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During a discussion of why I wanted to read Physics at Durham University I came up with the quote:
Physics is the low-level language of the universe
That simple phrase stirred up an entire line of thought. How would Physics compare to other sciences (such as Chemistry, Computer Science and Geography)? And what features would it have?
Firstly, Physics is modular. In programming terms, a module is an optional piece of code which does specific features - for example, in Perl, the Image::Magick and GD.pm modules contain code for loading, editing and saving various image formats. If your program involves image processing, they're very, very useful. But if your program never touches them, then it can be ignored. Likewise, a Theoretical::Quantum module would have code devoted to quarks, neutrinos, mesons and leptons, importing constants (such as the charge of an electron) and functions (such as E=mc2), and is utterly irrelevent when trying to work out the forces on a house brick or the orbit of a planet.

Of course, some constants would be universal: pi is always just a little bit more than 3.1415, e and log2 are invariant, and 9.81ms-2 is usually a good rule of thumb.

The reason why Physics is the low-level language is that it is able to explain the underlying principles of the other sciences. Physics explains the flow from hot to cold under the ocean floor and under the earth's crust. Physics explains why electrons become attracted to atomic nuclei. Physics gave control of electricity, which gave electronics, which created Computer Science. Physics is low-level because it underpins everything we make, do and understand.

It could also be said that Physics is low-level because it is hard to understand. I would disagree. Are Psychology, Biology, Chemistry, Geography or any other sciences any easier to understand than Physics? Naturally, there are differences between the sciences, as there are between the different computer languages - but I feel Physics has the power of Assembler with the ease of Perl - it is modular, has consistant features... but has the power to do absolutely anything.

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