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Physical chemistry is the study of macroscopic, and particulate phenomena in chemical systems in terms of the principles, practices, and concepts of physics such as motion, energy, force, time, thermodynamics, quantum chemistry, statistical mechanics, analytical dynamics and chemical equilibrium.
Physical science is a branch of natural science that studies non-living systems, in contrast to life science. It in turn has many branches, each referred to as a "physical science", together called the "physical sciences".
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to physics:
Statistical mechanics is one of the pillars of modern physics. It is necessary for the fundamental study of any physical system that has many degrees of freedom. The approach is based on statistical methods, probability theory and the microscopic physical laws.
Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat and temperature, and their relation to energy, work, radiation, and properties of matter. The behavior of these quantities is governed by the four laws of thermodynamics which convey a quantitative description using measurable macroscopic physical quantities, but may be explained in terms of microscopic constituents by statistical mechanics. Thermodynamics applies to a wide variety of topics in science and engineering, especially physical chemistry, chemical engineering and mechanical engineering, but also in fields as complex as meteorology.
Perpetual motion is the motion of bodies that continues forever. A perpetual motion machine is a hypothetical machine that can do work indefinitely without an energy source. This kind of machine is impossible, as it would violate the first or second law of thermodynamics.
Maxwell's demon is a thought experiment created by the physicist James Clerk Maxwell in 1867 in which he suggested how the second law of thermodynamics might hypothetically be violated. In the thought experiment, a demon controls a small door between two chambers of gas. As individual gas molecules approach the door, the demon quickly opens and shuts the door so that only fast molecules are passed into one of the chambers, while only slow molecules are passed into the other. Because faster molecules are hotter, the demon's behaviour causes one chamber to warm up and the other to cool down, thereby decreasing entropy and violating the second law of thermodynamics. This thought experiment has provoked debate and theoretical work on the relation between thermodynamics and information theory extending to the present day, with a number of scientists arguing that theoretical considerations rule out any practical device violating the second law in this way.
The first law of thermodynamics is a version of the law of conservation of energy, adapted for thermodynamic processes, distinguishing two kinds of transfer of energy, as heat and as thermodynamic work, and relating them to a function of a body's state, called Internal energy.
The heat death of the universe, also known as the Big Chill or Big Freeze, is a conjecture on the ultimate fate of the universe, which suggests the universe would evolve to a state of no thermodynamic free energy and would therefore be unable to sustain processes that increase entropy. Heat death does not imply any particular absolute temperature; it only requires that temperature differences or other processes may no longer be exploited to perform work. In the language of physics, this is when the universe reaches thermodynamic equilibrium.
The laws of thermodynamics define physical quantities, such as temperature, energy, and entropy, that characterize thermodynamic systems at thermodynamic equilibrium. The laws describe the relationships between these quantities, and form a basis of precluding the possibility of certain phenomena, such as perpetual motion. In addition to their use in thermodynamics, they are important fundamental laws of physics in general, and are applicable in other natural sciences.
Thermofluids is a branch of science and engineering encompassing four intersecting fields:
The history of thermodynamics is a fundamental strand in the history of physics, the history of chemistry, and the history of science in general. Owing to the relevance of thermodynamics in much of science and technology, its history is finely woven with the developments of classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, magnetism, and chemical kinetics, to more distant applied fields such as meteorology, information theory, and biology (physiology), and to technological developments such as the steam engine, internal combustion engine, cryogenics and electricity generation. The development of thermodynamics both drove and was driven by atomic theory. It also, albeit in a subtle manner, motivated new directions in probability and statistics; see, for example, the timeline of thermodynamics.
Applied mechanics is a branch of the physical sciences and the practical application of mechanics. Pure mechanics describes the response of bodies or systems of bodies to external forces. Some examples of mechanical systems include the flow of a liquid under pressure, the fracture of a solid from an applied force, or the vibration of an ear in response to sound. A practitioner of the discipline is known as a mechanician.
In the history of science, the theory of heat or mechanical theory of heat was a theory, introduced in 1798 by Sir Benjamin Thompson and developed more thoroughly in 1824 by the French physicist Sadi Carnot, that heat and mechanical work are equivalent. It is related to the mechanical equivalent of heat. Over the next century, with the introduction of the second law of thermodynamics in 1850 by Rudolf Clausius, this theory evolved into the science of thermodynamics. In 1851, in his "On the Dynamical Theory of Heat", William Thomson outlined the view, as based on recent experiments by those such as James Joule, "heat is not a substance, but a dynamical form of mechanical effect, we perceive that there must be an equivalence between mechanical work and heat, as between cause and effect."
Entropy is an important concept in the branch of physics known as thermodynamics. It is a variable that describes the state of a system made of smaller components. Entropy is often used to describe a volume of matter composed of many molecules, but it can also be applied to a digital message composed of bits, or even the cattle on a ranch or a room full of people.
The word energy derives from Greek ἐνέργεια (energeia), which appears for the first time in the work Nicomachean Ethics of 4th century BCE.
In the history of thermodynamics, On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances is a 300-page paper written by American chemical physicist Willard Gibbs. It is one of the founding papers in thermodynamics, along with German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz's 1882 paper "Thermodynamik chemischer Vorgänge." Together they form the foundation of chemical thermodynamics as well as a large part of physical chemistry.
In thermodynamics, heat is energy in transfer to or from a thermodynamic system, by mechanisms other than thermodynamic work or transfer of matter. The various mechanisms of energy transfer that define heat are stated in the next section of this article.
Temperature is a physical property of matter that quantitatively expresses hot and cold. It is the manifestation of thermal energy, present in all matter, which is the source of the occurrence of heat, a flow of energy, when a body is in contact with another that is colder.
Physics deals with the combination of matter and energy. It also deals with a wide variety of systems, about which theories have been developed that are used by physicists. In general, theories are experimentally tested numerous times before they are accepted as correct as a description of Nature. For instance, the theory of classical mechanics accurately describes the motion of objects, provided they are much larger than atoms and moving at much less than the speed of light. These "central theories" are important tools for research in more specialized topics, and any physicist, regardless of his or her specialization, is expected to be literate in them.