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Is the Newtonian theory still being used?

  1. Apr 7, 2007 #1
    The Newtonian theory is strictly speaking false and it has been superseded by the theory of relativity. However, it is more simple and easier to apply than the theory of relativity. Also, in some situations, the results do not differ significantly. The question is: is the Newtonian theory still being used in real scientific practice? Do they use it to launch satellites or for any other scientific purpose? Or rather it has only a didactic and historical value?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 7, 2007 #2
    Firstly, newton's theory in not false in its domain (in most situation). And of course the Newtonian theory is still widely being used. Just look at all the engineering stuffs. I don't think anyone would analyze the structure of a house using quantum mechanics or relativity.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2007
  4. Apr 7, 2007 #3
    I analyze the packing of cornflakes according to strict general relativistic considerations modified by first and second order quantum corrections in hbar- in a fully iterative self-consistent way, being careful to account for non-Euclidean metrics over the volume of the cornflake box.
  5. Apr 7, 2007 #4


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    you may surprised to hear that Newtonian/Classical mechanics is all it requires to get ppl to the Moon. GR and QM may come in at a lower level through auxiliary stuffs such as: GPS, semi-conductors electronics....but you really not don't need QM and GR to go to the Moon or even Mars.
  6. Apr 7, 2007 #5


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    And of course cornflakes are fermions, therefore they obey the Pauli exclusion principle and cannot form a Bose-Einstein condensate at the bottom of the box. :biggrin:
  7. Apr 8, 2007 #6


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    Yes. In most actual applications of science, called engineering, Newtonian "theory" is what you use.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2007
  8. Apr 8, 2007 #7


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    Well, strictly speaking [the context provided by the question], Newton's Theory is incorrect in the real world, even its domain of application... although you may not be able to measure the discrepancies [yet].. or care about the discrepancies. (Today, we should really replace phrases like "relativistic corrections" or "quantum corrections" by "terms ignored in the Newtonian approximation".)

    This is not to say that you can't or you shouldn't use Newton's Theory. It is certainly very useful as an approximate theory of mechanics. (Some problems would be mathematically intractable without it.) I use it everyday.
  9. Apr 8, 2007 #8


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    Have a look at the homework/coursework sections. Nearly all the dynamics and statics questions use Newtons laws.
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