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The Lazy UniverseAn Introduction to the Principle of Least Action$
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Jennifer Coopersmith

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198743040

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198743040.001.0001

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The whole of physics

The whole of physics

Chapter:
(p.183) 8 The whole of physics
Source:
The Lazy Universe
Author(s):

Jennifer Coopersmith

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198743040.003.0008

How the Principle of Least Action underlies all physics (all physics that can be reduced to mathematical equations) is explained at a qualitative, semi-popular level. It even applies to smartphones. The domains of classical mechanics, continuum mechanics, materials science, light and electromagnetic waves, special and general relativity (Einstein’s Theory of Gravitation), electrodynamics, quantumelectrodynamics (QED), hydrodynamics, physical chemistry, statistical mechanics, and the quantum world, are examined. It is shown that the Principles of Least Time, Least Resistance, and Maximal Ageing, and Lenz’s Law are, in fact, examples of the Principle of Least Action. It is also shown how Planck’s constant is a measure of “absolute smallness,” and its units are the units of action. Never again, post quantum mechanics, can there be any doubt about the deep significance of action in physics.

Keywords:   Least Resistance, Maximal Ageing, Lenz’s Law, Planck’s constant, QED, Einstein’s Gravitation, statistical mechanics, continuum mechanics, hydrodynamics, materials science

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