Classical Mechanics

Classical Mechanics

Classical Mechanics

1. Introduction

In physics, classical mechanics and quantum mechanics are the two major sub-fields of mechanics. Classical mechanics is concerned with the set of physical laws describing the motion of bodies under the influence of a system of forces. The study of the motion of bodies is an ancient one, making classical mechanics one of the oldest and largest subjects in science, engineering and technology. It is also widely known as Newtonian mechanics.

Classical mechanics describes the motion of macroscopic objects, from projectiles to parts of machinery, as well as astronomical objects, such as spacecraft, planets, stars, and galaxies. Within classical mechanics are fields of study that describe the behavior of solids, liquids and gases and other specific sub-topics. Classical mechanics also provides extremely accurate results as long as the domain of study is restricted to large objects and the speeds involved do not approach the speed of light. When the objects being examined are sufficiently small, it becomes necessary to introduce the other major sub-field of mechanics, quantum mechanics, which adjusts the laws of physics of macroscopic objects for the atomic nature of matter by including the wave–particle duality of atoms and molecules. When both quantum mechanics and classical mechanics cannot apply, such as at the quantum level with high speeds, quantum field theory (QFT) becomes applicable.

The term classical mechanics was coined in the early 20th century to describe the system of physics begun by Isaac Newton and many contemporary 17th century natural philosophers, and is built upon the earlier astronomical theories of Johannes Kepler, which in turn were based on the precise observations of Tycho Brahe and the studies of terrestrial projectile motion of Galileo. Since these aspects of physics were developed long before the emergence of quantum physics and relativity, some sources exclude Einstein's theory of relativity from this category. However, a number of modern sources do include relativistic mechanics, which in their view represents classical mechanics in its most developed and most accurate form.

The earliest development of classical mechanics is often referred to as Newtonian mechanics, and is associated with the physical concepts employed by and the mathematical methods invented by Newton, Leibniz, and others. Later, more abstract and general methods were developed, leading to reformulations of classical mechanics known as Lagrangian mechanics and Hamiltonian mechanics. These advances were largely made in the 18th and 19th centuries, and they extend substantially beyond Newton's work, particularly through their use of analytical mechanics.

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