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Physics, Technology and Society

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There are number of examples in the world which shows close relation between physics, technology and society. Such as, the steam engine is inseparable from the Industrial Revolution in England in the 18th century, which had great impact on the course of human civilisation. Wireless communication technology, computers are some other examples.

Examples of the fact that physics generates new technology-

1. The Wireless Communication Technology -

The discovery of the basic laws of electricity and magnetism in the nineteenth century gives rise to a new technology named as 'The Wireless Communication Technology'. We use so many gadgets and other apparatus like cellphones, Tablets, computers & internet, TV, Radio etc. through which we communicate easily.

2. Nuclear Technology -

The applications of physics are not always easy to foresee. The great physicist Ernest Rutherford had dismissed the possibility of tapping energy from atoms in 1933. But only a few years later, in 1938, Hahn and Meitner discovered the phenomenon of neutron-induced fission of uranium, which became a fundamental principle of nuclear power reactors and nuclear weapons.

3. Silicon Chip Technology -

Yet another important example of physics giving rise to technology is the silicon chip, that triggered the computer revolution in the last three decades of the twentieth century.

4. Development of Alternative Energy Resources -

A most significant area to which physics has and will contribute is the development of alternative energy resources. The fossil fuels of the earth are ending fast and there is an urgent need to discover new and affordable sources of energy. Considerable progress has already been made in this direction, e.g. conversion of solar energy, geothermal energy, etc., into electricity), but much more is still to be accomplished.

A list of some of the great physicists, their major contribution and the country of origin is given here which are multi-cultural, international character of the scientific endeavour.


Name  Major contribution/discovery  Country of Origin 
Archimedes Principle of buoyancy; Principle of the lever  Greece
Galileo Galilei Law of inertia Italy
Christiaan Huygens Wave theory of light  Holland
Isaac Newton Universal law of gravitation; Laws of motion; Reflecting telescope U.K.
Michael Faraday Laws of electromagnetic induction  U.K.
James Clerk Maxwell Electromagnetic theory; Light-an electromagnetic wave  U.K.
Heinrich Rudolf Hertz Generation of electromagnetic waves  Germany
J.C. Bose  Ultra  short radio waves India
W.K. Roentgen X-rays  Germany
J.J. Thomson  Electron U.K.
Marie Sklodowska Curie  Discovery of radium and polonium; Studies on natural radioactivity  Poland
Albert Einstein  Explanation of photoelectric effect; Theory of relativity Germany
Victor Francis Hess Cosmic radiation  Austria 
R.A. Millikan Measurement of electronic charge  U.S.A. 
Ernest Rutherford Nuclear model of atom  New Zealand 
Niels Bohr Quantum model of hydrogen atom  Denmark 
C.V. Raman Inelastic scattering of light by molecules  India 
Louis Victor de Borglie Wave nature of matter  France
M.N. Saha Thermal ionisation  India 
S.N. Bose Quantum statistics  India 
Wolfgang Pauli Exclusion principle  Austria 
Enrico Fermi Controlled nuclear fission  Italy
Werner Heisenberg Quantum mechanics; Uncertainty principle Germany 
Paul Dirac Relativistic theory of electron; U.K. Quantum statistics  U.K. 
Edwin Hubble Expanding universe  U.S.A. 
Ernest Orlando Lawrence Cyclotron U.S.A. 
James Chadwick Neutron U.K. 
Hideki Yukawa Theory of nuclear forces  Japan 
Homi Jehangir Bhabha Cascade process of cosmic radiation  India 
Lev Davidovich Landau Theory of condensed matter; Liquid helium  Russia
S. Chandrasekhar Chandrasekhar limit, structure and evolution of stars  India 
John Bardeen Transistors; Theory of super conductivity  U.S.A. 
C.H. Townes Maser; Laser  U.S.A. 
Abdus Salam Unification of weak and electromagnetic interactions Pakistan 

A list of some the principles of physics and the important technologies that are based on respective principles.


Technology Scientific principle(s)
Steam engine Laws of thermodynamics 
Nuclear reactor Controlled nuclear fission 
Radio and Television Generation, propagation and detection of electromagnetic waves 
Computers Digital logic
Lasers  Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation 
Production of ultra high magnetic fields Superconductivity
Rocket propulsion Newton’s laws of motion 
Electric generator Faraday’s laws of electromagnetic induction
Hydroelectric power Conversion of gravitational potential energy into electrical energy 
Aeroplane Bernoulli’s principle in fluid dynamics 
Particle accelerators Motion of charged particles in electromagnetic fields 
Sonar Reflection of ultrasonic waves
Optical fibres Total internal reflection of light
Non-reflecting coatings Thin film optical interference
Electron microscope Wave nature of electrons
Photocell Photoelectric effect
Fusion test reactor (Tokamak) Magnetic confinement of plasma
Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) Detection of cosmic radio waves 
Bose-Einstein condensate Trapping and cooling of atoms by laser beams and magnetic fields.


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