Classical Mechanics

Classical mechanics is the first of two areas of physics whose name features the word "mechanics", the other being quantum mechanics (which we shall look at elsewhere). Suffice to say that quantum mechanics deals with the behaviour of matter and energy at the sub-atomic level, whereas classical mechanics, whilst also concerned with the behaviour of matter and energy, deals with macroscopic objects - in other words, things that we can (usually) see with our own eyes, and which are relatively easy to measure.

The study of mechanics has been going on for thousands of years and is perhaps one of the oldest and most wide-ranging areas of scientific study. We begin by looking at Newtonian Mechanics - the physical laws that describe the behaviour of bodies under the influence of one or more forces. The name reflects the fact that many of its principles can be derived, either directly or indirectly, from the physical laws formulated by Sir Isaac Newton.

The field of classical mechanics has grown considerably since the days of Newton. It now provides us with an explanation for virtually every kind of phenomenon involving motion of some kind. Newton's laws deal with force, mass and motion and the relationship between them. They are certainly still relevant, and provide us with a good place to start, but they are only the beginning of the story.

Equally important are the laws concerning the conservation of energy and momentum which, although certainly derived from Newton's work, were not formulated by Newton himself but by those who followed. And there is plenty more. Those studying classical mechanics can expect to learn, for example, about the behaviour of solids, liquids and gases in different environments, or about the thermodynamic characteristics of various materials. The aim of these pages is to provide a starting point for further study.