The Changing Scope of Physics

Where did the original scope of physics in our modern scientific age come from? Galileo, the founder of modern physics, laid down the rules which governed the scientific method to be used. These rules were based in the first place on Galileo’s conviction that he, as the observer of physical phenomena, had no connection whatever with the objects observed. These physical objects were quite independent of him. They had their own history, their own development, which he merely observed. Therefore anything that connected him, as a particular person, to the phenomena was not sufficiently objective for science and had to be rejected. This included anything that came to him through the sense organs of hearing, smell, taste and touch. These human sense organs ensured that all such information was hopelessly subjective and could not be part of the new science of physics. The removal of these sense organs in his opinion did leave some information about the world, which he classified as objective and labeled as the “primary qualities”. Only these were fit for science.

The principal primary qualities were matter and motion. Rene Descartes famously said that if he were given matter and motion he could construct the universe. All the majestic synthesis of physical laws, laid down by Newton, concerned only matter and motion. The scope of physical inquiry was thus constricted and focused by Galileo and the subsequent founders of our age, on the mathematical expression of laws dealing exclusively with these two “qualities”. This method was deemed sufficient to penetrate and expose all the secrets of nature.

Then came the upheavals of the early twentieth century. It seemed that Newton did not, after all, have all the answers. Some of his predictions turned out to be wrong and the need to explain these anomalies formed the bases for both relativity and quantum theory, the two branches of physics that dominated the later twentieth century. Physicists began to chafe at the limits imposed on their science. Arthur Eddington commented unfavorably on the exclusive treatment given in physics to Galileo’s primary qualities: “…. ideally, all our knowledge of the universe could have been reached by visual sensation alone – in fact by the simplest form of visual sensation, colorless and non-stereoscopic.” Bertrand Russell grumped that “Physics is mathematical not because we know so much about nature but because we know so little: it is only its mathematical properties that we can discover.” J.W.N. Sullivan wrote a whole book on this subject, The Limitations of Science, in which he concludes: “Science deals with but a partial aspect of reality and…. there is not the faintest reason for supposing that everything science ignores is less real than what it accepts.”

Physics was moving beyond the certainties of the Newtonian era. It had all seemed so simple: the physical objects of nature were there whether we perceived them or not. They had their own, independent existence and history. The basis of these objects was matter and motion, with atoms as the ultimate constituent of matter. Atoms were just like the ordinary matter in objects, but just very, very tiny. All these common sense notions were now being dismantled by the progress of physics. Among the first to go was the idea that the atom was the ultimate, smallest possible, indivisible constituent of matter. The atom could be broken into ever smaller particles in an “atom smasher” or particle accelerator and the final size of particle depended on the amount of energy available, so that nobody could say definitively that this particular particle could never be divided further.

Even more disturbing was the discovery that these subatomic particles were not just ordinary bits of matter on a very tiny scale. They were not matter at all. Werner Heisenberg, one of the giants of physics in the early twentieth century, called them “potentialities” or “probabilities” and said that the “particles themselves are not real.” But ordinary material objects were just very large aggregations of these same subatomic particles, so if these objects were “real” and their particle constituents were not, where did reality begin? This brought the whole subject of reality into a discussion of physics, something not covered at all by matter and motion, nor by Lord Kelvin’s nineteenth century dictum that science should concern itself only with what was quantifiable and measurable and thus subject to experimental verification.

Physics came up with a solution to the problem of the ultimate matter particle by defining this to be not like a tiny dot but more like a piece of string: the string particle. This is also defined as having only one dimension, length, so it cannot exist in the natural world as something to be perceived through any of our five senses. As, however, the string particle is supposed to represent the ultimate, indivisible particle of matter, it must be “real” in some fashion. It is also truly independent of the observer, since it cannot be perceived by him. This complete separation from the observer brings to mind Galileo’s definition of his “primary qualities”, matter and motion. Modern physics, however, has come to see that Galileo’s reasoning here was fundamentally flawed because the investigation of matter and motion still had to involve the sense of sight and thus could not be independent of the observer. The Platonic term “objective reality” was used in the philosophy of the seventeenth century to designate something completely free and independent of human participation and Galileo had mistakenly used this Platonic designation to describe matter and motion.

Modern physics has come to realize that everything that can be perceived in the universe through our senses has to be of a subjective reality in which we, the observers, actively participate. As John Wheeler, a quantum cosmologist put it: “Useful as it is under everyday circumstances to say that the world exists ‘out there’ independent of us, that view can no longer be upheld. There is a strange sense in which this is a ‘participatory universe’.” The objects we perceive in nature are in fact subjective appearances with which we are intimately involved and not objective realities which exist quite apart from us. Quantum mechanics goes so far as to say that only the observed properties of microscopic objects exist. Before they were observed they did not exist. Whatever we may think of such a statement, it certainly expands the scope of physics beyond the traditional matter and motion!

It is however the implications of string theory that really focus the mind on new possibilities. As we have seen, modern physics has rejected Galileo’s contention that objective reality can be applied to anything in the physical world. Whatever can be perceived through the senses, involving our participation, must be considered subjective. However, the string particle cannot, by definition, be perceived by our senses but, as the origin of matter, it must be “real”. Its reality must therefore be, in the Platonic sense, objective. This means that such a particle can exist only in a real but immaterial world, one which is beyond the human senses and beyond human participation. In philosophical terms, such a world would be the world of origins, of limitless potential rather than actual existence limited by our three spatial and one time dimensions. The fact that physics has reached the stage where such a world is needed for a full explanation of the phenomena it investigates, underscores the need to provide an expanded focus for it beyond matter and motion.

If a world of objective reality underlies our world of subjective reality, there must be a border region between the two. Modern physics, in its pursuit of ever smaller particles, has actually reached that border when it got to the quark. It is known theoretically that, at very high energy levels, all particles, be they force or matter particles, will lose their individual identities and merge into a common stream of energy. This loss of individual identity is already apparent in the quark. A separate, individual quark has never been seen. It appears in stable form only as a combination of three quarks, when it is either a proton or a neutron. Anything smaller than a quark would probably belong already to the other “unseen” realm, beyond the border referred to, where the high energy stream originates, containing the potential for all particles.

Other examples may be quoted, where modern physicists mention the need for such an immaterial but real realm, such as Helen Quinn’s recent reference to “scientific metaphysics”, but the emergence of the concept goes back to the 1930’s, when Arthur Eddington said that “the stuff of the world is ‘mind’ stuff” (poor Lord Kelvin!) and James Jeans was even more specific: “Today there is a wide measure of agreement, which on the physical side of science approaches almost to unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality.”

If it becomes accepted by mainstream physics that the subjective reality of physical phenomena is the limited manifestation of the objective reality of a non-material world of limitless potential, the various enigmas and conundrums of particle and quantum physics become much more rational. For instance it need no longer be said that the observation of a microscopic object causes it to come into existence. In the world of quantum mechanics, the elementary particles would simply pass from a real but unseen region, where they are not yet defined, through an intermediate phase on the borderline between the two worlds, where they appear in their “waveform”. On observation, the waveform then “collapses” into the discrete particle, which is now firmly on our side of the border.

In the same way, the reality of the existence of elementary particles can now be accepted. If the particles are in the form of “potentialities” or “probabilities”, they are still in the process of passing from the objective to the subjective world of reality. They become ever firmer, ever more solid-appearing the larger the object. Up to the size of an atom (and even some molecules) it is still easy to turn an elementary particle into its waveform, where it can be made to appear in two places at once and do other befuddling tricks. But while everything, from particles to ordinary objects (which are very large accumulations of such particles) could be expressed theoretically as in either wave or particle form (the wave-particle duality of matter), this duality is undetectable in objects much larger than an atom. The de Broglie wavelength of a baseball traveling at 90 mph is more than 100 billion trillion times smaller than the diameter of a hydrogen atom, so it can safely be left out of any calculation involving normal objects in nature where only particles need be considered.

The real but immaterial region postulated here would also be, among other things, the source of the original, primal energy that exploded into (or formed) the universe at the moment of the Big Bang, so the creation of the world would not be out of nothing as proposed by some ex nihilo theories today. Something, especially something as complex as the universe, created out of nothing presents a considerable philosophical problem. What was the impulse for this creation and where did it come from when, as Stephen Hawking has pointed out, science cannot point to any event before the Big Bang?

When it comes to expanding the focus of physics and providing a new framework for the future development of this science, there is one urgent question that also needs attention. How and why did things turn out the way they did? Standard evolutionary theories need prior conditions to build on and long periods of time for changes. At the beginning of the universe there were no prior conditions and everything had to absolutely right the first time or the whole bag of tricks would have collapsed long before reaching its present age.

The odds against the survival of the expanding universe are staggering, as are the odds against the initial formation of matter in just the one right way, the supposed correction of the initial Big Bang conditions in the “expansionary universe” and other mind-boggling events. Stephen Hawking mentions the odds of just one aspect of this entire process: “If the rate of expansion [of the universe] one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have recollapsed before it ever reached its present size.” All this points to the concept of purpose (if it is an inherent part of the fabric of the universe) as a possible and attractive alternative to blind and random chance.

If the physics of the future would recognize, in addition to our subjective sense perceptions, the need for an objective reality in the scheme of things, leading to the concept of a real but non-material world guided by an overall purpose (of which we can otherwise know nothing), the long-awaited experimental verifications from the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva might become much more interesting – after of course first finding the Higgs boson. By now, there are some very strange theories out there, including one that suggests some kind of time-traveling impulse from the future, affecting the discovery of the Higgs, rather like a person traveling back in time, to murder his grandfather and thus prevent his own birth. The bystander can only hope that real, verifiable science will be the guide to the future, even if this future development might seem as strange and new as relativity and quantum theory did to the classical Newtonian physicist.

Werner Thurau was born in December 1927, in Havana, Cuba. In 1929, his family returned to his father’s native Germany. He spent the entire 1930s in Berlin, but came to England in 1939 and was then further educated in that country, ending with an engineering degree from London University. His further career took him all over the world on technical projects, moving first to Mexico and then to the United States, where he lives now. At school in England, he was exposed early in life to the world of ideas. Some of his teachers were friends of C.S. Lewis and Lewis’s Oxford group, the Inklings, and his father was a philosophical bookworm. Werner combined this background with a lifelong interest in physics, especially modern physics after it breached the atomic barrier. This interest extended to Galileo, the founder of our age, and what made him so different from others of his time, as well as to the effect physics has had on other related sciences. He came to see that the latest developments in physics bring in subjects not normally associated with a book on that science, such as reality concepts, consciousness and even ethics.

He has subjected the historic development of physics to a philosophical criticism, which covers much more than the scope of physics, the subject of this article and may be read in “Galileo’s Shadow”, available on Please also visit: for further information.


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HSC Physics

Author: Amarendra

Why choose HSC Physics

HSC Physics can be one of the most rewarding HSC subjects that is widely and commonly available across schools in NSW. HSC Physics tends to appeal to students with an interest for quantitative subjects like mathematics. In fact, if one is to try to define physics, it would be applied 2 unit maths. The mathematics in physics is certainly not difficult, but the problems in Physics are structured in terms of real-world applications. Therefore students who have a keen interest in the physical world and the theory behind its behavior are advised to take physics.

In terms of scaling, HSC physics has always scaled quite decently. Traditionally and in recent years, physics has had a scaled mean of about 29/50, meaning it scales slightly under HSC Chemistry, English Advanced and Economics. However physics has always scaled significantly better than biology, which is convenient since HSC Physics and Chemistry has always had a synergy about them. They are to a large extent similar courses, both requiring a similar skillset from students who want to do well. However, unlike HSC Chemistry, Physics is less experience-based, as there are less things upon which we need to refer to repeatedly throughout the course. ( For example, in Chemistry, we had to know the common valencies, solubility rules, how to name carbon compounds etc)

Instead, Physics requires more of an ability to imagine things yourself and conduct what we call ‘thought experiments’ in your own mind in order to understand the concepts taught in the course. This is more of a skill rather than a set of knowledge. For example, to gain a solid grasp of Einstein’s theory of special relativity and the associated equations, it is all about your ability to get your head around how time dilation operates in different frames, and in relation to each other. While theory helps and rote-learning the method of applying the equations, this approach is limited in its usefulness since slightly tricky exam questions can easily throw you off.

How to master HSC Physics

To get better at HSC Physics, since many things are very abstract and conceptual (e.g. to understand how an induction motor actually works, or Einstein’s equations of time and mass dilation, or the cause of striation patterns in vacuum tubes), it is a good idea to ask a teacher or tutor as many questions as possible. That means whenever there is some concept that you don’t understand, or even a tiny point within a wider concept, don’t leave it alone. You should ask all questions until you have a concrete understanding of the concept in question before moving on.

A good way is to constantly test your own knowledge by connecting all the related concepts together and seeing if there are any contradictions that a revealed by connecting up what you know. This is because physics is very conceptual in nature, and slightly different to the other sciences (Chemistry and Biology). Physics revolves around understanding abstract concepts, most of which can not be experimentally tested within a school lab, and some concepts can never be properly experimentally tested (e.g. whether the luminiferous aether really exists).

Successful physics students have a great ability to conduct thought experiments. What this involves is essentially testing out an idea in your mind, following physical rules you have learnt, to see whether you arrive at a conclusion that is absurd, or plausible. It’s difficult to truly understand this technique and to what extent we use it when thinking about concepts in Physics, but it is a good habit to always do this in order to verify and test your own understanding.

Good students would also have the ability to unify their understanding of various seemingly unrelated topics. One thing unique about HSC physics as opposed to other HSC sciences is that its topics are all latently linked, and based on a common set of fundamental physical principles. What we mean by ‘latent’ is that these links are not immediately visible, and the ability to draw these links is what separates a student who gets 95+ in their HSC mark, versus a student who doesn’t. For example, the same set of rules apply to forces on a cathode ray as those that are responsible for the motor effect. And it is the same principle (electromagnetic induction) which explains why magnetars (if you do Astrophysics) have such intense magnetic fields. This is the same line of thought that led Sir Isaac Newton to conclude that it is the force of gravity which keeps the Moon in a circular or bit around the Earth.

Different ways of thinking about one concept

For example, think of an induction motor: we are all taught by teachers that such a motor works because the squirrel cage ‘chases’ the spinning magnetic field, citing Lenz’s law. However what if you totally ignore your knowledge about Lenz’s law, can you try to explain how an induction motor works solely by using the right-hand push rule? Well actually you can, because as the magnetic field sweeps past a part of the squirrel cage, that’s like having a current move towards the opposite direction, which imparts a force along the cage onto the positive charge carriers as per the direction of your palm. This dictates the induced current flow, and if you then shift your thumb to point towards this current, you’ll notice the palm now points towards the direction the magnetic field was moving towards. In effect, the cage actually does ‘chase’ the field, however as you can see, we can explain it in terms of first principles rather than rely on sweeping statements like ‘induction motors work because of Lenz’s law’.

Another practical example highlighting the same point is attempting to explain the concept of an event horizon in terms of escape velocity. Without going into too much detail, recall that there is a formula to find escape velocity from a body of mass, and that it is inversely proportional to r, the distance from the centre of that mass. For black holes, since mass is all focused within a singularity of infinite density, there comes a point where r is sufficiently small that escape velocity reaches, then exceeds c, the speed of light. At the point where r makes the escape velocity exactly equal to the speed of light, this defines the boundary of the event horizon, beyond which no information can escape. If we further decrease r (i.e. get closer to the black hole), by then the calculated escape velocity exceeds c, and from Einstein’s mass dilation equations, this could never physically be achieved. Therefore this is a more practical and unified way of thinking about the concept of black holes and why they have an event horizon.

As a student aiming for 95+ (HSC aligned mark) in HSC Physics, without a doubt, your depth of knowledge, and the extent of drawing connections between your conceptual understanding, will determine whether you will reach your goal of 95+. That is, your ability to unify your understanding of the various topics of physics will help you significantly when it comes to showing depth in your understanding in exam responses.

About the Author:

George Li is a senior tutor at Dux College. George joined our education team in 2005 and has had years teaching HSC Chemistry and Physics at Dux College as well as outside of our organisation. George achieved a UAI of 99.95 in 2004, and ranked in Chemistry, Physics and Maths Extension 2. In terms of motivational techniques and good study habits, George is an avid promoter of best practice when it comes to preparation for the HSC.

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Quantum Physics Explain The Law of Attraction

Author: Khoon Eng

According to the law of attraction we attract all that we constantly focus on. If we think about the relation between the law of attraction and quantum physics, the quantum physics explains that nothing in this world is fixed and there are no limitations. Quantum physics also explain that all that exists in the universe is vibrating energy.

If you want to achieve your desires and come out of the feeling of getting stuck, you need to believe that everything in this world is energy and this energy exists in a state of potential. You also require to apply the law of attraction to achieve success. Remember that we are the creators of the universe. According to the classical physics of Newton, the universe is made up of discrete blocks of building. These blocks are solid and cannot be changed.

The quantum physics delivers an explanation that there are no separate parts of the universe. Everything exists in the form of fluid and keeps on transforming from time to time. The physics sees this world as a deep ocean of energy that keeps on coming into existence and vanishing out of this universe constantly.

People living in this world change the energy with their thoughts. Hence, it is true that one can easily create that what he or she wants to achieve. In short, human beings are solely responsible for the achievement of their goals and loss of their desires.

The best thing is to understand that quantum physics has made us the creators of the universe. Everything around us is energy.

You must have read the popular formula of Einstein. The formula was invented in the year 1905 and goes as mentioned below:


The formula mentioned above clearly explains the connection between energy and matter. The energy and matter can be easily changed. In short, everything that exists in this universe is energy and the energy is ever changing. Our thoughts have a great influence on this energy. The energy can be easily shaped, molded and formed via our thoughts. We can easily transform the energy of what we think into the energy of what we want to be in reality.

Quantum physics has also been known as the physics of possibility. This physics opposes the popular belief that the world outside is real and the internal world is fable. It says that whatever happens inside actually concludes what happens to the outside world. The world we live in is formed via our thoughts.

As mentioned earlier, nothing is fixed in this world. Hence, we need to understand that as we concentrate on our thoughts and on what we want to allure towards ourselves, we can easily get what we desire. Always believe that “it can happen” and it always will.

The law of attraction and its strong connection with the quantum physics will let you enjoy success and achievement of your desires. Remember that good things happen to people only because they believe it will.

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Helping Kids Understand Sir Isaac Newton’s Three Laws of Motion

Author: Lorie Moffat

Your son or daughter has science questions about Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion.  How can you begin to guide your child’s understanding of these concepts?  Without thinking about them, we use Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion every day.  Newton’s first law explains why it is harder to stop a moving car than a roller skate.  Newton’s second law algebraically relates the force on an object, its mass, and its acceleration.  Newton’s third law concerns how forces act upon objects.  By relating every day experiences, you can help your child understand Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion.

1. Newton’s first law of motion is also known as the law of inertia.  The term, inertia, derives from the Greek, inert, or not moving.  Newton’s first law states that any object will remain stationary or will continue to move in a straight line unless it is acted upon by an external, unbalanced force.  A force is a push or pull on an object.  Inertia is a measure of the mass of an object.  An automobile has more inertia than a roller skate.  While you are traveling in a moving car, you are moving in the same direction and with the same speed as the car.  If the car suddenly comes to a stop, you will still be moving in the original direction, through the windshield if you do not use a seatbelt or airbag.  The seatbelt keeps you in one position relative to the car’s motion, keeping your body against the seat.  Inertia also explains why you lean towards the opposite direction as the car moves around a steep curve.  If the car turns right, you lean towards the left; if the car turns left, you lean towards the right.  Again, your body continues to move in a straight line during the turn, as it did before the turn.

2. Any time you want to change the speed or direction of an object, you need to use the appropriate force. Newton’s second law of motion relates the concepts of mass, force, and acceleration. In science, acceleration is the change in speed or direction of a moving object. Force on an object is equal to its mass multiplied by its acceleration. The strength of the force on an object depends upon the object’s mass, or how much material it contains, and how fast its speed is changing, or its acceleration. An automobile hitting a wall at the same speed as a roller skate would have more force, since the car has more mass. A unit of measurement for force is the Newton, abbreviated N, named after Sir Isaac Newton. One Newton, or one N, is the force needed to move a mass of one kilogram one meter per second in a second. Or algebraically, 1 N = 1 kg * m/ s2. A Newton of force is a small amount. A person weighing 110 pounds exerts a force of 50 Newtons on Earth.

 3. Newton’s third law of motion is more commonly called action reaction.  For every action in one direction, there is an equal and opposite reaction in the opposite direction; even if the object does not move.  Forces always act in pairs, even if the object remains still.  While sitting in a chair, you provide a force on the chair acting down towards the floor.  At the same time, the chair provides an equal and opposite upward force on you.  If this were not the case, you would be sitting upon the floor instead.  While you walk, for each step that you take your foot pushes against the floor.  As you push, or provide a force, against the floor, the floor also pushes against your foot, propelling you forward.  If you try to walk across sheer ice, you must adjust your steps, since the ice does not provide the same force as the floor.

By using every day examples, you can help your children understand Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion.  The law of inertia, or Newton’s first law of motion, describes how a stationary object begins to move or how the motion of an object changes.  Newton’s second law of motion algebraically relates an object’s mass and acceleration to the amount of force involved to cause motion.  Finally, Newton’s third law of motion involves the fact that forces on an object always act in opposing pairs, whether or not the forces cause motion.

About the Author:

Lorie Moffat invites you to watch a FREE Demonstration of How My Unique 1 on 1 Online Classroom With Full Voice Boosts Your Child’s Science and Math Grades Today. Go to

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Learn the Concept of Physics

Author: Synapse India

What is Physics?

Physics is the scientific and detailed study of matter and energy and their interaction in this world. Their interaction results into different kinds of energy and takes the form of motion, light, electricity, radiation, gravity and just about anything else. The subject deals with matter on scales ranging from sub-atomic particles to stars and even entire galaxies.

In another way, physics can be better defined as an organized way of interacting with the nature. The subject logically enables physicists to seek logical answers from the nature. The answer obtained from the nature helps us to understand the working of the world and imparts a new knowledge and learning about our mysterious universe.

The basic idea of physics is present in other branches of science including astronomy, biology, chemistry, and geology. In fact, physics is an indispensable element of the applied science and engineering which has generated results such as supersonic jets, laser technology, and latest computer systems to ultra-modern equipments to add luxury in our normal lives. As a result, physics is as fresh, exciting and learning subject as ever.

How Physics Works

The subject matter of physics takes inspiration from the experiments on the basis of assumed hypothesis through a well-defined scientific method, based on the observation of the world. In addition, the results of experimentation can be further utilized in generating another scientific laws and predicting other phenomenon of the subject. However, it is important to have a good knowledge of mathematics for understanding the concepts of physics in the normal practice.

Use of Physics in Every day’s Life

Physics is an integral part of today’s modern life. It helps us to explore the answers prevailing in the world. Whether you want to know about the logic behind the lightening effect or familiar with the concept of energy conversion from on e form to another, physics can provide all logical answers for your curiosity.

Find a physics tutor at or contact to good quality physics tutor to get the concepts very well.

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The aforementioned article has been contributed by the webmaster of Find an online Virginia tutor for all subjects. Our database includs computer tutor, physics tutor and more in your local area.

Article Source: – Learn the Concept of Physics