About Physics

What is physics? What do physicists do?

Image of the Orion Nebula. Copyright Notice: Material credited to STScI on this site was created, authored, and/or prepared for NASA under Contract NAS5-26555. Unless otherwise specifically stated, no claim to copyright is being asserted by STScI and it may be freely used as in the public domain in accordance with NASA's contract. Source: http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/Physics (from the Greek word for ‘natural’, ‘nature’) is the science of nature in the broadest possible sense. Physicists study nature in both controlled and uncontrolled experiments and produce theories of nature that condense these observations into a coherent set of laws and principles. These laws then enable us to understand and sometimes control nature. The physicist’s realm is wide indeed, ranging from the sub-nuclear particles from which all ordinary matter is made (particle physics) to the behavior of the material universe as a whole (cosmology). Physics is the fundamental science in that many other sciences (including engineering) are guided by and use the laws in developing their disciplines.

Our modern technological society, much of which we now take for granted, is a direct result of the impact of physicists’ work. Technology’s astounding progress in recent years is evidence of the efficacy of physics in technological innovation. For example, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-ray tomography (XRT) are vital tools in non-invasive medical imaging techniques and both are collaborations between physics and computer software engineering. Improvements through the application of basic physics have lead to modern high efficiency, lighter and quieter jet engines. The laser, which is at the heart of many high-tech optical devices (DVD and CD players, microsurgery, precision measurement…) is the direct result of fundamental physical studies of the properties of light. Nanotechnology (the use of atomic scale devices such as buckeyballs, nanotubes, semiconductors…) is an exploitation of the physical concepts involved in quantum mechanics and condensed matter physics. The examples are without number, as successful solutions to perceived problems are inevitably based on physical principles. Physics is at the heart of our modern civilization.

Questions, Comments, Suggestions?

If you would like more information about physics at SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact:

Thomas H. Wolosz, Chairperson
Office: Hudson Hall 123
Phone: (518) 564-4031
Fax: (518) 564-3169
Email: thomas.wolosz@plattsburgh.edu

SUNY Plattsburgh
Physics Department
Hudson Hall 337
Plattsburgh, NY 12901