Monday, May 09, 2005

Classical mechanics

I'm trying to tie this more directly into subjects I'm working on. I've done analysis of classical mechanics before, but my notes are buried and left behind in my last move, and it's been a while since I had convenient access to multiple sources. In a typical university library that uses the Library of Congress classification, classical mechanics can be found in several places. There are a few general works on the sciences that mention some basic principles. There are also more specialized texts on physics, and there are also more specialized texts on mechanics, each containing more general ideas. I was trying to reconcile a couple of these, and ran into problems in the order and style of presentation.

In the physics text, the approach started with the description of motion, (kinematics), and then went to Newton's laws, then to rigid bodies, and then other subjects. The mechanics text started with statics and equilibrium of forces, then went to the description of motion. The physical laws are the same with either approach, but I wanted to find one that would unify them. After much head-scratching and rearranging of topics, I decided upon a scheme that worked for me.

1) Particle mechanics deals with the laws of motion as they apply to particles with no (or negligible) parts, rotation or internal motion.
2) Rigid bodies deal with these same laws as applied to bodies that have shape and parts, and adds the topic of rotation.
3) Deformable body mechanics deals with bodies that can be deformed, and includes elastic bodies, fluids, and wave mechanics.

I noticed in one of the science texts a discussion of religion and science, and appreciated the comment that they deal with different approaches. Science deals with the "how" of nature, while religion deals with the "why" and with the building of communities. The text made mention of the fact that certain religious fundamentalists attempt to use scripture to pronounce on questions of science. The comment would have been balanced if it had mentioned that there are zealots of a scientific turn of mind and no appreciation of religion who go the other way and try to use the known laws of science to "disprove" religion.

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