Physics applies scientific methodologies to understand the most fundamental principles of nature: matter and energy, and how they interact. A physicist usually specializes within one area of physics, though many disciplines overlap.
Astrophysics and cosmology are examples of sciences charged with unraveling the mysteries of life as they play out on a massive scale. From black holes to supernovas, it is the job of this branch to explain the birth of stars, the tumble of galaxies, and the beginning of the universe.
Geophysics deals with understanding the earth from the standpoints of electromagnetic, seismic, and radioactive phenomena. Plate tectonics, geology, atmospheric science, climatology, and oceanography are just a handful of the sciences that fall under the purview of this field. Thanks to this branch of physics, scientists have a better understanding of events like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, the formation of mountains, and continental drift.
Atomic and Nuclear Physics, along with their various disciplines, undertake one of the most fundamental areas of nature — understanding the atom. Nuclear power, radioactivity, medical imaging systems, pacemakers, and the atomic clock are just a few benefits derived from these branches. Studying the atom also led directly to the emergence of quantum physics.
Quantum physics is perhaps the most fascinating branch of physics, as it reveals a world so foreign to the one most people know, it is all but unbelievable. The job of this field is to take scientists into the tiniest particles known to man, unlocking the most fundamental levels of matter and light. Here, quantum particles behave in counter-intuitive ways, as ready to travel backward in time as forward, or to appear simultaneously in two places at once. Quantum physics has contributed in unique and far-reaching ways to varied branches of science. It also led to a new theoretical understanding of particles and to what might be the Holy Grail of science: The Theory Of Everything.
Theoretical physics rides the forefront of pioneering hypotheses for unsolved questions in all areas of physics. In some circles, theoretical physics is not well received, because the theories are unproven, and there are often no tools to do so for decades, if ever in the scientist’s lifetime. However, circumstantial support and mathematical consistency led to a breakthrough in superstring theory that might be the so-called Theory of Everything. This theory would unite Einstein’s Theory of Relativity with the quantum world, explaining the relationships between the four known forces: gravity, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and electromagnetism. While mathematical consistency is on the side of superstring’s M-theory, there is currently no way to conclusively test it.
The best science fiction writers are often physicists who use their knowledge of hard science to extrapolate a plausible future world. For anyone with a keen mind and a sense of wonder, the enigmatic world of physics can provide an excellent and rewarding career path.