Is Environmental Physics a Physics field?

by  Gemma Narisma

The thesis proposal defense did lead me to ponder on what exactly is the definition of physics.

My googling lead me quickly to the physics.org website of the IOP:

http://www.physics.org/article-questions.asp?id=18

And here we clearly see how broad the expansion of physics topics has grown through time.  What I find helpful though is the very first
statement that says:

The dictionary definition of physics is “the study of matter, energy, and the interaction between them”, but what that really means is that physics is about asking fundamental questions and trying to answer them by observing and experimenting.

And towards the end the statement, “Physicists try to uncover these relationships through observing, creating mathematical models, and testing them by doing experiments.”

And I would like to think that that is what we are all doing but applied to different disciplines including environmental physics.

On environmental physics, it is interesting to see that the IOP has an environmental physics group.

http://www.iop.org/activity/groups/subject/env/index.html

But what is environmental physics? One of the fundamental books is by Unsworth and Monteith on the Principles of Environmental Physics:

http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/bookdescription.cws_home/709822/description#description

and in the description it says:

Environmental Physics concerns the description and analysis of physical processes that establish the conditions in which all species of life survive and reproduce. The subject involves a synthesis of mathematical relations that describe the physical nature of the environment and the many biological responses that environments evoke. Environmental Physics provides a basis for understanding the complex responses of plants and animals to environmental change. “

And this is where we are heading with our research, to start digging into characterizing the relationships (quantitatively) that can help
describe the biological responses (crop yield in this case) that the physical environment (tmp, rainfall, etc) evoke. This kind of research hopefully will help us understand the response of plants (rice) to environmental change.  Hence, the agriculture nature of the work does not make it not physics.

As we move into broadening our work in Physics, it is perhaps important for us to see and understand these wider perspectives that
are now covered by Physics. (The IOP actually publishes the Environmental Research Letters, which is incredibly broad in coverage,
but signifies the broadening of areas that the Institute is beginning to be involved in.)

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About ateneophysicsnews
Physics News and Features from Ateneo de Manila University

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