Physics history – From classical to modern physics

Spread the story

In the 17th century, scientists began to ask themselves, are we quite sure this is how things work? Galileo Galilei, an Italian astronomer and mathematician, was not happy with explanations such as “Because the Pope says so,” or, “So we have been doing since the time of Aristotle.” In France, the philosopher René Descartes went so far in his questions that in the end he knew only one thing for sure: his own existence. I think, therefore I am. Or in Latin: “Cogito ergo sum”.

The Englishman Francis Bacon was also interested in the principles by which we can attain knowledge of the world. He laid the foundation for a way of working that is still called the scientific method. The method is based on making assumptions and then systematically testing them through experiments. And when reality doesn’t behave as assumed, ideas based on assumptions are thrown away and new ones are created that are retested. The same year that Galileo Galilei died (1642), another man, Isaac Newton, was born in England.

Isaac Newton as part of physics history

Isaac Newton has challenged the traditional and instinctive ideas of physics possibly more often than anyone else in history. Through experiments and completely new kinds of calculations, he revealed the laws of nature in different fields. Today, probably the best-known explanation of Isaac Newton is gravity. It is the attraction that causes the apple to fall down and keep the moon in its orbit around the Earth. Isaac Newton was also the first to properly explain how force, mass, and motion all fit together.

Physics developed in this era is called classical physics, or out of respect for old Isaac, Newtonian physics. Classical physics still works very well today when it comes to explaining things we face on a daily basis. Newton’s laws of motion are still in use when calculating a piece’s fall and when satellites are sent into space. As long as the size and pace remain in their usual dimensions, Newton’s calculations are impressively accurate. But when we study very small things, like individual atoms or something even smaller, something special happens.

In this miniature world – among protons, neutrons and electrons – the laws of nature are completely different from Newtonian physics. Quantum mechanics dominates here. Quantum mechanics is, to put it mildly, a strange field of physics. In quantum mechanics, a particle may exist, but at the same time not be in any particular place. An electron, for example, is a particle whose location can only be described by probability, but not as an exact location.

Quantum mechanics often opposes our intuitive understanding of physics. It can be just as fascinating and appalling to try to understand. Just as classical physics doesn’t apply at very short distances, it doesn’t work when it comes to things that go at a very fast pace. The train runs 100 kilometers per hour and someone runs it on the roof in the same direction as the train at 10 kilometers per hour. In relation to the ground, he now travels at a speed of 110 kilometers per hour, as 100 plus 10 is 110.

Nothing miraculous yet, but if he stands on the roof of that train and lights a flashlight to point forward, the light won’t travel any faster than it would if he stood still on the ground. Confusing, isn’t it? In order to deal with velocities close to the speed of light, Einstein’s special theory of relativity is needed, and that theory, just like quantum mechanics, is something that doesn’t go well with our everyday understanding of intuitive physics. So for clarification, here is a rough division of physics into three categories. First is pre-classical physics.

Physics history change modern physics

We call it Aristotelian physics. It has been shaped mainly by intuition, and then continued with tradition and religion. Later, in the 17th century, people like Galileo and Newton turned Aristotelian physics on their heads. With the help of structured experiments and mathematics, classical physics took over. Then, 300 years later, in the early 20th century, classical physics itself was challenged, and the door opened to modern physics, which includes quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity.

Physics history
Galileo Galilei

It might get on your bike! There is good reason to be grateful for several inventions made in the course of the complex history of physics. Because without them, you couldn’t play music at parties. Actually, you don’t have to go far back in time when you are already starting to miss all the useful things that physics has brought when it comes.

Physics history makes future possible – Quality Technology and New Physics (Theory of Relativity and Quantum Physics)

The creator of new quality technology and TQM, Dr. W. Edwards Deming was a researcher in quantum physics who graduated with a doctorate from Yale University in 1927. His dissertation dealt with particle physics (A Possible Explanation of the Packing Effect of Helium) and was published in Phys. Rev. 31, 453 –March 1928. The same publication contains the father of the atomic bomb, J.R. Oppenheimer’s article On the Quantum Theory of the Capture of Electron. However, Deming did not pursue a course in particle physics, but moved to the USAD Graduate Schoool as a teacher and wrote numerous articles on theoretical physics and statistical methods. (

Together with Dr. Walter A. Shewhart, Dr. W. Edwards Deming developed and applied the doctrines of new physics to quality technology. Dr. Walter A. Shewhart published perhaps the best-known books on quality technology based on new physics (probability): Economic Control of Quality of Manufactured Product in 1931 and Statistical Method from the Viewpoint of Quality Control in 1939 (Statistical Process Control, SPC) and Deming’s Books Out of the Crisis 1982 and The New Economics 1993. The new more accurate worldview brought with it TQM, Numerical and Analytical Studies, In-Depth Information System, The Deming System of Profound Knowledge, SoPK (8, 9), SPC, DOE, Lean Six Sigman, etc. to name a few..

What is the essence of the New Physics?

Physics history, modern and new physics – What is the reality of the physical world and what does it consist of and how does the physical world behave? This is what we in quality and in improving it try to find out and, to the best of our ability, we try to change the world to our liking or at least to understand.

Classical Newtonian physics (1687-) has served as a practical scientific assumption that has been used for centuries to be considered true and valid. The assumptions and beliefs of this can be roughly summarized as follows (1, 3):

1) “Strong objectivity”: Classical science assumes that there is an objective world that is independent of us. To understand this world, one must distinguish the observed object from the observer. Science emphasizes an observer-independent result!

2) “Mechanism”: Classical Newtonian physics describes phenomena mechanistically like a “clock machine”. The concept also involves automation and complete predictability. In philosophy of science, mechanism has been referred to in the context of Newton’s three laws of motion.

3) “Causal determinism” says that this world is fundamentally deterministic, organized, and predictable. If we know what forces are acting on an object, we know exactly its location and speed at a given time. There is a reason for the error and the fault, even the root cause!

4) “Materialism”: This assumes that there is nothing in the universe other than matter that obeys scientific physical laws. There is no field effect nor a “spirit world”!

5) “Atomism and reductionism”: Reduction means conduction and is the opposite of a holistic holistic view, where the whole precedes the parts and seeks to understand the properties and modes of operation of the parts from the whole and the laws that govern it. Atomism provides a starting point for a more detailed study of the structure of matter and forms the basis for metric metrology.

6) “Locality”: This assumes that all interactions between material objects take place in certain stations or places independently of each other. There is no interaction!

7) “Epiphenomenalism”: This assumption is difficult and says that everything can be reduced to matter. For example, consciousness and mental processes are considered only as an epiphenomenon of the material brain. The causal interaction of mind and body is one-way: changes in the brain can affect the mind / consciousness, but the mind / consciousness cannot affect the brain or human behavior. Mental states are thus only by-products of physical brain activity. In other words, matter created consciousness; the brain created the mind!

Then came quantum physics (or particle physics or modern physics) and threw all the above assumptions out the window. It was found that, at least at the subatomic levels, matter, or what we assume to be matter, does not follow the predictable laws of Newtonian physics.

Article source: (Finnish language)

Member read also next article

Space race history – Space flights in the 1960s were part of the Cold War

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. April 18, 2021

    […] Physics history – From classical to modern physics […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *