Environmental Physics, Physics tutorial


Environmental physics, an option in physics major, is an application of principles of physics to problems in natural and man-made environment. It covers things like development of sensors and green materials, interaction of sunlight with energy conservation, airborne particulates, and disposal and storage of radioactive wastes. Physics is most essential natural science and considers physical systems ranging in size from nuclei, to atoms, to cosmos. It is extremely broad field, with several sub-fields. Knowing forces and laws which underpin interactions of matter and energy form the major part of discipline. Applying the knowledge to other sciences and technology offers several opportunities for well-trained physicist.

Environmental Physicists utilize principles and methods of physics to study earth's environment. Scientists frequently consider factors which have impact on Earth's air, water, and land in studies of the environment. Advances in physics have resulted in the number of efforts to keep planet clean. Few examples comprise application of research in laser physics and computing methods, development of methods to monitor levels of air pollutants; developments in materials processing and propose resulting in creation of more proficient energy generation techniques and recycling methods; and use of geophysical methods to observe radioactivity in development of new clean-up methods. Environmental Physicists have made contributions to know global climate change and ozone hole.

Disciplines associated to environmental physics:

In general, environmental issues are handled by combining environmental components of different sciences in the integrated and holistic scientific approach is frequently defined environmental science.  Environmental physics can be observed essential part of environmental science.

Environmental science comprises: (i) disciplinary and interdisciplinary natural sciences like: atmospheric sciences, several branches of climatology, chemistry, botany, hydrology, biology, geophysics, ecology, geography, geology, acoustics, ornithology, toxicology, oceanography, limnology, marine biology, soil science; (ii) social sciences like economics, anthropology, demography, environmental history, environmental ethics, environmental law, and public policy; and (iii) identification of several forms of engineering; and (iv) a identification of significant non-sciences such as politics.

The objective of this article is to outline in general terms few of features of physics which are relevant to the study of environment and some environmental issues to which they are applied.

Applications of Physics to some major Environmental Issues:

When one thinks about problems with environment several imagine social issues and struggleit on social level. In area of environmental science, chemistry is first discipline that comes to mind. But one must not omit physical characteristics and how applications of physics are also very important. From energy conservation issues in growth of energy saving materials to challenge of disposal and storage of waste physical sciences are really involved in given challenges. 

Physics of Climate and Air Pollution:

Motion of atmosphere and oceans are studied to examine Earth's climate and constituents of atmosphere. Main physical procedures involved are: atmospheric and ocean circulation; albedo effects at earth's surface; thermal stratification of water and atmosphere; ultraviolet capture by ozone layer; greenhouse gas storage and efflux from soil, water and organic matter; and gas dynamics of pollutant movement in atmosphere. Few chemical phenomenons are essentially related with physical procedures, particularly where air pollutants are reactive and in case of carbon storage, where some processes in soil and water involve chemical transformation and absorption, absorption and storage. In examining such phenomena, environmental physicists grow complex mathematical models to study interrelated effects.

Scope of environmental physics:

Physics has always been worried with knowing the natural environment, and, in its early days, was frequently referred to as Natural Philosophy. Environmental Physics is measurement and analysis of communications between organisms and environments. To produce and reproduce productively, organisms should come to terms with state of their environment. Few microorganisms can develop at temperatures between -6 and 120 °C and, when they are dried out, can stay alive even down to -272 °C. Higher forms of life conversely have adapted to the comparatively narrow range of environments by evolving sensitive physiological replies to external physical stimuli. When environments change, for instance due to natural variation or due to human activity, organisms may, or may not, have adequately flexible responses to stay alive. Physical environment of plants and animals has five major components that find out survival of species:

(a) Environment is the source of radiant energy that is trapped by procedure of photosynthesis in green cells and accumulated in form of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Such materials are main source of metabolic energy for all forms of life on land and in oceans;

(b) Environment is the source of water, nitrogen, carbon, other minerals, and trace elements required to create components of living cells;

(c) Factors like temperature and day length find out rates at which plants grow and develop demand of animals for food, and onset of reproductive cycles in both plants and animals;

(d) Environment gives stimuli, notably in form of light or gravity that are perceived by plants and animals and gives frames of reference both in time and in space. Such stimuli are necessary for resetting biological clocks, giving sense of balance, etc.;

(e) Environment finds out distribution and feasibility of pathogens and parasites that attack living organisms, and susceptibility of organisms to attack.

When the organism interacts with environment, physical processes involved are seldom simple and physiological methods are frequently incorrectly understood. Fortunately, physicists are trained to employ Occam's Razor when they understand natural phenomena in terms of cause and effect: that is they examine behavior of the system and then seek easiest method of explaining it in terms of governing variables. Boyle's Law and Newton's Laws of Motion are characteristic examples of attitude. More complex relationships are avoided until weight of experimental evidence illustrates they are necessary. Many of the equations are estimates to reality that have been found helpful to establish and explore ideas. Art of environmental physics lies in selecting robust approximations that maintain principles of conservation for mass, momentum, and energy. These approximations are frequently described as models.

Progressively, concern with local, national and global environments has developed, and results of several environmental issues can no longer be avoided. The issues of local environmental groups have coalesced in global commitments and these have become the noticeable part of national and international political agendas. There has been an indisputable development in environmental consciousness, and proposition that this might have for relationship between environment and quality of life which we wish to like and pass on to children. Extensive sense of environmental crisis, and problems which produce them, also present challenges. Physics is concerned with offering solutions to problems, and since it is a science, if not science, it has devised the means and power to forecast and make easy transformation of world. We need to be conscious, for instance, if one carries on polluting planet what results will be. We need to understand what possibilities have to be made in event of depletion of water supplies, food stocks and sources of energy. By measurement, monitoring and examination, and by reducing doubt in modeling, environmental physics gives the understanding of environmental procedures, particularly where global environmental change is worried, and this has propositions for environmental impact, risk and science policy. Environmental physics can thus make a contribution to how certain characteristics of society may be planned.

In reading environmental physics it is hoped that one will know how physics is necessary to studying our planet and making sure future development. Only by training next generation of students in physics will we be able to face challenge of how humanity's increasing impact on delicate environmental/ecological balance of Earth may be tempered and managed. It is the job of those teaching physics to current and future generations of students to make sure that its significance to development of environmental research is as great as in more conventional physics research topics of nuclear and particle physics, cosmology and astronomy.

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