Jack Brockway @ RU




Physics & Astronomy at Radford University

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Physics at Radford University. I teach primarily Astronomy and upper-level physics courses.

A 1987 graduate of The Citadel, I received my doctorate from Wake Forest University in 1999; I came to RU in 2005 from SUNY Oswego.

What's this all about?

January 3, 2007 by jwb

An important question – why do we study physics, astronomy, or any other science. What is science (or physics, or astronomy)?

  • Science in the broadest sense refers to any system of objective knowledge. In a more restricted sense, science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on the scientific method, as well as to the organized body of knowledge gained by such research. We are seeking understanding through science, often (but not always) for practical application.
  • Physics (from the Greek, φύσις (phúsis), "nature" and φυσικη (phusiké), "knowledge of nature") is the science concerned with the discovery and understanding of the fundamental laws which govern matter, energy, space, and time. That is, physics deals with the elementary constituents of the universe and their interactions, as well as the analysis of systems best understood in terms of these fundamental principles.
  • Astronomy (Greek: αστρονομία, astronomia = astron + nomos, literally, "law of the stars") is the science of celestial objects (e.g., stars, planets, comets, and galaxies) and phenomena that originate outside the Earth's atmosphere (e.g., aurorae and cosmic background radiation). It is concerned with the evolution, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and motion of celestial objects, as well as the formation and development of the universe.

Science is the pursuit of knowledge. While the definition of knowledge is a lively debate for philosophers, it is traditionally held that at least three criteria must be fulfilled; that in order to count as knowledge, a statement must be justified, true, and believed. The scientific method is a means to justify belief.

In this way, science is different from other disciplines. The scientific method provides a mechanism to distinguish truth from falsehood. In science, and in my classes, we'll not debate the merits (or lack thereof) of any subject to which we cannot apply scientific method.

Actually, we'll make fun of astrology.


There are problems to whose solution I would attach an infinitely greater importance than to those of mathematics, for example touching ethics, or our relation to God, or concerning our destiny and our future; but their solution lies wholly beyond us and completely outside the province of science.
— Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855)