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Classical Physics Glossary

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This is a glossary of classical physics. It is some of the most common terms in classical physics and how they are used.


  • Acceleration - the rate of change of velocity with respect to time
  • Ampère's law - relates a circulating magnetic field to an electric current passing through a loop
  • Atom - smallest unit of a chemical element, the limit of classical physics on the small length scales


  • Boltzmann constant - a physical constant relating temperature to energy


  • Chaos theory - the study of processes in nonlinear dynamical systems, such as the Butterfly effect
  • Classical mechanics - a set of laws describing the motion of bodies and their aggregations
  • Coulomb's Law - the force acting between charged bodies
  • Crystal - a regular ordering of atoms, molecules, or ions
  • Choke coil - an inductance used in an AC circuit to control current


  • Determinism - classical physics is largely deterministic
  • Dip(δ) - the angle which the direction of total intensity of earth's magnetic field makes with a horizontal line in the magnetic meridian at that place.


  • Elastic collision - a collision during which no kinetic energy is lost
  • Electric current - the flow of electric charge through an object
  • Electrical resistance - a measure of the degree to which an object opposes the passage of electric current
  • Energy - a measure of being able to do mechanical work
  • Electromotive force - the amount of energy gained per unit charge that passes through a device in the opposite direction to the electric field existing across that device
  • Eddy currents - changing magnetic flux linked with metal plate produces induced current which flow in closed paths throughout the body of the metal


  • Force - an external cause for acceleration in a physical system
  • Free energy - the amount of mechanical work that can be extracted from a system


  • Gravity - an attractive force between particles with mass
  • Geomagnetism - the branch of physics which deals with the study of earth's magnetic field


  • Hamiltonian mechanics - a reformulation of Lagrangian mechanics


  • Ideal gas - a gas consisting of identical particles of negligible volume, with no intermolecular forces
  • Inertia - a historical concept used for describing massive, moving objects


  • Joule's law - equation for the heat generated by a current flowing in a conductor


  • Kinetic energy - energy due to motion


  • Lagrangian - a function describing the equations of motion for a system
  • Lagrangian mechanics - an abstract reformulation of classical mechanics
  • Light - electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength visible to the human eye


  • Macroscopic - attribute used for objects and processes observable by the naked eye
  • Mass - a measure of the amount of matter
  • Maxwell's equations - four equations that describe electric and magnetic fields, and their interaction with matter
  • Molecule - a group of atoms joined by chemical bonds
  • Momentum - the product of mass and velocity
  • Magnetic field - the space around a magnet or a current within which its magnetic influence can be detected or experienced.


  • Newton's laws of motion - the three laws of Isaac Newton, published in Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687
  • Newtonian mechanics - the first formulation of classical mechanics


  • Ohm's law - relationship between the current flowing in a conductor and the voltage difference between its ends


  • Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica - a three-volume work published by Isaac Newton in 1687, introducing his famous three laws of motion
  • Potential energy - energy stored when doing work against a force


  • Quantum mechanics - the theory that separates classical and modern physics


  • Resonance - the tendency of a system to absorb more energy at its resonance frequency in a given process


  • Semiclassical - refers to a combination of classical mechanics and quantum mechanics
  • Special theory of relativity - a theory published in 1905 by Albert Einstein that replaced Newton's notions of space and time
  • Statistical mechanics - the application of mathematical statistics to the collective motions of large populations of particles


  • Temperature - the average kinetic energy of molecules
  • Thermodynamics - the study of thermal processes in physical systems


  • Ultraviolet catastrophe - a false prediction made by classical mechanics preceding quantum mechanics


  • Velocity - the rate of change of position with respect to time and speed


  • Wave - a disturbance that propagates in a periodically repeating fashion, often transferring energy
  • Work - energy transferred by a force


  • X-rays - a form of ionizing electromagnetic radiation and magnetical ambiance's


  • Young's modulus - a measure of the stiffness of a body or material

Published - February 2011

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