The Relation of Physics to Other Sciences Essay

Introduction Physics is the most fundamental and all-inclusive of the sciences, and has had a profound effect on all scientific development. In fact, physics is the presenters equivalent of what used to be called natural philosophy, from which most of our modern sciences arose. Students of many fields find themselves studying physics because of the basic role it plays in all phenomena.

In this chapter we shall try to explain what the fundamental problems in the other sciences are, but of course it is impossible in so small a space really to deal with the complex, subtle, beautiful taters in these other fields. Lack of space also prevents our discussing the relation of physics to engineering, industry, society, and war, or even the most remarkable relationship between mathematics and physics. (Mathematics is not a science from our point of view, in the sense that it is not a natural science. The test of its validity is not experiment. We must, incidentally, make it clear from the beginning that if a thing is not a science, it is not necessarily bad. For example, love is not a science. So, if something is said not to be a science, it does not mean that there is something rang with it; it Just means that it is not a science. 3-2 Chemistry The science which is perhaps the most deeply affected by physics is chemistry. Historically, the early days of chemistry dealt almost entirely with what we now call inorganic chemistry, the chemistry of substances which are not associated with living things.

Considerable analysis was required to discover the existence of the many elements and their relationships-?how they make the various relatively simple compounds found in rocks, earth, etc. This early chemistry was very important for physics. The interaction tenet the two sciences was very great because the theory of atoms was substantiated to a large extent by experiments in chemistry. The theory of chemistry, I. E. Of the reactions themselves, was summarized to a large extent in the periodic chart of Mendel, which brings out many strange relationships among the various elements, and it was the collection of rules as to which substance is combined with which, and how, that constituted inorganic chemistry. All these rules were ultimately explained in principle by quantum mechanics, so that theoretical chemistry is in fact hicks. On the other hand, it must be emphasized that this explanation is in principle. We have already discussed the difference between knowing the rules of the game of chess, and being able to play.

So it is that we may know the rules, but we cannot play very well. It turns out to be very difficult to predict precisely what will happen in a given chemical reaction; nevertheless, the deepest part of theoretical chemistry must end up in quantum mechanics. There is also a branch of physics and chemistry which was developed by both sciences together, and which is extremely important. This is the method of statistics applied in a situation in which there are mechanical laws, which is aptly called statistical mechanics.

In any chemical situation a large number of atoms are involved, and we have seen that the atoms are all collision, and be able to follow in detail the motion of each molecule, we might hope to figure out what would happen, but the many numbers needed to keep track of all these molecules exceeds so enormously the capacity of any computer, and certainly the capacity of 3-1 3-1 Introduction 3-2 Chemistry 3-3 Biology 3-4 Astronomy 3-5 Geology 3-6 Psychology -7 How did it get that way? The mind, that it was important to develop a method for dealing with such complicated situations.

Statistical mechanics, then, is the science of the phenomena of heat, or thermodynamics. Inorganic chemistry is, as a science, now reduced essentially to what are called physical chemistry and quantum chemistry; physical chemistry to study the rates at which reactions occur and what is happening in detail (How do the molecules hit? Which pieces fly off first? , etc. ), and quantum chemistry to help us understand what happens in terms of the physical laws. The other branch of chemistry is organic chemistry, the chemistry of the substances which are associated with living things.

For a time it was believed that the substances which are associated with living things were so marvelous that they could not be made by hand, from inorganic materials. This is not at all true-?they are Just the same as the substances made in inorganic chemistry, but more complicated arrangements of atoms are involved. Organic chemistry obviously has a very close relationship to the biology which supplies its substances, and to industry, and furthermore, much physical hemisphere and quantum mechanics can be applied to organic as well as to inorganic compounds.

However, the main problems of organic chemistry are not in these aspects, but rather in the analysis and synthesis of the substances which are formed in biological systems, in living things. This leads imperceptibly, in steps, toward biochemistry, and then into biology itself, or molecular biology. 3-3 Biology Thus we come to the science of biology, which is the study of living things. In the early days of biology, the biologists had to deal with the purely descriptive problem of finding out hat living things there were, and so they Just had to count such things as the hairs of the limbs of fleas.

After these matters were worked out with a great deal of interest, the biologists went into the machinery inside the living bodies, first from a gross standpoint, naturally, because it takes some effort to get into the finer details. There was an interesting early relationship between physics and biology in which biology helped physics in the discovery of the conservation of energy, which was first demonstrated by Mayer in connection with the amount of heat taken in and given out by a living creature.

If we look at the processes of biology of living animals more closely, we see many physical phenomena: the circulation of blood, pumps, pressure, etc. There are nerves: we know what is happening when we step on a sharp stone, and that somehow or other the information goes from the leg up. It is interesting how that happens. In their study of nerves, the biologists have come to the conclusion that nerves are very fine tubes with a complex wall which is very thin; through this wall the cell pumps ions, so that there are positive ions on the outside and negative ions on the inside, like a capacitor. Now this membrane has an interesting property;

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