A rite of passage of every Singaporean students’ lives is to take three types of sciences- chemistry, physics and biology in secondary 2 and eventually on average choose two out of the three sciences to study for in the GCE O level examination. Today, we look at one of the sciences, physics. Love it or hate it, you must admit that the different forces we study in physics classes are at work every day, every hour or even every second!
What is Physics
The dictionary definition of physics is “the study of matter, energy and the interaction between them”. But what this really means is that physics is about asking the fundamental questions and trying to answer them by observation and experimentation. Physicist study an extremely large range of physical phenomena, asking questions regarding from the smallest sub-particle to the entire universe. The physics that you study in school is probably teaching you about the seemingly dry fundamental concepts of physics, but you may be surprise that these concepts can be taken to the universal level, where no matter which area a physicist specialises in, such concepts are still applicable!
The two most well-known physicists, Issac Newton and Albert Einstein have always been held in high regard and have been given the names of being the fathers of physics.
Issac Newton lived in the 17th-18th century from 1643-1727. You have probably heard about the falling apple story with Newton. Through this incident, he discovered about the forces of gravity, the exact same forces that is keeping you rooted to your seat right now. This discovery was a gateway to disproving many myths at that time, such as the structure of our solar system (in the past, people did not believe that Earth and other planets were simply revolving around the Sun).
Albert Einstein lived in a century later from Issac Newton, from 1879 to 1955. Einstein developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (the other being quantum mechanics). Einstein is probably known for the derivation of the world’s most famous equation, E=mc2. Did you know that Einstein’s intellectual achievements and originality have made the word “Einstein” synonymous with “genius”?
In modern times, Stephen Hawking has been making waves in the physics world. Picking up from where Einstein has left off, Hawking has made many theoretical predictions in cosmology, of which the most famous being that black holes emit radiation, often called the Hawking radiation.
These physicists have a profound impact on our understanding of the world around us.
Why should you study physics?
Just like the Newton, Einstein and Hawking, grasping the basic understanding of physics can propel you further into understanding the world around us. Such understanding have often been crucial in the advancement of technology that we now enjoy today. From the cars you see on the road to the lights in your room you use every day, the understanding of how these work can save you time and money in repairing them should you need to.
In addition, physics is related to many other fields, even those that you may not think there is much of a link. One good example is that many people get the misconception that the medical field is just about biology. Little did they know that physics do play a part in this industry too- one would need to understand about pressure, velocity and changes in resistance to flow to understand how does blood and air flow in our body.
So, even though studying physics may seem “boring” at first, do remember that it can bring about many benefits not only to oneself but also towards the understanding of the world around us and can even create advances in technology, improving the lives of mankind!