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Can someone tell me what Physics (and probably Engineering )is?

I am about to start my last year at school (1 September), with made me think of what am I going to do in a year.
Before, I was sure that I want to do Physics in university, but somehow I realised that (probably) REAL Physics should have little connection with what I enjoy. I love tinkering with stuff, reading books and learning things from them (I learned all the STR I know by myself), making something funny (Tesla coils, ellipse compasses... You know the sort), learning how it all works, understanding things by finding and solving problems (my current topic is wet hydrodynamics), thinking about paradoxes, and solving puzzles. 
It all seems like a game I love to play alone and with my friends, and which we occasionally teach to some younger kids.  My friends, who have just finished undergraduate year 1 can't tell me anything constructive, so can someone tell me what science is?
I know the topic is a bit daft, but it's quite important for me. I will certainly ask the same thing everywhere and not once, but still...


kelseymh2 years ago
What you describe is a reasonable approximation to doing experimental physics (especially benchtop physics, like quantum optics, plasma physics, condensed matter), once you get past graduate school. Scientific research is curiosity driven -- as you read, and talk to your colleagues, you run across some problem that strikes you as interesting, and you work to figure out how to solve it. You write software, you build equipment, you design experiments, and you work with colleagues, students, technicians and engineers to turn those designs into reality.

Any scientific subject (physics, chemistry, biology, engineering) is going to require that you spend a lot of time in the classroom as an undergraduate, and even as a beginning graduate student. The reason is simple: you cannot hope to do anything new or original if you do not have a thorough grounding in what has already been learned and understood in the centuries before you.

Look at the various crackpots who think they've discovered free energy, or that relativity is wrong, or whatever. The reason they believe this is because they did not spend any time learning what we already understand. They make stuff up for themselves, and don't realize the truly simple mistakes they are making, because they don't have the background knowledge necessary.

The real cutting edge discoverers, who changed the way we look at the world, did so because they took the time and intense effort to understand science, and then realized there were holes or gaps in that understanding.
gruffalo child (author)  kelseymh2 years ago
You see, I know quite a lot of people who do or learn Physics, I like talking with them, arguing making impossible gestures, I go to a place called ITEP (occasionally), they play with strong magnets and hexagonal patterns on ER screens, jump on a trampoline, lie in long grass, measure the density of a piece of metal to find out it's some Lanthanide and we have a publishable in theory article on temperature gradients of people in meditation. If this is Physics - then I love it, but I don't understand where do all the boring things fit in the system.

PS "Shhhh, if you don't learn your Analysis properly and don't do your 1000 limits, derivatives and integrals you will never learn why electrons can have only two spins. There now... " Words of comfort for a little sobbing me on the topic of 'I hate Maths, it's too formal and stupid' (Old-school traditional jewish mathematical school system is a bit hard on people:))
"Shhhh, if you don't learn your Analysis properly and don't do your 1000 limits, derivatives and integrals you will never learn why electrons can have only two spins. There now... "

:-) Nope, you could be taught why electrons only have two spin states, but you would have to take it on faith, which isn't how we do science. If you don't learn how to do the math, then you'll never be able to figure out the physics for yourself. You need the math background because physics, and the Universe, is (or at least seems to be) ultimately mathematical in nature.
You need the math background because physics, and the Universe, is (or at least seems to be) ultimately mathematical in nature. ...

maybe that's where engineers split from physicists. Maths is ultimately only a model of reality...... Steve
FoolishSage2 years ago
There were already some pretty comprehensive answers so I'll try a short version:
Physics is the study of the rules that govern all existence.
Engineering is using those rules in practical applications.
Kiteman2 years ago
Physics is... everything.

Electricity (your beloved Tesla), gravity, levers, wheels, friction (so it's skateboards, bikes and skiing), light, space, rockets...

Biology is the science of living things, but biology is only applied chemistry. But chemistry only happens because of the interaction of atoms, electrons and ions, which is physics.

and then came quantums..... LOL
Those are physics.
Yes.... kind of like the expanded version
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