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Mechanics (Greek Μηχανική) is the branch of physics concerned with the behaviour of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effect of the bodies on their environment. The discipline has its roots in several ancient civilizations (see History of classical mechanics and Timeline of classical mechanics). During the early modern period, scientists such as Galileo, Kepler, and especially Newton, laid the foundation for what is now known as classical mechanics.

Historically, classical mechanics came first, while quantum mechanics is a comparatively recent invention. Classical mechanics originated with Isaac Newton's Laws of motion in Principia Mathematica, while quantum mechanics didn't appear until 1900. Both are commonly held to constitute the most certain knowledge that exists about physical nature. Classical mechanics has especially often been viewed as a model for other so-called exact sciences. Essential in this respect is the relentless use of mathematics in theories, as well as the decisive role played by experiment in generating and testing them.

Quantum mechanics is of a wider scope, as it encompasses classical mechanics as a sub-discipline which applies under certain restricted circumstances. According to the correspondence principle, there is no contradiction or conflict between the two subjects, each simply pertains to specific situations. Quantum mechanics has superseded classical mechanics at foundational level and is indispensable for the explanation and prediction of processes at molecular and (sub)atomic level. However, for macroscopical processes classical mechanics is able to solve problems which are unmanageably difficult in quantum mechanics and hence remains useful and well used.

Other distinctions between the various sub-disciplines of mechanics, concern the nature of the bodies being described. Particles are bodies with little (known) internal structure, treated as mathematical points in classical mechanics. Rigid bodies have size and shape, but retain a simplicity close to that of the particle, adding just a few so-called degrees of freedom, such as orientation in space.

Otherwise, bodies may be semi-rigid, i.e. elastic, or non-rigid, i.e. fluid. These subjects have both classical and quantum divisions of study.

For instance: The motion of a spacecraft, regarding its orbit and attitude (rotation), is described by the relativistic theory of classical mechanics. While analogous motions of an atomic nucleus are described by quantum mechanics.

Note that there is also the "theory of fields" which constitutes a separate discipline in physics, formally treated as distinct from mechanics, whether classical fields or quantum fields. But in actual practice, subjects belonging to mechanics and fields are closely interwoven. Thus, for instance, forces that act on particles are frequently derived from fields (electromagnetic or gravitational), and particles generate fields by acting as sources. In fact, in quantum mechanics, particles themselves are fields, as described theoretically by the wave function.

- Newtonian mechanics, the original theory of motion (kinematics) and forces (dynamics)
- Lagrangian mechanics, a theoretical formalism, based on the principle of conservation of energy
- Hamiltonian mechanics, another theoretical formalism, based on the principle of the least action
- Celestial mechanics, the motion of heavenly bodies: planets, comets, stars, galaxies, etc.
- Astrodynamics, spacecraft navigation, etc.
- Solid mechanics, elasticity, the properties of (semi-)rigid bodies
- Acoustics, sound (= density variation propagation) in solids, fluids and gases.
- Statics, semi-rigid bodies in mechanical equilibrium
- Fluid mechanics, the motion of fluids
- Soil mechanics, mechanical behavior of soils
- Continuum mechanics, mechanics of continua (both solid and fluid)
- Hydraulics, mechanical properties of liquids
- Fluid statics, liquids in equilibrium
- Applied / Engineering mechanics
- Biomechanics, solids, fluids, etc. in biology
- Biophysics, physical processes in living organisms
- Statistical mechanics, assemblies of particles too large to be described in a deterministic way
- Relativistic or Einsteinian mechanics, universal gravitation

- Particle physics, the motion, structure, and reactions of particles
- Nuclear physics, the motion, structure, and reactions of nuclei
- Condensed matter physics, quantum gases, solids, liquids, etc.
- Quantum statistical mechanics, large assemblies of particles

- Applied Mechanics Division, American Society of Mechanical Engineers
- Fluid Dynamics Division, American Physical Society
- Institution of Mechanical Engineers is the United Kingdom's qualifying body for Mechanical Engineers and has been the home of Mechanical Engineers for over 150 years.

- iMechanica: the web of mechanics and mechanicians
- Mechanics Blog by a Purdue University Professor
- The Mechanics program at Virginia Tech
- Physclips: Mechanics with animations and video clips from the University of New South Wales
- U.S. National Committee on Theoretical and Applied Mechanics

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Last updated on Saturday October 11, 2008 at 11:27:20 PDT (GMT -0700)

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Last updated on Saturday October 11, 2008 at 11:27:20 PDT (GMT -0700)

View this article at Wikipedia.org - Edit this article at Wikipedia.org - Donate to the Wikimedia Foundation

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