- Laws of physics. A large fraction of observed phenomena in the physical universe is accurately described by a small number of laws. Centuries of observation, analysis and logic built the present set of equations that embody these laws. Students see the fundamental ideas of mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics and quantum theory; these ideas are not so much the application of the laws as a discussion of the meaning of the laws.
- Problem solving. Breaking down complex situations into essential and manageable pieces is useful for almost everyone, and crucial for working physicists. This distillation allows the laws of physics to be applied to specific problems, and a well-organized report of the solution to be created.
- Measurement making. Although physicists hope the laws of physics are “mathematically, philosophically and esthetically complete,” their key utility follows from careful and successful comparison with experiment. This builds confidence in the predictive power of physics.