleus contain the bulk of the atomic mass?


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Answer

Yes, it does.

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Question

Who did the oil drop experiment?


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Answer

Robert Millikan.

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Question

Were electrons the first subatomic particles that were discovered?


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Answer

Yes, they were.

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Question

Was Thomson able to determine the charge of the electron in relation to its mass?

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Answer

 Yes.

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Question

What else did Thomson study?

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Answer

Positively charged particles in neon gas.

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Question

 In the plum pudding model, what were the raisins representing?


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Answer

Electrons

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Question

In the plum pudding model, what was the dough representing?

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Answer

Positive charge

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