Overview of 7 branches of physics

Physics is broken into seven separate branches in classical study, and Cory Carnley provides an overview of each.

GAINESVILLE, July 11, 2022 — In the study of physics, there are many individual fields, so categorization is important. Cory Carnley explains physics is first divided into the classical and modern branches, and then classical physics is further divided into seven main branches focused on different areas of study.

These are mechanics, thermodynamics, vibrations and waves phenomena, optics, electromagnetism, relativity, and quantum mechanics. Certain publications may also segment these branches into condensed categories.

Cory Carnley breaks down each physics category


According to Carnley, many people immediately think of a couple of key areas when they think of physics. These include relativity and mechanics. In the study of mechanics, the focus is on the causes of motion and how different objects in motion interact with one another. This includes solids, liquids, and gases, and it is often referred to as Newtonian mechanics.


With a name like thermodynamics, heat and temperature are obviously the core, but thermodynamics is a wider field of study that more specifically includes the transfer of energy as heat. It also analyzes how pressure, temperature, and volume have an impact on a small scale.

Vibrations and Waves Phenomena

A nod to mechanics in the way many people rely on mechanical devices daily, vibrations and waves is a look at repetitive motion with specific applications, like sound patterns, pendulums, and springs, Cory Carnley explains. From these explorations, unique applications for sound have developed, including ultrasound technology.


Optics isn’t focused on appearances, but it is the study of lights of all kinds. According to Carnley, visible light is joined by ultraviolent and infrared light within the field, and scientists examine the behavior and property of light as well as how it interacts with matter and changes after an interaction with specific objects. Common concepts from the schoolroom include refraction, diffraction, reflection, and interference.


Another big hit in the classroom, electromagnetism, is the study of electricity, magnetism, and light. Common classroom experiments would involve magnet-driven motors, circuit breakdowns, and the examination of electrical charge. In a more expansive view, magnetic fields also fall into this field, as well as the study of electrons.


Cory Carnley points to relativity as a highly recognizable field of physics due to the work of Albert Einstein and the theory of special relativity. Relativity studies can include special relativity and general relativity and other areas in between based on both classical and modern interpretations of physics.

Quantum Mechanics

In quantum mechanics, both submicroscopic and subatomic particles are examined. It looks at the interaction of these particles and views interactions based on the knowledge that energy is released in established units. Subsets of quantum mechanics include studies of string theory, quantum gravity, statics and electrodynamics, and loop quantum gravity.

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