Organic Chemistry

There was once a time when chemists thought "organic" referred only to things that were living, and that life was the result of a spiritual "life force." While there is nothing wrong with viewing life as having a spiritual component, spiritual matters are simply outside the realm of science, and to mix up the two is as silly as using mathematics to explain love (or vice versa). In fact, the "life force" has a name: carbon, the common denominator in all living things.


Formed from hydrocarbons, hydrocarbon derivatives, or sometimes from silicon, polymers are the basis not only for numerous natural materials, but also for most of the synthetic plastics that one encounters every day. Polymers consist of extremely large, chain-like molecules that are, in turn, made up of numerous smaller, repeating units called monomers.

Frame of Reference

Among the many specific concepts the student of physics must learn, perhaps none is so deceptively simple as frame of reference. On the surface, it seems obvious that in order to make observations, one must do so from a certain point in space and time.

Kinematics and Dynamics

Webster's defines physics as "a science that deals with matter and energy and their interactions." Alternatively, physics can be described as the study of matter and motion, or of matter in motion. Whatever the particulars of the definition, physics is among the most fundamental of disciplines, and hence, the rudiments of physics are among the most basic building blocks for thinking about the world.

Density and Volume

Density and volume are simple topics, yet in order to work within any of the hard sciences, it is essential to understand these two types of measurement, as well as the fundamental quantity involved in conversions between them—mass. Measuring density makes it possible to distinguish between real gold and fake gold, and may also give an astronomer an important clue regarding the internal composition of a planet.

Conservation Laws

The term "conservation laws" might sound at first like a body of legal statutes geared toward protecting the environment. In physics, however, the term refers to a set of principles describing certain aspects of the physical universe that are preserved throughout any number of reactions and interactions.


The faster an object is moving—whether it be a baseball, an automobile, or a particle of matter—the harder it is to stop. This is a reflection of momentum, or specifically, linear momentum, which is equal to mass multiplied by velocity.

Centripetal Force

Most people have heard of centripetal and centrifugal force. Though it may be somewhat difficult to keep track of which is which, chances are anyone who has heard of the two concepts remembers that one is the tendency of objects in rotation to move inward, and the other is the tendency of rotating objects to move outward.


Friction is the force that resists motion when the surface of one object comes into contact with the surface of another. In a machine, friction reduces the mechanical advantage, or the ratio of output to input: an automobile, for instance, uses one-quarter of its energy on reducing friction.

Laws of Motion

In all the universe, there are few ideas more fundamental than those expressed in the three laws of motion. Together these explain why it is relatively difficult to start moving, and then to stop moving; how much force is needed to start or stop in a given situation; and how one force relates to another.

Gravity and Gravitation

Gravity is, quite simply, the force that holds together the universe. People are accustomed to thinking of it purely in terms of the gravitational pull Earth exerts on smaller bodies—a stone, a human being, even the Moon—or perhaps in terms of the Sun's gravitational pull on Earth.

Projectile Motion

A projectile is any object that has been thrown, shot, or launched, and ballistics is the study of projectile motion. Examples of projectiles range from a golf ball in flight, to a curve ball thrown by a baseball pitcher to a rocket fired into space.


Torque is the application of force where there is rotational motion. The most obvious example of torque in action is the operation of a crescent wrench loosening a lug nut, and a close second is a playground seesaw.

Fluid Mechanics

The term "fluid" in everyday language typically refers only to liquids, but in the realm of physics, fluid describes any gas or liquid that conforms to the shape of its container. Fluid mechanics is the study of gases and liquids at rest and in motion.


Though the term "aerodynamics" is most commonly associated with airplanes and the overall science of flight, in fact, its application is much broader. Simply put, aerodynamics is the study of airflow and its principles, and applied aerodynamics is the science of improving manmade objects such as airplanes and automobiles in light of those principles.

Bernoulli's Principle

Bernoulli's principle, sometimes known as Bernoulli's equation, holds that for fluids in an ideal state, pressure and density are inversely related: in other words, a slow-moving fluid exerts more pressure than a fast-moving fluid. Since "fluid" in this context applies equally to liquids and gases, the principle has as many applications with regard to airflow as to the flow of liquids.


The principle of buoyancy holds that the buoyant or lifting force of an object submerged in a fluid is equal to the weight of the fluid it has displaced. The concept is also known as Archimedes's principle, after the Greek mathematician, physicist, and inventor Archimedes (c.

Statics and Equilibrium

Statics, as its name suggests, is the study of bodies at rest. Those bodies may be acted upon by a variety of forces, but as long as the lines of force meet at a common point and their vector sum is equal to zero, the body itself is said to be in a state of equilibrium.