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Fundamentals of Physics

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Fundamentals of Physics

So many aspects of physics can be considered specialized, meaning you need to know a lot of that specific thing to understand it or reach further into it as a topic. Physics encompasses things as big as a black hole, or a collapsing star. Physics also encompasses microscopic occurrences such as splitting the atom to cause a nuclear explosion, and even smaller still with quarks, the building blocks of subatomic particles. There are however many topics in physics that you must know to further understand more specialized topics, this is known as fundamental physics. What kind of things are covered in fundamental physics? Let's find out.

Fundamental Physics Definition

If you can think of a force, be it throwing a ball or sticking a magnet onto the refrigerator, fundamental forces are involved. The definition of a fundamental force is as below:

A fundamental force is any of the four basic forces (electromagnetic, gravitational, weak, or strong) that is responsible for any interaction between objects.

Fundamental Forces in Physics

These four forces are separated due to their differences in force strength, what can interact with them, and how far of a range they can affect.

Gravitational Force

The first of these forces is the gravitational force. It is a force that only affects bodies that possess mass, causing them to exert a force on any other bodies that possess mass as well. The gravitational force is always attractive, that is, all objects with mass will tend to move toward each other. For example, the Earth’s mass affects the Moon, causing it to orbit around us, but the Moon’s mass also affects the Earth, changing the tides and causing waves. The Earth is affecting the Moon a lot more due to the massive difference in mass.

Fundamentals Gravitational field lines around Earth StudySmarter An image of Earth, showing the direction in which gravitational forces act upon it. Wikimedia Commons

Electromagnetic Force

The electromagnetic force is what affects all electric charges, the nature of their attraction and repulsion to one another, and why an electric charge is capable of forming a magnetic field in the right conditions. The electromagnetic force is far stronger than the gravitational force but acts on a much smaller scale.

A magnetic field can be formed by running an electric current through a looped wire.

Strong Force

The strong force is more complicated, in the fact that it exclusively acts between particles on the atomic level. Even smaller than atoms, the building blocks that make them up are known as subatomic particles such as protons and neutrons, and even smaller still are quarks, the base building blocks that make up everything. These quarks are held together by the strong force, which in turn has their forces that aid in holding together the protons and neutrons that make up atoms as well.

Fundamentals Strong nuclear force StudySmarterAn example of a nucleus with arrows showing the direction the strong force acts in to bind protons and neutrons together. Wikimedia Commons

Weak Force

The weak force is even more complicated still, being present in radioactivity, particularly as it decays but also in these radioactive processes present in the sun.

Fundamental Laws of Physics

In the universe, there are rules that all objects have to obey, no matter what, they are the rules of reality. These concepts are some of the most vital laws that affect us every day.

The Laws of Motion

The three laws of motion explain how bodies can move within this universe, as well as how their movement is governed by external forces, and how a body will move in reaction to these forces. These laws are attributed to Isaac Newton and are also known as Newton's laws of motion.

  1. The first law of motion is the law of inertia, which states that if a body or object has no forces acting on it at a given time, it will stay in motion if it is in motion, or it will stay at rest if it is at rest.

  2. The second law of motion states that if a resultant force is acting on an object, it is a product of both mass and acceleration, expressed as \(F=ma\).

  3. The third and final law of motion states that if body A is exerting a force onto body B, then body B will in turn produce a force equal in magnitude but opposite in direction upon body A.

Electromagnetism affects our lives in many different ways, but at a base level, it describes how electric currents and magnetic fields are related. When an electric current flows, it will in turn produce a magnetic field. This magnetic field’s strength depends on the strength of the current and the number of loops in the coil of the wire that the electric current is flowing through.

Electromagnetism’s most important feature in our lives is its help in creating the Earth’s magnetic field or magnetosphere. Through the electric current passing through molten iron in the Earth’s core, a massive magnetic field is generated around the entire planet, extending far into the atmosphere. This magnetic field protects us from many harmful things that occur in space, most commonly radiation emitted from our own Sun. Without this protection, the heat we would experience from this radiation would make the planet impossible to live on.

The Laws of Thermodynamics

The entire field of thermodynamics revolves around four laws, all of which describe in some way how energy and temperature behave and interact with one another.

  1. The first law of thermodynamics is simple, it states that energy can never be created or destroyed. It is only possible for energy to be converted into another form of energy.

  2. The second law states that if an energy conversion occurs involving heat energy, this conversion will be irreversible, and always tend towards a more disorganized form. This is also known as entropy.

  3. The third law states that this previously mentioned entropy within a system that involves the conversion of heat energy will reach an eventual constant value as the temperature in this system reaches absolute 0, also known as -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit.

There is another law known as the zeroth law of thermodynamics. This law shows us that a system will always aim to achieve thermal equilibrium, which is the state of everything in the system being at an equal temperature.

General Relativity is a very complicated topic that we could go into in great detail, but here we will describe it in a basic way, covering only the fundamental aspects of the concept.

General Relativity describes how matter and energy give rise to gravity. It is, in essence, the study of space and time on a massive scale. It explores the concept of a so-called space-time that can be bent and curved by matter and forms the basis for modern-day cosmology.

The theory of General Relativity was built upon the theory of Special Relativity which describes how physical quantities can be measured differently by observers in relative motion.

You may have heard of Relativity having something to do with Albert Einstein, and it does! In 1905, Einstein proposed the idea of Special Relativity, and with it, the idea that light is the fastest anything could potentially travel in the universe.

Fundamentals Albert Einstein StudySmarterThe man who proposed the idea of General and Special Relativity himself, Albert Einstein! Wikimedia Commons

Fundamental Physics Equations

If you know anything about physics, then you know there are usually equations involved in any topic. Thousands upon thousands of equations, but a lot less than that could be considered fundamental. Here are a few examples of fundamental equations:

Speed

Speed is how long it takes something to travel a specific distance. Speed is calculated by:

\(v=\frac{d}{t}\),

where \(v\) is speed, \(d\) is distance, and \(t\) represents time.

Acceleration

Acceleration is the rate of change of speed, meaning how quickly something increases or decreases in speed. Acceleration is calculated by:

\(a=\frac{v-u}{t}\),

where \(a\) is acceleration, \(v\) is the final velocity, \(u\) is the initial velocity, and \(t\) is the time.

Weight

Weight is the force applied to bodies of mass by gravity. It is calculated by:

\(W=mg\),

where \(W\) is weight, \(m\) is mass, and \(g\) is the acceleration due to gravity.

Ohms Law

Ohms Law describes the relationship between voltage (potential difference), current, and resistance. The equation is:

\(V=IR\),

Where \(V\) is voltage, \(I\) is current, and \(R\) is resistance.

Frequency

Frequency is the number of complete wave cycles that can occur over a second. Frequency is calculated by:

\(f=\frac{v}{\lambda}\)

Where \(f\) is frequency, \(v\) is the speed of the wave, and \(\lambda\) is the wavelength of the wave.

Fundamental Units in Physics

When we think about the most important units in the field of physics, the first thing that comes to mind is the International System of Units, or SI units for short. These seven units are the main units used for their respective measurements, and all other units can be written as a combination of these units. The units are:

  • The \(\mathrm{meter}\) is the SI unit of \(\mathrm{length}\), with the symbol \(\mathrm{m}\).
  • The \(\mathrm{kilogram}\) is the SI unit of \(\mathrm{mass}\), with the symbol \(\mathrm{kg}\).
  • The \(\mathrm{second}\) is the SI unit of \(\mathrm{time}\), with the symbol \(\mathrm{s}\).
  • The \(\mathrm{ampere}\) is the SI unit of \(\mathrm{electric\:current}\), with the symbol \(\mathrm{A}\).
  • The \(\mathrm{kelvin}\) is the SI unit of \(\mathrm{temperature}\), with the symbol \(\mathrm{K}\).
  • The \(\mathrm{mole}\) is the SI unit for the \(\mathrm{amount\:of\:substance}\), with the symbol \(\mathrm{mol}\).
  • The \(\mathrm{candela}\) is the SI symbol of \(\mathrm{light\:intensity}\), with the symbol \(\mathrm{cd}\).

Fundamentals - Key takeaways

  • There are four fundamental forces, gravitational, electromagnetic, strong, and weak force.

  • Each of these forces plays its part in the universe, the gravitational force occurs between any two bodies that have mass.

  • The electromagnetic force occurs in electric charges, and explains the attractive and repulsive forces between them.

  • The strong force binds subatomic particles together, and the weak force that occurs is present in the process of radioactive decay.

  • There are 3 laws of motion and they describe the behavior anybody can experience while engaging in motion.

  • The law of Electromagnetism explains how electric currents and magnetic fields relate to one another.

  • There are 4 laws of thermodynamics, all explaining how temperature and energy interact and behave.

  • General Relativity explains how events can differ depending on the perspective the event is being viewed upon.

  • There are many fundamental equations in physics, including ones for speed, acceleration, weight, ohms law, and frequency.

  • There are seven fundamental units, known as SI units, which are meters, kilograms, seconds, amperes, kelvin, moles, and candelas.

Frequently Asked Questions about Fundamentals of Physics

A fundamental physical quantity is one of the 7 main factors we can measure. These are mass, length, time, current, temperature, the amount of a substance, and luminosity.

The units for the fundamental quantities are kilograms for mass, meters for length, seconds for time, amperes for current, kelvin for temperature, moles for the amount of a substance, and candelas for luminosity.

The four fundamental forces in physics are the gravitational force, the electromagnetics force, the strong force, and the weak force.

Final Fundamentals of Physics Quiz

Question

Briefly describe what a scalar unit is.

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A scalar unit is a unit of measurement that only has a magnitude.

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What is difference between a scalar and a vector unit?

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A scalar unit only has a magnitude, whereas a vector unit has both mangitude and direction. 

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What is the scalar equivalent of velocity?

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Speed.

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Can a scalar unit ever be negative?


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Yes, in some cases a scalar is negative. 

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State three scalar units that cannot be negative.


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  • Mass, 
  • Time, 
  • Distance, 
  • Area, 
  • Volume, 
  • Density.

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Question

Describe the scalar unit work in basic terms.


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Work is the transference of energy into something or someone.

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Question

State the two other scalar units involved in finding density.


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Mass and volume.

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Question

What scalar unit is measured using \(m^{3}\)?

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Volume.

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What scalar unit is measured using \(m/s\)?


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Speed.

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What scalar unit has a vector equivalent known as displacement?


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Distance.

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Question

What scalar units are measured using joules?


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Energy and Work.

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Briefly describe the scalar unit of energy.


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Energy is described as the amount of force that has been moved in a particular direction.

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Name the two other scalar units that directly relate to distance, especially in terms of the units they use.


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Answer

Area and Volume.

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Question

In words, what is the pythagorean theorem?

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The Pythagorean Theorem states that the sum of the squares of both of the shorter sides of a right-angled triangle is equal to the value of the longer side, squared

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Question

What is a Pythagorean triple?

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Answer

A collection of 3 positive integers that perfectly fit into the Pythagorean Theorem.

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How many kinds of triangles does the pythagorean theorem work with?


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One, a right-angled triangle.

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Who discovered the pythagorean theorem?


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Pythagoras.

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Question

Consider that we have a force vector and we know its magnitude and its vertical component. What relation do I have use to determine the value of the angle?

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Answer

Arcsine.

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A force vector has a magnitude of \( 50.0\;\mathrm{N} \) and an angle of \(  40^\circ \). Find the horizontal component, \(  F_x \), and the vertical component, \(  F_y \).

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Answer

\( F_x = 38.3\;\mathrm{N} \) and \( F_y = 32.1\;\mathrm{N} \). 

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Question

The sum of all angles in a triangle always equals \(  180^\circ \). If a triangle has two angles measuring \(  \frac{\pi}{3}\;\mathrm{rad} \) and  \(  \frac{\pi}{2}\;\mathrm{rad} \), what is the measure of the third angle?  

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\(  30^\circ \).

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Question

What is a unit?

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Answer

A unit in physics is used to define a single unit of any quantity. It could be a unit of time, distance, or any other measure. 

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The conversion factor to convert meters into kilometers is...

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0.001

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Question

Convert 10 \(\text{lb}\) into \(\text{kg}\). (\(1\text{ kg (kilogram)} = 2.20462\text{ lb (pounds)}\))

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Answer

\(22\text{ kg}\)

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What is the unit conversion factor for kilograms to milligrams?


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\(1\text{ kg} = 1000\text{ mg}\)

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Convert 15 miles into \(\text{km}\).   \(1 \text{ mi} = 1.6 \text{ km}\)

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\(24\text{ km}\)

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What are unit conversions?


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Unit conversion is the process of obtaining another system of units from a given unit (both measuring the same quantity) using a conversion factor. For example, converting seconds into hours.

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Question

Convert 25 pounds into kilograms.

(\(1\text{ kg (kilogram)} = 2.20462\text{ lb (pounds)}\))

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Answer

\(11\text{ kg}\)

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The SI unit is the same as the metric system.

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Answer

True

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The United States Customary system measures length in ...


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Inch

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Convert \(25\) inches to feet. ( \(1\text{ ft} = 12^{\prime\prime}\) ) 

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Answer

\(2.1\text{ ft}\)

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Convert \(50\text{ mph}\) into \(\text{kmph}\). (1 mile = 1.6 km)

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Answer

\(80\text{ kmph}\)

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Convert \(1.0 \text{ m$^3$}\) into \(\text{cm$^3$}\)  ( \(1.0 \text{ m}  = 100\text{ cm}\) )

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Answer

\(1000000\text{ cm$^3$}\)

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Convert \(25\text{ m/s$^2$}\) into \(\text{km/hr$^2$}\)

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Answer

\(3.2\times10^5\text{ km/hr$^2$}\)

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What is a vector?

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Answer

A vector is defined as a physical quantity that is fully defined by both the magnitude and direction of the quantity.

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A unit vector has a magnitude of ...

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one

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A unit vector is also called as ...

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direction vector

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Can vectors be added algebraically?

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Yes

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Question

What are the two measurements in a vector?

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Answer

Direction and magnitude

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If two vectors are perpendicular to each other then the magnitude of results can be given by which law?

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Answer

Triangle law

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What does the triangle law of vector addition state?

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Answer

When two vectors are represented as the two sides of a triangle with the same order of magnitude and direction, the magnitude and direction of the resultant vector will be represented by the third side of the triangle.

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What is the resultant of several vectors?

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A resultant vector is a single vector that represents the combined direction and magnitude of two or more vectors.

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What is the standard notation used for a vector quantity?

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Answer

Vector quantities are represented using an arrow, for example a force may be represented as: \(\vec{F}\).

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Vectors are represented graphically as ...

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Arrows

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Question

What should be included on the front cover of a lab report?

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Answer

On the front page, you should write the name of the experiment, the lecturer of the course, the instructor who made the experiment, the name of the experimenters, the date the experiment was conducted, and the delivery date. 

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What should be included in the introduction section of a lab report?


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In this section, brief information about the experiment should be given and the purpose of the experiment should be stated. 

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You may take someone's findings if you provide a citation in the report.

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False. 

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Which sections can be written before conducting the experiment?

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Answer

Introduction, Theory, Method

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Question

What kind of rules should be applied for writing the equations in the theory section?

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Answer

  • All equations should be written with a line centered and one line spaced at the top and bottom.
  • Equations should be numbered and written in parentheses, close to the right margin.
  • Equations should also be referenced in the text, like figures and charts.

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In the method section, each figure added to the report should be referenced in the text with its number and a short explanation should be given if necessary.

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Answer

True

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Question

The results obtained in the experiment can be given with figures and/or tables.


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Answer

True 

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