Classical physics is a group of physics theories that predate modern, more complete, or more widely applicable theories. If a currently accepted theory is considered to be modern, and its introduction represented a major paradigm shift, then the previous theories, or new theories based on the older paradigm, will often be referred to as belonging to the area of "classical physics".
As such, the definition of a classical theory depends on context. Classical physical concepts are often used when modern theories are unnecessarily complex for a particular situation. Most usually classical physics refers to pre-1900 physics, while modern physics refers to post-1900 physics which incorporates elements of quantum mechanics and relativity.
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Classical theory has at least two distinct meanings in physics. In the context of quantum mechanics, classical theory refers to theories of physics that do not use the quantisation paradigm, which includes classical mechanics and relativity.Likewise, classical field theories, such as general relativity and classical electromagnetism, are those that do not use quantum mechanics. In the context of general and special relativity, classical theories are those that obey Galilean relativity.
Depending on point of view, among the branches of theory sometimes included in classical physics are variably:
In contrast to classical physics, "modern physics" is a slightly looser term which may refer to just quantum physics or to 20th and 21st century physics in general. Modern physics includes quantum theory and relativity, when applicable.
A physical system can be described by classical physics when it satisfies conditions such that the laws of classical physics are approximately valid.
In practice, physical objects ranging from those larger than atoms and molecules, to objects in the macroscopic and astronomical realm, can be well-described (understood) with classical mechanics. Beginning at the atomic level and lower, the laws of classical physics break down and generally do not provide a correct description of nature. Electromagnetic fields and forces can be described well by classical electrodynamics at length scales and field strengths large enough that quantum mechanical effects are negligible. Unlike quantum physics, classical physics is generally characterized by the principle of complete determinism, although deterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics do exist.
From the point of view of classical physics as being non-relativistic physics, the predictions of general and special relativity are significantly different from those of classical theories, particularly concerning the passage of time, the geometry of space, the motion of bodies in free fall, and the propagation of light. Traditionally, light was reconciled with classical mechanics by assuming the existence of a stationary medium through which light propagated, the luminiferous aether, which was later shown not to exist.
Mathematically, classical physics equations are those in which Planck's constant does not appear. According to the correspondence principle and Ehrenfest's theorem, as a system becomes larger or more massive the classical dynamics tends to emerge, with some exceptions, such as superfluidity. This is why we can usually ignore quantum mechanics when dealing with everyday objects and the classical description will suffice. However, one of the most vigorous on-going fields of research in physics is classical-quantum correspondence. This field of research is concerned with the discovery of how the laws of quantum physics give rise to classical physics found at the limit of the large scales of the classical level.
Today a computer performs millions of arithmetic operations in seconds to solve a classical differential equation, while Newton (one of the fathers of the differential calculus) would take hours to solve the same equation by manual calculation, even if he were the discoverer of that particular equation.
Computer modeling is essential for quantum and relativistic physics. Classic physics is considered the limit of quantum mechanics for large number of particles. On the other hand, classic mechanics is derived from relativistic mechanics. For example, in many formulations from special relativity, a correction factor (v/c)2 appears, where v is the velocity of the object and c is the speed of light. For velocities much smaller than that of light, one can neglect the terms with c2 and higher that appear. These formulas then reduce to the standard definitions of Newtonian kinetic energy and momentum. This is as it should be, for special relativity must agree with Newtonian mechanics at low velocities. Computer modeling has to be as real as possible. Classical physics would introduce an error as in the superfluidity case. In order to produce reliable models of the world, one can not use classic physics. It is true that quantum theories consume time and computer resources, and the equations of classical physics could be resorted to provide a quick solution, but such a solution would lack reliability.
Computer modeling would use only the energy criteria to determine which theory to use: relativity or quantum theory, when attempting to describe the behavior of an object. A physicist would use a classical model to provide an approximation before more exacting models are applied and those calculations proceed.
In a computer model, there is no need to use the speed of the object if classical physics is excluded. Low energy objects would be handled by quantum theory and high energy objects by relativity theory.
Mechanics is the area of physics concerned with the motions of physical objects, more specifically the relationships among force, matter, and motion. Forces applied to objects result in displacements, or changes of an object's position relative to its environment. This branch of physics has its origins in Ancient Greece with the writings of Aristotle and Archimedes. During the early modern period, scientists such as Galileo, Kepler, and Newton laid the foundation for what is now known as classical mechanics. It is a branch of classical physics that deals with particles that are either at rest or are moving with velocities significantly less than the speed of light. It can also be defined as a branch of science which deals with the motion of and forces on bodies not in the quantum realm. The field is today less widely understood in terms of quantum theory.
Quantum gravity (QG) is a field of theoretical physics that seeks to describe gravity according to the principles of quantum mechanics, and where quantum effects cannot be ignored, such as in the vicinity of black holes or similar compact astrophysical objects where the effects of gravity are strong, such as neutron stars.
In physics, the special theory of relativity, or special relativity for short, is a scientific theory regarding the relationship between space and time. In Albert Einstein's original treatment, the theory is based on two postulates:
The theory of relativity usually encompasses two interrelated theories by Albert Einstein: special relativity and general relativity, proposed and published in 1905 and 1915, respectively. Special relativity applies to all physical phenomena in the absence of gravity. General relativity explains the law of gravitation and its relation to other forces of nature. It applies to the cosmological and astrophysical realm, including astronomy.
In physics, the correspondence principle states that the behavior of systems described by the theory of quantum mechanics reproduces classical physics in the limit of large quantum numbers. In other words, it says that for large orbits and for large energies, quantum calculations must agree with classical calculations.
Causality is the relationship between causes and effects. While causality is also a topic studied from the perspectives of philosophy, from the perspective of physics, it is operationalized so that causes of an event must be in the past light cone of the event and ultimately reducible to fundamental interactions. Similarly, a cause cannot have an effect outside its future light cone.
The classical limit or correspondence limit is the ability of a physical theory to approximate or "recover" classical mechanics when considered over special values of its parameters. The classical limit is used with physical theories that predict non-classical behavior.
The word mass has two meanings in special relativity: invariant mass is an invariant quantity which is the same for all observers in all reference frames, while the relativistic mass is dependent on the velocity of the observer. According to the concept of mass–energy equivalence, invariant mass is equivalent to rest energy, while relativistic mass is equivalent to relativistic energy.
In physics, action at a distance is the concept that an object can be moved, changed, or otherwise affected without being physically touched by another object. That is, it is the non-local interaction of objects that are separated in space.
In physics, an effective field theory is a type of approximation, or effective theory, for an underlying physical theory, such as a quantum field theory or a statistical mechanics model. An effective field theory includes the appropriate degrees of freedom to describe physical phenomena occurring at a chosen length scale or energy scale, while ignoring substructure and degrees of freedom at shorter distances. Intuitively, one averages over the behavior of the underlying theory at shorter length scales to derive what is hoped to be a simplified model at longer length scales. Effective field theories typically work best when there is a large separation between length scale of interest and the length scale of the underlying dynamics. Effective field theories have found use in particle physics, statistical mechanics, condensed matter physics, general relativity, and hydrodynamics. They simplify calculations, and allow treatment of dissipation and radiation effects.
Modern physics is a branch of physics either developed in the early 20th century and onward or branches greatly influenced by early 20th century physics. Notable branches of modern physics include quantum mechanics, special relativity and general relativity.
Wojciech Hubert Zurek is a Polish theoretical physicist and a leading authority on quantum theory, especially decoherence and non-equilibrium dynamics of symmetry breaking and resulting defect generation.
In physics, relativistic mechanics refers to mechanics compatible with special relativity (SR) and general relativity (GR). It provides a non-quantum mechanical description of a system of particles, or of a fluid, in cases where the velocities of moving objects are comparable to the speed of light c. As a result, classical mechanics is extended correctly to particles traveling at high velocities and energies, and provides a consistent inclusion of electromagnetism with the mechanics of particles. This was not possible in Galilean relativity, where it would be permitted for particles and light to travel at any speed, including faster than light. The foundations of relativistic mechanics are the postulates of special relativity and general relativity. The unification of SR with quantum mechanics is relativistic quantum mechanics, while attempts for that of GR is quantum gravity, an unsolved problem in physics.
For classical dynamics at relativistic speeds, see relativistic mechanics.
This article will use the Einstein summation convention.
Classical mechanics is a physical theory describing the motion of macroscopic objects, from projectiles to parts of machinery, and astronomical objects, such as spacecraft, planets, stars, and galaxies. For objects governed by classical mechanics, if the present state is known, it is possible to predict how it will move in the future (determinism), and how it has moved in the past (reversibility).
Theoretical physics is a branch of physics that employs mathematical models and abstractions of physical objects and systems to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena. This is in contrast to experimental physics, which uses experimental tools to probe these phenomena.
Physics is a scientific discipline that seeks to construct and experimentally test theories of the physical universe. These theories vary in their scope and can be organized into several distinct branches, which are outlined in this article.
In physics, a field is a physical quantity, represented by a number or another tensor, that has a value for each point in space and time. For example, on a weather map, the surface temperature is described by assigning a number to each point on the map; the temperature can be considered at a certain point in time or over some interval of time, to study the dynamics of temperature change. A surface wind map, assigning an arrow to each point on a map that describes the wind speed and direction at that point, is an example of a vector field, i.e. a 1-dimensional (rank-1) tensor field. Field theories, mathematical descriptions of how field values change in space and time, are ubiquitous in physics. For instance, the electric field is another rank-1 tensor field, while electrodynamics can be formulated in terms of two interacting vector fields at each point in spacetime, or as a single-rank 2-tensor field.
Superfluid vacuum theory (SVT), sometimes known as the BEC vacuum theory, is an approach in theoretical physics and quantum mechanics where the fundamental physical vacuum is viewed as superfluid or as a Bose–Einstein condensate (BEC).