# The Physical World: An Inspirational Tour of Fundamental Physics

## Nicholas Manton and Nicholas Mee

### Abstract

The book is an inspirational survey of fundamental physics, emphasizing the use of variational principles. Chapter 1 presents introductory ideas, including the principle of least action, vectors and partial differentiation. Chapter 2 covers Newtonian dynamics and the motion of mutually gravitating bodies. Chapter 3 is about electromagnetic fields as described by Maxwell’s equations. Chapter 4 is about special relativity, which unifies space and time into 4-dimensional spacetime. Chapter 5 introduces the mathematics of curved space, leading to Chapter 6 covering general relativity and its remar ... More

The book is an inspirational survey of fundamental physics, emphasizing the use of variational principles. Chapter 1 presents introductory ideas, including the principle of least action, vectors and partial differentiation. Chapter 2 covers Newtonian dynamics and the motion of mutually gravitating bodies. Chapter 3 is about electromagnetic fields as described by Maxwell’s equations. Chapter 4 is about special relativity, which unifies space and time into 4-dimensional spacetime. Chapter 5 introduces the mathematics of curved space, leading to Chapter 6 covering general relativity and its remarkable consequences, such as the existence of black holes. Chapters 7 and 8 present quantum mechanics, essential for understanding atomic-scale phenomena. Chapter 9 uses quantum mechanics to explain the fundamental principles of chemistry and solid state physics. Chapter 10 is about thermodynamics, which is built around the concepts of temperature and entropy. Various applications are discussed, including the analysis of black body radiation that led to the quantum revolution. Chapter 11 surveys the atomic nucleus, its properties and applications. Chapter 12 explores particle physics, the Standard Model and the Higgs mechanism, with a short introduction to quantum field theory. Chapter 13 is about the structure and evolution of stars and brings together material from many of the earlier chapters. Chapter 14 on cosmology describes the structure and evolution of the universe as a whole. Finally, Chapter 15 discusses remaining problems at the frontiers of physics, such as the interpretation of quantum mechanics, and the ultimate nature of particles. Some speculative ideas are explored, such as supersymmetry, solitons and string theory.

*Keywords: *
fundamental physics,
partial differentiation,
quantum mechanics,
relativity,
nuclear physics,
particle physics,
mathematical physics,
cosmology

### Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2017 |
Print ISBN-13: 9780198795933 |

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017 |
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198795933.001.0001 |

### Authors

#### Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Nicholas Manton, *author*

Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge

Nicholas Mee, *author*

Director of software company Virtual Image

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