Physics is one of the fields of knowledge that underlies the physical universe and applies constantly to people's everyday lives. One of the major sciences, it seeks to explain the reasons matter acts the way it does and to describe the way matter interacts with other matter -- from subatomic particles to galaxies in the heavens. It can be as basic as the conversion of electrical energy to heat to make the morning coffee or as complex as plotting a space shuttle flight from Earth into orbit. Even though some concepts are initially difficult to grasp, the reward in terms of satisfaction and knowledge can make all the effort worth it.
Advances in technology are often based on discoveries in physics and inventions based on a new interpretation of existing physics knowledge. For example, Wilhelm Rontgen discovered X-rays more than a century ago, and X-ray machines are now a piece of medical equipment taken completely for granted, designed and perfected by physicists and engineers working off the initial research. In the first half of the 20th century, Enrico Fermi studied existing knowledge on nuclear fission and experimented until he achieved the first nuclear chain reaction, and now nuclear energy plants produce electricity to power homes and businesses worldwide.
Understanding the World
Not all of the benefits of physics involve material things because research and knowledge are themselves important. Astrophysics, quantum mechanics and investigations into atomic structure and energy have been able to explain much of the way the world works, even down to the original birth of the universe. Of course, the research results can also be used as the basis of new technology, as previously mentioned. At an individual level, studying physics can be personally rewarding as students begin to understand everyday objects and occurrences in terms of the concepts of physics that underlie them, such as acceleration of a car, gravity causing an apple to fall from the tree or electricity powering an MP3 player.
Relevant to Many Fields
Physics is not a standalone field. Its tenets actually apply to a wide variety of fields. For example, medical students need to know some basic physics to understand how blood and air flows in the body, taking into account concepts such as pressure, velocity of flow and changes in resistance to flow. Physics is also integral to engineering and is generally relevant for all the sciences.
Many people are scared of studying physics because it has a reputation as a difficult subject. Specific aspects of physics that many people find daunting include the need to understand different mathematical equations and graphs and then be able to translate those concepts into real life. While there may be easier subjects out there, one of the values of studying physics is that it is intrinsically challenging and therefore also extremely rewarding when a student understands it. The Cornell University Physics Teacher Education Coalition says that the best place to learn physics is through formal education, as the concepts are much harder to grasp in self-directed learning.
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