Unless you’re a competitive swimmer like the athletes in the picture, you probably don’t wear a full-body swimsuit. The swimsuit was designed to help a swimmer glide smoothly through the water without restricting body movements. The suit is made of two synthetic fibers: nylon, which is very smooth, lightweight, and durable; and spandex, which is very stretchy. This is just one example of the many ways that sports gear, equipment, and performance have been improved by physical science.
What Is Physical Science?
Physical science is the study of matter and energy. That covers a lot of territory because matter refers to all the “stuff” that exists in the universe. It includes everything you can see and many things that you cannot see, including the air around you. Energy is also universal. It’s what gives matter the ability to move and change. Electricity, heat, and light are some of the forms that energy can take.
Chemistry and Physics
Physical science, in turn, can be divided into chemistry and physics. Chemistry is the study of matter and energy at the scale of atoms and molecules. For example, the synthetic fibers in the swimmer’s suit were created in labs by chemists. Physics is the study of matter and energy at all scales—from the tiniest particles of matter to the entire universe. Knowledge of several important physics concepts—such as motion and forces—contributed to the design of the swimmer’s suit.
Q: It’s not just athletes that depend on physical science. We all do. What might be some ways that physical science influences our lives?
A: We depend on physical science for just about everything that makes modern life possible. You couldn’t turn on a light, make a phone call, or use a computer without centuries of discoveries in chemistry and physics. The Figure below show a variety of other ways that people depend on physical science. Think about how knowledge of energy and matter makes each action possible.
Each of these pictures represents a way that physical science influences our lives.
- Physical science is the study of matter and energy. It includes chemistry and physics.
- We depend on centuries of discoveries in physical science for just about everything we do.
- Outline the scope of physical science.
- Describe some ways that physical science influences your own life.
Matter and energy are the most basic concepts in physical science. Watch this video about matter and energy, and then answer the questions below.
- How do physical scientists relate energy and matter today?
- How did this discovery help scientists investigate the smallest particles of matter?