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New Physics

New Physics

The term new physics refers to a range of fundamental developments and paradigm shifts that occurred in the physical sciences during the last half of the twentieth century. These include the theory of quarks, which is essential to the standard model of fundamental particle physics; the study and application of macroscopic manifestations of quantum phenomena such as superconductivity, super-fluidity, lasing, and other types of spontaneous quantum self-organization; the realization of electroweak unification and the quests for grand and total unification of the four fundamental interactions; the burgeoning successes in gravitational physics, including gravitational wave and black hole physics; and inflationary, fundamental-particle, and quantum cosmology, which ultimately rely on total unification and quantum gravity schemes.

Another component of the new physics is the study of chaos and complexity, which involves modeling complex physical processes using nonlinear, often dissipative, deterministic mathematical systems in which there is extreme sensitivity to initial conditions, leading to loss of predictability, the importance of top-down causality together with a lack of reducibility to more fundamental systems and processes, and the emergence of higher-level self-organization out of lower-level erratic behavior. Some of the key features of the new physics are the fundamental indeterminism at the basis of all quantum phenomena due to the Uncertainty Principle, and the appearance of one of more levels of global chaotic or self-organizing behavior accompanied by radical unpredictability and irreducibility in complex systems, such as fluid turbulence, weather systems, and the dynamics of insect populations.

See also Cosmology, Physical; Grand Unified Theory; Physics; Physics, Quantum


davies, paul. "the new physics: a synthesis." in the new physics, ed. paul davies. cambridge, uk: cambridge university press, 1989.

william r. stoeger

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