The Background of Modern Physics

Copernicus (1473 – 1543)
Tycho Brahe (1546 – 1601)
Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642)
Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630)
René Descartes (1596 – 1650)
Robert Boyle (1627 – 1691)
Robert Hooke (1635 – 1703)
Christian Huygens (1629 – 1695)
Isaac Newton (1642 – 1726)

We start learning physics through mathematics that describes space and time in a material world. The mathematics uses the Cartesian coordinates, which assign continuity and uniformity to space and time. One learns to plot graphs of the relationships between space and time. These graphs describe the paths traced by moving particles of matter.

Matter appears in the form of particles because it is not continuous. Particle ends where void starts. The “void” is the empty space. Particles occupy space by displacing the void.  Particles move in the void. They have certain uniform velocities. These particles accelerate when pushed and their velocities change. When the force of the push goes away the velocity becomes uniform again.

We study the motion of particles in straight lines and in circles and spirals. This requires the consideration of more than one dimension of space. We consider motion to be relative because we can’t image a particle being at absolute rest. We find this subject of mechanics thoroughly explored by Newton, and so we study Newton’s Laws of Motion.

The background of modern physics started with simple concepts of void, particle, motion and force.

These concepts seem to model the big picture of the cosmos adequately, where the laws of motion apply to the satellites, planets and stars in the huge void. With a little modification, these concepts also appear to model the phenomenon of heat. This brings us to the laws of thermodynamics. Furthermore, these concepts are employed to explain the phenomena of sound, light, electricity, and magnetism . We see them used even in the explanation of atomic, nuclear and quantum phenomenon. In the succeeding chapters we shall review these basic concepts.

Physics is characterized by the scientific method, which started with Galileo. This method uses experiements and mathematics to establish consistency between theory and reality. The scientific method starts with certain postulates and assumptions. New discoveries are made when we examine past assumptions and improve upon them. This is where logic comes in.

This work stresses upon that logic.


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