Study Guide

Physics Basics

Physics Basics Introduction

Welcome to Phyphobics Anonymous.

Not sure if this is the right place for you?

Well, phyphobia is the totally real and absolutely not made up phobia of all phytoplankton and physics classes.

All right, we made phyphobia up. Not because phytoplankton isn’t absolutely terrifying, but because physics is not.

Physics boasts a very long history, and has some very clever groupies like Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, and Isaac Newton, who turned the world upside down writing equations on blackboards. All this history and equations will sweep away any difficulty in our path, so what’s left to fear?

To everyone who loves equations, welcome home.

But what about the rest of us? The handful of people who don’t love equations? What hope is there that we’ll understand something as complex as General Relativity?

The truth is we don’t really need to. We could. If we fancy years of study with reoccurring nightmares of a giant anthropomorphic E = mc2 chasing us, then we should go ahead. But physics has a lot to offer to everyone, even the people who don’t plan on using their knowledge of General Relativity day to day.

Anyone who studies physics starts to get a grip with how the universe works on a fundamental level. We’ll shoot rockets, throw balls, drop eggs from roofs, and spend an inordinate amount of time riding on elevators. One thing’s for sure: we’ll never look at butter the same way again.

Confused? Probably, but that’s just the first step. With physics, any problem is solvable, any phenomenon is understandable, and the universe truly begins to make sense. Well…as much sense as a world where Justin Bieber’s “Baby” exists can ever make.

In this introduction we’ll take a peek at some of the broad topics covered by physics, provide some tips for success in the subject, learn about measuring and analyzing data in physics, and discover the importance of physics in the real world. Let’s start by asking ourselves the most important question: What the heck is physics anyway?

Physics Basics Resources

Videos

Minute Physics
Minute physics has got a name for itself by explaining physics... in a few short minutes. Henry Reich covers a mix of extremely simple topics an incredibly complex ones. If his fast-talking style is too much, don’t be afraid to watch each video multiple times.

Smarter Every Day
Smarter Every Day is a physics-focused science channel that explains all kinds of confusing phenomena. Not only is Destin great at explaining complex things in relatable way, his joy and excitement for science is contagious. He also teaches us the importance of lifelong learning, and how no matter what we know, we can all get smarter every day.

Physics Girl
Thanks to PBS digital studios, physics videos now have a little more diversity. One of the first successful female physics educators on the Internet, she shows that physics is for everyone. Physics girl captures the excitement that comes from asking questions about the world.

Veritasium
Veritasium (which is Latin for an element of truth) is a channel created by Derek Muller, a science educator and filmmaker. He’s most famous for interviewing people on the street, and showing how common misconceptions about physics are. His philosophy for education involves identifying a misconception, and then teaching people the truth.

Simulations

PhET Simulations
Probably the best quality physics simulations on the web, and use in physics classrooms across the world. While they don’t have a simulation for everything (and definitely not the kitchen sink), the simulations they do have are of the highest quality.

Physics Classroom Interactives
A website the combines physics information and teaching with simulations.

News

Scientific American
Scientific American remains one of the best science news websites on the Internet, and that includes physics topics. They do a great job of explaining complex scientific discoveries in easy to understand ways.

NASA News
In the physics world, NASA is kind of a big deal. Check out this link for all their latest news.

Resources

Easy Physics
Easy Physics has a distinctive style, and has the aim of turning teaching about every physics topic into a conversation between two people. For people who like to learn that way, it can be a great way to understand areas of physics they find confusing.

Hyperphysics
Hyperphysics is one of the most comprehensive resources for information and knowledge about physics on the web. It goes all the way up to graduate-level on many topics though, so it’s more of an advanced resource. But if we want all the things, this is the place to go.