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The Restless universe
Introduction to The restless Universe

» intro 1/2

intro 2/2

1 The lawful Universe

2 The clockwork Universe

3 The irreversible Universe

4 The intangible Universe

5 The uncertain Universe

6 Closing items

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Other titles in the Physical World series

Describing motion

Predicting motion

Classical physics of matter

Static fields and potentials

Dynamic fields and waves

Quantum physics: an introduction

Quantum physics of matter

Introduction to The restless Universe

(Title 1 in the Physical World series)

Part 1 of 2 | Part 2 of 2

Studying physics will change you as a person. At least it should. In studying physics you will encounter some of the deepest and most far-reaching concepts that have ever entered human consciousness.
major discoveries have radically changed our attitude to ourselves
Knowledge gathered over many centuries, that has been subjected to continuous scientific scrutiny, will be presented, along with its applications. Fact will follow fact, useful theory will succeed useful theory. Amidst this rich mix of information, newcomers to physics might not always appreciate how major discoveries have radically changed our attitude to ourselves, our natural environment, and our place in the Universe. In The Physical World we have tried to avoid intellectual overload, to ensure that you have sufficient time to appreciate the significance of each of the main ideas and applications of physics. We want your exposure to physics to change you, and we want you to be consciously aware of that change.

As part of that effort, this work gives a qualitative overview of some of the 'big ideas' of physics. Presenting ideas in this way, largely shorn of detail, and without much of the evidence that supports them, should help you to see the big picture and to appreciate some of the deep links that exist between different parts of physics. But this approach also has its dangers. It may obscure the fact that physics is more than a set of ideas about the world, more than a bunch of results: physics is also a process, a way of investigating the world based on experiment and observation.
claims about the physical world must ultimately be tested by experiment
One of the biggest of all the 'big ideas' is that claims about the physical world must ultimately be tested by experiment and observation. Maintaining contact with the real world in this way is the guiding principle behind all scientific investigations, including those carried out by physicists.

Another important function of this book is to stress that physics is a cultural enterprise. All too often physics can have the appearance of being a collection of facts, theories, laws and techniques that have somehow emerged from nowhere. This, of course, is not the case. Throughout the ages, it has been the endeavour of individual men and women that has made possible the growth of science and the advancement of physics. This work attempts to emphasize the cultural aspect of physics by providing biographical information about some great physicists of the past. The coverage is neither fair nor complete, but it should remind you that physics is a human creation. Most physicists delight in tales of the struggles, foibles and achievements of their predecessors, and many feel that their understanding of physics is enhanced by knowing something of the paths (including the dead ends) that their intellectual forbears have trodden.
...continue on to part 2 of 2 of the Introduction

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A note on powers of ten and significant figures

Some highlights of physics

Featured Physicists

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Questions, answers and comments

Acknowledgements

Index

S207 The Physical World
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