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The Physics Portal

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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 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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An image of Hurricane Isabel as seen from the International Space Station showing a well-defined eye at the center of the storm.

The eye is a region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones. The eye of a storm is a roughly circular area, typically 30–65 kilometers (19–40 miles) in diameter. It is surrounded by the eyewall, a ring of towering thunderstorms where the most severe weather and highest winds occur. The cyclone's lowest barometric pressure occurs in the eye and can be as much as 15 percent lower than the pressure outside the storm.

In strong tropical cyclones, the eye is characterized by light winds and clear skies, surrounded on all sides by a towering, symmetric eyewall. In weaker tropical cyclones, the eye is less well defined and can be covered by the central dense overcast, an area of high, thick clouds that show up brightly on satellite imagery. Weaker or disorganized storms may also feature an eyewall that does not completely encircle the eye or have an eye that features heavy rain. In all storms, however, the eye is the location of the storm's minimum barometric pressure—where the atmospheric pressure at sea level is the lowest. Read more...
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Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1913, published in 1914)

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The heliospheric current sheet extends to the outer reaches of the Solar System, and results from the influence of the Sun's rotating magnetic field on the plasma in the interplanetary medium.

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Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (right) after whom the Lorentz group is named and Albert Einstein whose special theory of relativity is the main source of application. Photo taken by Paul Ehrenfest 1921.
The Lorentz group is a Lie group of symmetries of the spacetime of special relativity. This group can be realized as a collection of matrices, linear transformations, or unitary operators on some Hilbert space; it has a variety of representations. This group is significant because special relativity together with quantum mechanics are the two physical theories that are most thoroughly established, and the conjunction of these two theories is the study of the infinite-dimensional unitary representations of the Lorentz group. These have both historical importance in mainstream physics, as well as connections to more speculative present-day theories. Read more...

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Category puzzle

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

Tools: Detectors | Interferometry | Measurement | Radiometry | Spectroscopy | Transducers

Background: Physicists | History of physics | Philosophy of physics | Physics education | Physics journals | Physics organizations

Other: Physics in fiction | Pseudophysics | Physics lists | Physics software | Physics stubs

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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
Kinetics 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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