Physics and Cosmology in the 20th Century
Two major paradigms emerged out of classical mechanics during
the first decades of the twentieth century: special relativity
(1905) and quantum mechanics (1900 - 1930). When applied to the
physics of gravity, special relativity led to general relativity
(1915), and, this in turn, led to Big Bang cosmology. Meanwhile
quantum mechanics, when united with special relativity (1930),
produced relativistic quantum mechanics / quantum field theory,
and eventually to particle physics, in which electromagnetism
and the weak nuclear force were unified (e.g., the electroweak
force), and these unified with the strong nuclear force (fundamental
particle physics) (1940's - present).
Quantum corrections to the early universe led to inflationary
Big Bang cosmology (1970's-present). Current research areas include
attempts a superunification of all of physics, including gravity,
in terms of quantum gravity and its application to cosmology.
Meanwhile, classical thermodynamics, developed in the 19th century,
led to non-linear, non-equilibrium thermodynamics and its application
to systems showing the spontaneous emergence of order from chaos
(1960's - present).
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| Contributed by: Dr. Robert Russell