In a few words
• A bird’s eye view of modern physics at the cutting edge.
• 75 interactive applets, many involving real time physics simulations.
• Extensive cross-referenced glossary.
• Animations and movies to illustrate complex concepts.
• A website for discussions that includes the participation of the author on the topics explored.
About the Author
Vatche Sahakian is a professor of physics at Harvey Mudd College, a premier STEM-focused institution located in Southern California. He obtained his PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Chicago in 1999. Since then, he has held research positions at Cornell, Caltech, and Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques in Paris. He specializes in string theory. Sahakian is the author of 20+ scientific publications on the subjects of string theory and cosmology. His research focuses on understanding the small scale structure of space, in a context where both gravitational dynamics and quantum mechanics become important. This realm often involves studying black holes, unravelling exotic dynamics such as non-commutative geometry, and exploring new frameworks that extend the Standard Model of particle physics and standard inflationary cosmology.
Physics is often considered to be the mother of all the sciences because it explores the natural laws that underly physical phenomena at the most fundamental level. If physics were a person, it might speak with the words of one of the its most famous disciples, Albert Einstein: “I want to know God’s thoughts — the rest are mere details.”
Over the past centuries we have learned a lot about the universe. As physics expands our understanding of it, one needs more time and effort to acquire a broad perspective of the field. Simultaneously, as the impact of physics on society increases — from applications in space, electronics, information technologies — it becomes ever more important that this knowledge-base of the fundamental sciences is widely shared and appreciated.
This app takes advantage of the latest technologies to present a most up-to-date, mature, and qualitative exposition of physics. Thanks to more than 70 “applets” that replace mathematical equations, anyone with a high school degree has the necessary background to access the material. These applets are small interactive applications that allow one to visualize and understand sophisticated ideas without having much background in mathematics. In many cases the applets include fully developed numerical simulations of physics equations that run in real time within the app!
Table of Contents
Chapter I: First Principles
This chapter provides the conceptual scaffolding for understanding the ideas discussed in this app. In a few broad strokes it sketches out the basic axiomatic assumptions and outlines a set of beliefs that guides the process of discovery in theoretical physics.
Chapter II: Quantum Fuzz
Quantum physics is, arguably, the greatest success story of contemporary science. Yet, it remains one of the most counterintuitive theories that bewildered the minds of the greatest 20th century thinkers.
Chapter III: Black Holes
Black holes are the most extreme phenomena in the universe. They push the limits of our imagination and drive our formulations of the laws of nature to their breaking point.
Chapter IV: Big Bang
Understanding the cosmos is arguably the most profound endeavor in physics. It leads to questions about the nature of space and time, the origins of all matter and energy, the ultimate fate of the universe, and grand coincidences associated with our presence in this world.
Chapter V: Strings
String theory may be viewed as a framework for exploring new exotic ideas on the frontier of theoretical physics. At its heart, the subject aims to reconcile quantum mechanics with gravity. In this chapter, we give a brief overview of the main premise of string theory.