What is Physics and Why Study It?
Physics is the fundamental natural science. It is concerned primarily with discovering and applying the rules (natural laws) that govern the properties and behavior of all forms of inanimate matter and energy and their interactions. The objects or systems that physicists study vary in size from the smallest building blocks of the universe (whether they be quarks, or superstrings, or some even more exotic entities) to the entire known universe itself. The time scale of events considered in physics ranges from the moment the universe was created in the "Big Bang" to the almost unimaginably remote future, with physicists developing conceptual models for the birth, evolution, and ultimate fate of the universe.
Students who are attracted to physics as a major have appreciated the fact that the subject matter and methods of physics are fascinating and important in their own right. However, the study of physics is useful, and often essential, even for those who wish to specialize in other areas of knowledge. This is because the laws of nature studied in physics underlie and ultimately account for many – some would even claim all – of the phenomena that are studied in every branch of science and engineering. It is therefore no surprise that many physicists end up working in interdisciplinary areas that link physics with one or more other fields, such as astrophysics, biophysics, chemical physics, geophysics, environmental physics, oceanography, and many more.
If you are preparing for a career in science or engineering, an understanding of the principles and methods of physics will help you be a better scientist or engineer. Even a familiarity with the range of phenomena and problem-solving tools covered in an introductory physics course and lab will help you be a more creative and productive researcher and solver of problems in your chosen field. Furthermore, in this technological age, some understanding of how the natural world "works" – that is, a familiarity with the ideas of physics – is desirable or essential for many non-scientists as well, especially those who must make decisions involving government policy or allocation of resources.
In addition to the facts and principles you learn while studying physics, even at the introductory level, you also will acquire a number of transferable skills that will be valuable to you in many areas of your life that extend far beyond the physics classroom or lab. Foremost among these are skills such as logical reasoning, critical thinking, quantitative problem solving, experimental methodology, and the ability to communicate technical information in a professional manner.