Physical science is an encompassing term for the branches of natural science, and science (generally), that study non-living systems, in contrast to the biological sciences. However, the term "physical" creates an unintended, somewhat arbitary distinction, since many branches of physical science also study biological phenomena.
Mathematics is not a natural or physical science, which are studies of this particular natural universe. Rather, mathematics is the search for fundamental truths in pattern, quantity, and change. For more on the relationship between mathematics and science, refer to the article on science.
The physical sciences are also distinct from engineering, which is the practice and method of applying scientific and empirical knowledge to service of humanity.
The physical sciences include:
- Astronomy, the study of the universe beyond the atmosphere of the Earth.
- Chemistry, the science dealing with the composition of substances, their interactions with energy and each other.
- Many of the earth sciences, including:
- Geography, the broad study of physical, ecological and political variations across the Earth's surface.
- Geology, the study of the planetary structure of Earth and the physical processes which shape it.
- Hydrology, the study of the movement and distribution of water across the Earth's surface.
- Meteorology, the study of weather patterns and other atmospheric phenomena.
- Physics, the quantitative science dealing with matter and energy.
The foundations of the physical sciences rests upon key concepts and theories, each of which explains and/or models a particular aspect of the behavior of nature. As in other sciences, these key concepts and theories came to discovery using the scientific method.
Natural sciences generally, and physical sciences particularly, tend to be more reductionist sciences, in contrast to the more holistic social sciences; i.e., physical science tends to explain the whole system from the system's fundamental parts, whereas social science tends to explain the whole system as more than the mere sum of its fundamental parts.
The key concepts and theories of physical science are taught from early childhood and provide the grounding for our common-sensical understanding of the universe.
- The life and characteristics of stars and galaxies.
- Origins of the universe. Physical science assumes a physical cosmology that centers on the Big Bang as the commonly accepted scientific theory of the origin of the universe.
- A heliocentric solar system. Ancient and primitive cultures saw the earth as the center of the solar system or universe (geocentrism). In the 16th century, Nicolaus Copernicus advanced the ideas of heliocentrism, recognizing the sun as the center of the solar system.
- The structure of the solar system, planets, comets, asteroids, and meteors.
- The shape and structure of Earth (roughly spherical, see also Spherical Earth).
- Earth in the Solar System.
- Time measurement.
- The composition and features of the Moon.
- Interactions of the Earth and Moon.
(Note: Astronomy should not be confused with astrology, which assumes that people's destiny and human affairs in general are correlated to the apparent positions of astronomical objects in the sky -- although the two fields share a common origin, they are quite different; astronomers embrace the scientific method, while astrologers do not.)
- Atomic theory.
- Water and its properties.
- Chemical elements, chemical reactions, and chemical energy.
- Nuclear chemistry.
- Organic chemistry, considered to have started in 1828 with the synthesis of urea by Friedrich Woehler.
- Rocks and minerals.
- The water cycle and the process of transpiration.
- Freshwater, surface water, groundwater.
- Earth's tectonic structure.
- Geomorphology and geophysics.
- Characteristics and formation of fossils.
- Atmosphere of earth.
- Meteorology, weather, climatogy, and climate.
Physics is the science of nature in the broadest sense, dealing with the fundamentals of matter, energy, and the forces of nature governing the interactions between particles. Physics is sometimes said to be the "fundamental science" because the other natural sciences (biology, chemistry, geology, etc.) deal with particular systems that obey the laws of physics. For example, chemistry, the science of chemicals, is accurately described by principles of physics, such as quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and electromagnetism.
- Describing and measuring motion.
- The theory of gravity.
- Energy, work, and power.
- Kinetic Molecular Theory.
- The principles of waves and sound.
- The principles of electricity, magnetism, and electromagnetism.
- The principles, sources, and properties of light.
Notable physical scientists
For a more comprehensive list of scientists, see the list of scientists, especially the following:
List of astronomers
List of chemists
List of geologists
List of meteorologists, and
List of physicists.
- Aristotle, the last of the three great influential ancient Greek philosophers, although not considered to be a scientist by today's standards, nevertheless, he laid the foundations for today's scientific method by espousing the view that knowledge should be based on empirical observations instead of intuition or faith.
- Archimedes is considered to be the first mathematical physicist on record, and the best prior to Galileo and Newton. He established the laws of statics, bouyancy, and center of gravity.
- Boyle, Robert, an Irish natural philosopher, is regarded as the "father of modern chemistry" due to his distinction between chemistry and alchemy. His namesake is Boyle's Law of an ideal gas, which he discovered, but his contributions to physical science include the definition of a chemical element, the propagation of sound, among others.
- Copernicus, Nicolaus, a Polish mathematician and economist, is considered by many to be the "father of modern astronomy" due to his detailed explanation of the heliocentric (Sun-centered]] solar system.
- Curie, Marie (maiden name: Sklodowska), a Polish-born French chemist, was the first female Nobel laureate, the first two-time Nobel laureate, and one of only two individuals to receive the Nobel prize in two different fields. She and her husband, Pierre Curie discovered the two elements Polonium and Radium.
- Einstein, Albert, a theoretical physicist, is widely regarded as the greatest scientist of the 20th century. He proposed the theory of relativity and was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics, among other accomplishments.
- Euler, Leonhard, Swiss mathematician and physicist, considered to be one of the greatest mathematicians of all times. His contributions to science includes the Euler-Bournoulli beam equation and Euler equations.
- Galilei, Galileo, an astronomer and physicist, is considered the "father of modern physics," due, in large part, to his conflict with the Roman Catholic Church over the authority of science. However, he has equally impressive scientific contributions to the fields of mechanics, astronomy, and mathematical physics.
- Bacon, Francis, an Elizabethan philosopher, is credited with the philosophical advocation for the Baconian method, the early forerunner of the scientific method.
- Hutton, James, a Scottish geologist, is considered to be the "father of modern geology," for his formulation of uniformitarianism, that the same geological processes operating today operated in the distant past. Based upon that assumption, he maintained that the age of the earth must be much older than a few thousand years.
- Newton, Isaac, a scientist and mathematician, is most renowned for his description of the laws of motion and law of universal gravitation.
- Thales of Miletus, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, is considered to be the father of science becaused he first encouraged naturalistic explanations of the world, without the supernatural.
- PSI gate - Physical Sciences Information Gateway.
- Physical Sciences Resource Center, for education
- Astronomy: Sky and Telescope magazine
- Chemistry: General Chemistry Online
- Earth science: Earth Science World
- Physics: Physics Centralv
Tillery, B.W. (2005), Physical Science, 6/e, New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0072509783 (Hardcover) ISBN 0072922079 (Paperback)