Sunday, 14 October 2012

Evolution of Physics

Physics has originated from a word in Greek. It is Archimedes who first analyzed and presented the physical laws. His careful observations like buoyancy and forces were the first ever recorded in human history. So in a way he was the first intellectual to study the natural laws in a comprehensive way. Archimedes was a genius to recognize such things and his meticulous observations were incredible known till date. He even helped built some mechanical devices to help his empire army to ward off the ships in the battle, like a concave lens to focus entire sunrays to the ships as focal point to burn off the ships. It was his ideas that lay the foundation for the future discoveries of the physical natural laws. As a famous saying goes a minute spark can burn the entire forest in the same way his ideas were remarkable that set the light for upcoming scientists to discover what lies in the dark of unknown knowledge.
Astronomy had always been used by humans to know the patterns or cycles of seasons. The sailors used the positions of stars for navigation while farmers want to know the season. The science developed up to a stage where astronomical observations were in crude stage or used for day-to-day life or for mystical reasons. The first detailed records for the astronomy collected by Tyco Brahe were-passed on to Johannes, the man who invented the first heavenly laws. It was these laws that would be later used by newton to discover the gravitational laws of motion.
Ptolemy was the first person to put forward the structure of the universe with the major idea that earth is the center of the universe and star fixed across in the black area of the universe. This was in due compliance with the sayings of the Catholic Church. It was not wrong on the part of the church to accept the model as the idea agreed with the bible. But major upheaval happened when the center of the universe shifted to sun from the earth. This heliocentric idea of Copernicus set turbulence in the thinking of many and the church. The idea was further carried on by Galileo whose support led him to trial before the church which he supported until his last breath. He is-said to have uttered the words "and it still moves".
Continuing the legacy of Aristotle and Archimedes Galileo continued to study the laws of motion. It was his work on these laws that throw some light on the nature of force and velocity. He verified and formulated laws through experiments. The laws of motion were further studied by newton and he crafted laws of motion out of his understanding and the predecessor's' work. Because newton was the first person on earth to have formally articulated and presented the ideas in a book called Principia, he is considered-as the discoverer of these laws of motion. These laws would form the bedrock of mechanics.
Now continuing with the astronomical progress the discovery of gravitation was further refined into general theory of relativity by Einstein. It gave altogether a different picture of the universe explaining it in terms of space-time warp. The Hubble's discovery lead to the conclusion that universe is expanding. This discovery would give rise to the discovery of the Big Bang theory, a theory that propounds that everything originated from a cosmic fireball.
Well discussion till now showed the-evolution of major areas of physics that is the Astronomy and the Mechanics. What about other major areas of electricity, magnetism and quantum mechanics, the physics of the very small? A famous experiment done by Faraday demonstrated that when a magnet goes through a to and fro movement inside a magnet a current is-induced in the coil, is the phenomenon called electromagnetic induction. This phenomenon when used in larger scale generated electricity. Reverse also happens when an electric current is-passed through, a magnetic field is-produced. This showed that there should-be some relationship between electricity and magnetism. This relationship was first observed by James Maxwell when he showed through his equations that electric and magnetic fields when moving with each other produces the ordinary light. Both the phenomenon are-caused by fields that is why the terms coined are known as electric and magnetic fields. The same term came to- be used for gravitational field.
The theory of blackbody radiation enabled max plank to propound the plank's law that energy radiated by hot body occurs in packets of energy called photons. Instead of continuous emission of energy the energy came out in photons of a certain frequency. Light was-considered as a wave until when photoelectric effect experiment proved that light is-made up of particles. So light was both a wave as well as a beam of particles. This dual nature of light gave rise to quantum mechanics.
Quantum Mechanics is the most recent development in the field of physics. It came into existence with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle that the momentum and place of the particle cannot be defined simultaneously with precision. If we want to measure place of an electron precisely than we have to forgo precision of its momentum and when we want to measure the momentum of the particle precisely than we have to forgo precision in its place in a way both place and momentum cannot be determined simultaneously with great accuracy. The nature of determinism of the natural laws now gave rise to the uncertainty of the outcome of these laws. Uncertainty ruled the field in most part of the 20th century. Einstein ignoring the theory said that god does not play dice but it was he only who indirectly supported the theory with the photoelectric effect and special theory of relativity. Quantum theory applied on the very small and its principles denied common sense.
The major focus of the 20th century physics has been the study of particles. It's amazing how many new particles of different sizes and nature got discovered. Some particles have lifetime of a microsecond and evolve at very high energies. Various experiments carried out at very high energies are-used to detect these particles. A Large hadron collider in Switzerland is use to study these particles and their properties. The particle discovery journey has amazed from atom to nucleus, from nucleus to nucleons, from nucleons to quarks and from quarks to strange quarks. The quest for last secrets of nature is still going on.
An interesting thing to happen at the beginning of the 20th century was that the focus shifted from discovering the deterministic laws to the finding of the very small and understanding the quantum world. Scientists instead now focus on finding the theory of everything and the last building blocks of the universe. Recently the discovery of the boson so-called God particle was remarkable in the sense it could offer an answer of to the various mysteries of the universe. Now scientists are trying to explain the universe and nature with the help of microscopic world. The number of particles found in the recent century was proportionally very high and now and then Nobel prizes were given for finding them. Quest for finding the theory of everything by unifying gravity with quantum mechanics and other research going on quantum field is awesome.
It is interesting how far the study of nature called physics has journeyed about two centuries ago to present world. From the study of very large to the study of very small the journey had been very interesting. When one would build a model of some building or some other theory one would start with the smallest components and then arrange them systematically to form the model? We would form the modules first and then integrate them to form a model that would solve our query. But the way the physics has developed since the time is completely reverse, it started from the model itself saw how the model works then try to find out the components and see how they interact with each other. It seems we have found how the model works but have yet to find out how the different components interact with each other and what the forces are and sub components forming those components. If it is our quest to finding the theory of everything than progress should had been the other way around from the small to the big but destiny had something different written. It should-not be long enough to disassemble the modules and find out how interaction takes place between those modules.
In fact it was god only who built the model of the universe with the constituents and he set out the rules of how different constituents should interact with each other. We just saw the model as was already created and tried to find out how the model came into existence and how it works. We first tried to find out working of model and deduce laws based on how model behaves. Then we find out the constituents that make the model and make the model works. Now to end the puzzle we need to find out few more constituents provided they are not infinite in number and then study the interactions and then finally come out with the structure together with the working of the model.
The quest for knowledge is unending in the human beings. It is just that once we complete the understanding of one frontier of knowledge we yearn for more. The curiosity for knowledge is unending and it continues forever. Knowledge is power that helps build our life and understand the nature. It is the last thing without which existence of human beings is not possible. We pass knowledge from one generation to another we discover some knowledge in our lifetime and then pass it on to our children who then continue the legacy. Hence knowledge is our destiny. Similarly the quest for finding the last theory is not an end but means to an end and if there is such a theory of everything then it should-be the end of physics.

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