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Major areas of Physics?

  1. May 11, 2003 #1
    Hey all, as I just posted in my introductory post, I have completed by physics two semester non-calculus series. I have a rule for myself that I don't buy books on a given science subject until I've completed the introductory courses of that given type of science. Since I have, I have a question for you.

    What are the major foundations, or genres of physics. I want to continue to learn about physics, but would like to know what are considered the major fundamental areas. Thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 11, 2003 #2
    Lucky for you, the first ~3 years of undergrad study in physics is pretty much identical for everyone! Courses in waves, statistical mechanics, special relativity (Taylor&Wheeler is a canonical text), classical mechanics (Goldstein), E&M (Jackson), and quantum mechanics are all important for pretty much any field.

    The modern major fields of research are high-energy (aka HEP or particle physics), condensed matter, plasma (eg fusion research), cosmology/astrophysics, nuclear, atomic/molecular, mathematical (foundations), quantum information/optics. [Did I miss any big ones?] But you really need courses in the older, mostly 'finished' subfields above before you can start working on any of these. :)
  4. May 11, 2003 #3
    Well. I'm a neuroscience major so my physics requirements are done.

    Thus I'm gonna choose areas of physics that interest me. Particular quantum and astronomical physics.

    I picked up the latest SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, there's an article in there about parallel universes and explains how they've been proven to exist, so simply i might add it's freakin amazing. And some neat concepts based on this truth.

    Thanks for your info!
  5. May 12, 2003 #4
    In my opinion, the major areas of physics are:

    Classical Mechanics (includes Acoustics)
    Condensed Matter
    Nonlinear Dynamics
    Statistical Mechanics

    Of coures some people will tell you that applied fields such as biophysics and optics don't belong on this list. They might consider applied physics to be branches of engineering. They might be right. Physics is a science, and science is a study of nature; whereas, engineering is the study of technology.

    Also, there are some people who will tell you that Nonlinear Dynamics isn't a real branch of physics on its own.

    Anyway, I have chosen these major areas based on the areas that various physics departments in America have distinguished. I believe that the University of Nebraska includes the area of Archeological Physics in their department. I believe there are some schools that consider Geophysics and Atmospheric Science to be branches of physics as well. So, put these on your list if you so desire.

  6. May 12, 2003 #5
    Thank you much. I will consider both your inputs when looking for more physics books on amazon.com and will consult with you guys on good books for the area of physics I choose.
  7. May 12, 2003 #6
    And don't forget Experimental and Theoretical <fill in blank>.
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