Physics is the eye to see through the true existence of nature. The science that deals with the structure of matter and the interactions between the fundamental constituents of the observable universe is an important element in the education of Engineers, even for the practitioners of the biological and biomedical sciences. There is a long tradition of physicists and physics-based techniques making important contributions to biology and medicine too. The human body and its components are physical objects that can be viewed, measured and altered in ways that resemble what a physicist might do with any physical object. The human mind (white matter) picks up by observation, the initial questions that his thinking later refines into mature questions, that lead the world in its search for truth, ending with the amazing discovery of the answer to the question or perhaps other answers, or perhaps other new questions in most cases.
During my Secondary School days, I never thought I would use Physics taught by band of excellent teachers in my life but surprisingly enough I use those natural laws and theory of interaction between light and matter, in my career today. Of late a new physics (Nano-Physics) has emerged, predicted by a visionary Physicist Richard Feynman, whose books, “the Feynman Lectures on Physics” used to be referred by our teachers but we used to ignore the advices. Those books are still regarded as bibles and give a vivid picture of matter and materials. Among the solid materials, the greatest theoretical and experimental advances have been in the study of crystalline materials whose simple repetitive geometric arrays of atoms are multiple-particle systems that allow treatment by quantum mechanics. Because the atoms in a solid are coordinated with each other over large distances, the theory must go beyond that is appropriate for atoms and molecules. The science that deals with atoms or molecules is amazingly known as Nanotechnology, which I used to teach, preach and proselytize to my students and passionate learners, as it is going to change the shape of engineering and medical sciences very soon.
Engineering is a profession in which scientific knowledge is used for innovations, to develop new things that benefit mankind and gives relief to humanity, making everything around us easier. In fact, all engineering is applied physics and enables us to think out of the box. It is the mindset to think over the use of scientific principles, to design and build machines, structures, and other items. Problem solving, logical thinking and also the ability to think intellectually is developed by the study of physics. Classical Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Electromagnetism, Quantum Mechanics, Atomic Physics, Molecular Physics, Nuclear Physics, Modern Physics and Condensed Matter Physics, play a vital role in the process of innovation, which is, crucial in the development of engineering branches. For the first time in the history, we are preparing syllabi as per branch of engineering, as promised to my dear UG students and have earnestly advised faculty to follow.
In Civil Engineering, the laws of physics can tell you about forces, tension, harmonic vibrations and resonance, tensile strength, elasticity, viscosity and all kinds of other concepts that you can use to make calculations about your designing and construction work, besides means to protect water bodies and soil. Bridges and tunnels have to stand up to internal and external pressure. Gravity is difficult to deal with and transportation engineering is a new challenge. Professor M S Mir, a distinguished Professor at NIT Srinagar have been using nanotechnology in construction of roads and pavements.
For Mechanical Engineering, you need the help of Physics in dealing with aircraft, watercraft, robotics, engines, weapons, cars, pneumatics, hydraulics and tribology by using core physics areas including mechanics, dynamics, thermodynamics, materials science and electricity. An alumnus of IIT Kanpur Prof N A Sheikh has specialization in aeronautical engineering, an upcoming area of research in Mechanical Engineering.
The major part of chemical engineering is organizing the physics for the chemical processes to work. One has to understand the mechanics so pressure vessels do not burst and distillation columns do not fall over. One need to understand energy very well and with our expanded capabilities has come with an increased need for new forms of energy. We have to find an alternative energy sources that will not further pollute the atmosphere and will not create further change in climate.
Electrical engineering involves designing electrical circuits including motors, optical fiber networks, computers and communication links. They often need to convert electrical energy to other forms of energy, with the understanding of mechanics and thermodynamics. Besides applications of Maxwell’s equation, electromagnetism is used for antennae design, RF signals, wireless communications and smokeless cars. The field of robotics relies on physics such as dynamics, mechanics, as well as optics (for cameras for computer vision).
Knowing the fundamentals of Electronics engineering, in addition to, how small-scale components like integrated circuits and various types of transistor logic, all functions require at least an intermediate understanding of electromagnetism, which one learn from Physics. Electronics include the workings of transistors, flip flops and semiconductors. Integrated circuit uses physics to study how various tiny transistors are connected in circuits. Since Electrical Engineering leads to Electronics Engineering and finally to Computer Engineering & Information Technology, Artificial Intelligence and Data sciences, it can be concluded that the mother of all engineering branches is Physics.
I have no confusion in my mind that the reason for the great progress that human civilization has witnessed in recent centuries is due to the science of physics, especially discovering the principles upon which many devices are built. The field, which treats the thermal, elastic, electrical, magnetic, and optical properties of solid and liquid substances, grew at an explosive rate in the second half of the 20th century and scored numerous important scientific and technical achievements, including the transistor.
Thus, engineering is physics applied to create something more practical by using the natural laws that govern matter, so give it a chance. State-of-the-art laboratories developed in Solid State Electronics (SSE), Modern Optics and Photonics (MOP), Solid State Physics (SSP), Nuclear and Particle Physics (NPP), Engineering and Applied Physics (EAP) exclusively for B.Tech undergraduates is exemplary. Teachers and students visiting the Departments for carrying experiments are full of accolades to the administration for making avant-grade laboratories available for the students. The recently published book, “Physics Lab in Sky” gives a glimpse of all experiments. A bee line of students from local colleges of the valley to the Department of Physics National Institute of Technology Srinagar is witnessed, watched, praised and applauded.
Dr. M. A. Shah, author of “Physics Lab in Sky” is presently Chair, Department of Physics, NIT Srinagar
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK