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Diagram of orbital motion of a satellite around the earth, showing perpendicular velocity and acceleration (force) vectors.

In physics, classical mechanics and quantum mechanics are the two major sub-fields of mechanics. Classical mechanics is concerned with the set of physical laws describing the motion of bodies under the action of a system of forces. The study of the motion of bodies is an ancient one, making classical mechanics one of the oldest and largest subjects in science, engineering and technology. It is also widely known as Newtonian mechanics.

Classical mechanics describes the motion of macroscopic objects, from projectiles to parts of machinery, as well as astronomical objects, such as spacecraft, planets, stars, and galaxies. Besides this, many specializations within the subject deal with solids, liquids and gases and other specific sub-topics. Classical mechanics also provides extremely accurate results as long as the domain of study is restricted to large objects and the speeds involved do not approach the speed of light. When the objects being dealt with become sufficiently small, it becomes necessary to introduce the other major sub-field of mechanics, quantum mechanics, which reconciles the macroscopic laws of physics with the atomic nature of matter and handles the wave–particle duality of atoms and molecules. When both quantum mechanics and classical mechanics cannot apply, such as at the quantum level with high speeds, quantum field theory (QFT) becomes applicable.

The term classical mechanics was coined in the early 20th century to describe the system of physics begun by Isaac Newton and many contemporary 17th century natural philosophers, building upon the earlier astronomical theories of Johannes Kepler, which in turn were based on the precise observations of Tycho Brahe and the studies of terrestrial projectile motion of Galileo. Since these aspects of physics were developed long before the emergence of quantum physics and relativity, some sources exclude Einstein's theory of relativity from this category. However, a number of modern sources do include relativistic mechanics, which in their view represents classical mechanics in its most developed and most accurate form.<ref group=note>. The notion of "classical" may be somewhat confusing, insofar as this term usually refers to the era of classical antiquity in European history. While many discoveries within the mathematics of that period remain in full force today, and of the greatest use, much of the science that emerged then has since been superseded by more accurate models. This in no way detracts from the science of that time, though as most of modern physics is built directly upon the important developments, especially within technology, which took place in antiquity and during the Middle Ages in Europe and elsewhere. However, the emergence of classical mechanics was a decisive stage in the development of science, in the modern sense of the term. What characterizes it, above all, is its insistence on mathematics (rather than speculation), and its reliance on experiment (rather than observation). With classical mechanics it was established how to formulate quantitative predictions in theory, and how to test them by carefully designed measurement. The emerging globally cooperative endeavor increasingly provided for much closer scrutiny and testing, both of theory and experiment. This was, and remains, a key factor in establishing certain knowledge, and in bringing it to the service of society. History shows how closely the health and wealth of a society depends on nurturing this investigative and critical approach.</ref>

The initial stage in the development of classical mechanics is often referred to as Newtonian mechanics, and is associated with the physical concepts employed by and the mathematical methods invented by Newton himself, in parallel with Leibniz, and others. This is further described in the following sections. Later, more abstract and general methods were developed, leading to reformulations of classical mechanics known as Lagrangian mechanics and Hamiltonian mechanics. These advances were largely made in the 18th and 19th centuries, and they extend substantially beyond Newton's work, particularly through their use of analytical mechanics.


Classical mechanics sections
Intro  Description of the theory  Limits of validity  History  Branches  See also  Notes  References  Further reading  External links  

PREVIOUS: IntroNEXT: Description of the theory
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Mathbf::particle    Motion::force    Physics::mathrm    Newton's::energy    Velocity::quantum    Speed::objects

{{#invoke:Hatnote|hatnote}}

Diagram of orbital motion of a satellite around the earth, showing perpendicular velocity and acceleration (force) vectors.

In physics, classical mechanics and quantum mechanics are the two major sub-fields of mechanics. Classical mechanics is concerned with the set of physical laws describing the motion of bodies under the action of a system of forces. The study of the motion of bodies is an ancient one, making classical mechanics one of the oldest and largest subjects in science, engineering and technology. It is also widely known as Newtonian mechanics.

Classical mechanics describes the motion of macroscopic objects, from projectiles to parts of machinery, as well as astronomical objects, such as spacecraft, planets, stars, and galaxies. Besides this, many specializations within the subject deal with solids, liquids and gases and other specific sub-topics. Classical mechanics also provides extremely accurate results as long as the domain of study is restricted to large objects and the speeds involved do not approach the speed of light. When the objects being dealt with become sufficiently small, it becomes necessary to introduce the other major sub-field of mechanics, quantum mechanics, which reconciles the macroscopic laws of physics with the atomic nature of matter and handles the wave–particle duality of atoms and molecules. When both quantum mechanics and classical mechanics cannot apply, such as at the quantum level with high speeds, quantum field theory (QFT) becomes applicable.

The term classical mechanics was coined in the early 20th century to describe the system of physics begun by Isaac Newton and many contemporary 17th century natural philosophers, building upon the earlier astronomical theories of Johannes Kepler, which in turn were based on the precise observations of Tycho Brahe and the studies of terrestrial projectile motion of Galileo. Since these aspects of physics were developed long before the emergence of quantum physics and relativity, some sources exclude Einstein's theory of relativity from this category. However, a number of modern sources do include relativistic mechanics, which in their view represents classical mechanics in its most developed and most accurate form.<ref group=note>. The notion of "classical" may be somewhat confusing, insofar as this term usually refers to the era of classical antiquity in European history. While many discoveries within the mathematics of that period remain in full force today, and of the greatest use, much of the science that emerged then has since been superseded by more accurate models. This in no way detracts from the science of that time, though as most of modern physics is built directly upon the important developments, especially within technology, which took place in antiquity and during the Middle Ages in Europe and elsewhere. However, the emergence of classical mechanics was a decisive stage in the development of science, in the modern sense of the term. What characterizes it, above all, is its insistence on mathematics (rather than speculation), and its reliance on experiment (rather than observation). With classical mechanics it was established how to formulate quantitative predictions in theory, and how to test them by carefully designed measurement. The emerging globally cooperative endeavor increasingly provided for much closer scrutiny and testing, both of theory and experiment. This was, and remains, a key factor in establishing certain knowledge, and in bringing it to the service of society. History shows how closely the health and wealth of a society depends on nurturing this investigative and critical approach.</ref>

The initial stage in the development of classical mechanics is often referred to as Newtonian mechanics, and is associated with the physical concepts employed by and the mathematical methods invented by Newton himself, in parallel with Leibniz, and others. This is further described in the following sections. Later, more abstract and general methods were developed, leading to reformulations of classical mechanics known as Lagrangian mechanics and Hamiltonian mechanics. These advances were largely made in the 18th and 19th centuries, and they extend substantially beyond Newton's work, particularly through their use of analytical mechanics.


Classical mechanics sections
Intro  Description of the theory  Limits of validity  History  Branches  See also  Notes  References  Further reading  External links  

PREVIOUS: IntroNEXT: Description of the theory
<<>>