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What type of physicist works in the field of Classical Mechanics?

  1. Sep 15, 2013 #1
    What type of physicist works in the field of Classical Mechanics? And yes, this does encompass the general theory of relativity.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 15, 2013 #2

    D H

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    It depends on what you mean by "classical mechanics." Does this term encompass general relativity? General relativity is after all a classical (i.e., non-quantum) theory.

    If not, the answer is for the most part they don't. The only exception might be physicists who work in the field of fluid dynamics. Otherwise, classical mechanics is now in the domain of engineering.
  4. Sep 15, 2013 #3


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    There are many fields where physicists work with engineers and programmers and thus use CM for their everyday projects. Underwater acoustics comes to mind as one example.
  5. Sep 15, 2013 #4
    Yes, it does.
  6. Sep 15, 2013 #5


    Staff: Mentor

    You should quote what you're responding to otherwise us poor PF forum readers will get confused.
  7. Sep 15, 2013 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    A dead one!

    Sorry...couldn't resist.

    As pointed out, many fields use Classical Mechanics. However, there is very little development of CM going on today.
  8. Sep 16, 2013 #7
    But someone doing theoretical research in fluid mechanics would be regarded as an engineer.... or?
  9. Sep 16, 2013 #8

    D H

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    Fluid dynamics gathers interests from many corners. People who study fluid dynamics include engineers (many disciplines), but also chemists, biologists, meteorologists, oceanographers, geologists, mathematicians, ...

    ... and physicists. Fluid dynamics is a topic of interest to biophysicists, geophysicists, astrophysicists, and of course statistical physicists. I'm sure I left some others off the list.

    The American Physics Society has an entire division devoted to fluid dynamics. Their website: http://www.aps.org/units/dfd.
  10. Sep 16, 2013 #9
    Are you using Classical Mechanics to mean all physics that isnt Quantum Mechanics?
  11. Sep 16, 2013 #10
    Yes I am
  12. Sep 17, 2013 #11
    In my opinion , "all physics that is not quantum mechanics is classical mechanics" is not acceptable.
    The many microscopic problems that's were not explained correct by classical mechanics were successfully got solutions by taking quantum theory into consideration. And other branches like astrophysics ,geophysics ,biophysics ....etc will use classical and quantum mechanical principles but are not come into neither quantum nor classical mechanics.
  13. Sep 17, 2013 #12
    This is the type of work this is involved in mechanics research nowadays, it's mostly involved in aerospace and mechanical engineering:

  14. Sep 17, 2013 #13


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    It might be better to widen D.H.'s "fluid dynamics" to "continuum mechanics."

    There has certainly been mathematical research over say the last 30 years, to make the idea that "classical mechanics is the limiting case of quantum mechanics as quantum effects become unimportant" into a mathematically rigorous argument, and then use some of the mathematical tools of quantum field theory (symplectic manifolds, etc) to get deeper insight into classical mechanics.

    "Newtonian mechanics of point particles" is then a limiting case of "classical continuum mechanics". A typical example of the way that with hindsight, science get discovered (or invented) back to front!
  15. Sep 17, 2013 #14
    GR is used for example in Cosmology and Astrophysics, and areas where they investigate theories beyond GR, like String Theory, Quantum Loop Gravity, etc. Note that these fields also use Quantum Theory. If you are looking for fields which only use GR without including QM-aspects, then I think of Numerical Relativity (focused on trying to understand solutions of the Einstein equations using computers) and there is also work done on the mathematical development of GR, which is usually done by people in the math departement, although I can't give details (but to namedrop I'm thinking of twistory theory by R. Penrose). On a sidenote there are also people in philosophy departments investigating the conceptual foundations of GR, in case that is of your liking (a famous name in this area is John Earman).


    If we thinking "classical mechanics without GR" then indeed there is fluid dynamics as mentioned above. It is also used in classical statistical mechanics which is perhaps not researched a lot but still quite a bit. Related to statistical mechanics there are a lot of mathematicians studying the mathematical structures of classical mechanics, c.f. ergodic theory, chaos theory etc. I'm not sure who else to think of besides classical stat mech people and mathematicians, I might be overlooking others...


    I hope this helps somewhat?
  16. Sep 22, 2013 #15
    There are many good answers here, but just to add another:

    Plasma physics is a surprising rich field that is mostly classical. Closely related to fluid dynamics.

    (edit: Wrongly said "entirely classical")
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2013
  17. Sep 22, 2013 #16
    Entirely? I'm not entirely sure I would say that.

    I know I have encountered a few math/mathematical physics/applied math departmental webpages describing research on dynamical systems, solving many body problems in classical mechanics just for the sake of it and not with specific subfields or applications in mind. Googling departments with "complex systems" or "dynamical systems" as buzzwords will probably find you a good few.
  18. Sep 22, 2013 #17
    Good point, I suppose I was just thinking about the majority of plasma physics. Poor choice of adverb on my part.
  19. Sep 23, 2013 #18
    If it hasn't been mentioned yet, biophysics mostly occurs in the domain of classical mechanics; quantum effects are avoided as much as possible in computational biophysics. Theoretical biophysics tends to concentrate on bridging the gap between the two by developing valid approximations, which is quite the challenge (for instance, properly modeling the electrical potential of an ion like Calcium or Magnesium remains an open problem when you are talking about a huge ensemble of atoms composing a protein, while models such as Lennard-Jones are used to approximate atomic interactions). If you love statistical mechanics, you'll love biophysics.

    Astrophysicists in many regards (here I am stepping outside of the limits of my own knowledge) try to avoid even relativistic physics depending upon the project, since, like quantum mechanics, the computational modelling becomes vastly more complicated.
  20. Sep 27, 2013 #19


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    There are probably more (applied) mathematicians working within classical mechanics than there are physicists.
    To develop more powerful approximative methods, simplified yet retaining accuracy, is a typical research area.
  21. Sep 28, 2013 #20
    Geophysicists, and in particular seismologists, use almost exclusively classical mechanics. Seismology involves extremely complex wave mechanics as well as plenty of continuum mechanics. I would even dare to say that seismology might involve the most complex wave mechanics of any branch of physics. Not much in the way of QM though.
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