How Physics Accompanies Us in Our Daily Lives Often Without Us Knowing It

Physics or the study of matter, motion, energy and force.

Not all of us have studied Physics extensively at school or will continue studying it at University. Yet, we use Physics every day without necessarily knowing it. 

It’s 7 am. Your alarm clock rings. What you hear as sound is transmitted as waves through the movement of air molecules, causing your eardrum to vibrate. The vibration is then converted into electrical impulses transmitted to your brain through hearing nerves. 

After some coffee and toast, you decide to play your favourite playlist and put in your earplugs – you’re ready for a new day. Moving magnets and electricity from your earphones are responsible for the produced sound waves. Ever wondered what prevented you from losing balance as you were power walking? The resistance between your shoe soles and the ground’s surface “friction” prevents you from slipping. 

This morning, you are headed towards a new location and use your smartphone’s localization map for navigation. Long gone are the days where you had to pull out a paper map and compass in the streets. Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) is a satellite based radio navigation system which calculates your location on Earth accurately to several cms from satellites in outer space. 

Gosh, it’s pouring and you’re going to be late. You hail a cab and fasten your seat belt, a necessary security brake. Your body moves as quickly at the cab which means that it would take a more powerful force to stop it from moving. Your seatbelt does exactly that by pinning you down, preventing your body from advancing in a collision. 

In your journey, an ambulance speeds past you. A piercing sound hits your eardrums. Have you ever realized that the sound is at a higher pitch as the vehicle approaches you. This can be explained by the Doppler effect, where a change in the pitch of a sound wave changes as the source of sound is moving relative to you. The sound wave frequency changes as the sound source moves closer to or farther from the listener.

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Phew you’ve finally made it. Whether your final destination is a class, lecture, workplace you will likely need a pen. How does the ink from the pen end up on the paper? The small ball point at the tip of your pen rolls and the ink is forced down onto the paper thanks to gravity-  the downward force made famous through Newton’s falling apple. In space, gravity is weaker, this is why astronauts float. 

It’s been a long day and after a well-deserved rest, you decide to do some house chores. All your dirty laundry is put in the washing machine. Have you ever wondered why your clothes come out damp and not soaking wet? The washing machine’s dryer rapidly rotates and thus creates a centrifugal force which acts in a direction away from the centre of the machine. The water molecules on the clothes are forced outwards, away from the clothes.