Can You Spell These Physics Words?



By: Monica Lee

6 Min Quiz

Image: gremlin/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Physics covers a lot of areas such as Wave Mechanics, Electricity, Magnetism, Energy, Vectors, Scalars and so much more. That means for this quiz, your scientific vocabulary needs to be broad as well as deep. What's more, physics is a dynamic and evolving field. New areas are constantly being discovered and investigated. These ground-breaking areas include Nuclear and Particle Physics, as well as Quantum Mechanics and Relativity, to name a few. 

Therefore, don't be surprised if you see a vocabulary word that is not as familiar as you'd like it to be. Not to worry, as with all sciences, most words are usually based on Greek and Latin roots, so if you have a good knowledge of these, you should be able to select from the multiple choice answers to find the word that is correctly spelled and earn a high score. 

Best of all, physics has some really cool words in its lexicon, like harmonic motion, magnetism and equilibrium to explain how things relate to each other in our world. It's very Zen-like at times. So become one with the universe and test your megawatt knowledge (or is it megawat knowlede?) and breeze through this quiz. Go on, let the force, lumen and joules be with you. 

What is the type of energy an object has due to its motion?

Your hand has kinetic energy as it moves the cursor or mouse to select an answer. Kinetic energy is the energy of a moving body.


It's a type of velocity, but which is the correct term?

Terminal velocity is the term that describes when a falling object won't go any faster due to the pressure against the object (from air pressure and gravity).


If a mass has mechanical energy, what kind of energy does it have?

Potential energy is defined as stored energy. The energy that a ball has when perched at a top of a steep hill as it is about to roll down is an example of potential energy. It turns into kinetic energy once it moves.


You don't need to see or feel it to know the energy is moving. What is this called?

Radiation is the transmission of energy in the form of waves or particles through space. It can be energy in the form of radio waves, X-rays or other electromagnetic radiation.


If you like your ice cream cold, and not melted, you need to know more about what?

A refrigerant is a material used to cool something to a temperature that is lower than the area around it. Fluorocarbons, ammonia and sulfur dioxide are common refrigerants.


If you have a sick child, you need one of these, what is it?

A thermometer measures a response of a substance to heat. In physics there are several types of thermometers including liquid-in-glass thermometers, spring thermometers, digital thermometers and more.


It's one of the most important things you can do to an instrument before using it for an experiment. What is it?

When you check or make adjustments to an instrument of measurement so that it agrees with an applied standard, (within a specified accuracy) you are calibrating it.


Think of the trajectory of a cannon ball. What kind of motion is this?

The projectile motion is the curved path that an object follows when thrown or launched. It's the motion of the object moving under the influence of gravity.


It's another way to say "equal balance" what is it?

Equilibrium is the condition of equal balance between opposing forces. A simple example is a teeter totter. When the weights (mass plus gravity) at both ends are equal, the board remains level.


Which of these words refers to waves combining?

Ready to surf the BIG waves? You'll want to have some constructive interference in the ocean. It's the type of interference where waves combine so that the resulting wave is bigger than the original waves.


This type of energy is an internal type of energy. What is it?

Thermal energy is the internal energy of an object due to the kinetic energy of its molecules. The faster the molecules are moving, the higher the temperature or its thermal energy.


The _______ is often represented by the lower case "f." How do you correctly spell this word?

The frequency of a wave is the number of times per second that the wave cycles. Frequency is measured in Hertz, or cycles per second.


Reduce the friction to zero if you want an accurate one of these. Which word describes what you're setting up?

A pendulum has a mass connected to a rod or rope. This pendulum activity is called simple harmonic motion as it swings back and forth without friction.


This describes a relationship between two things. Which word is it?

Directly proportional describes a relationship between two things such that as one increases, the other increases at the same rate.


You know that hot air rises, but what type of current is that?

When molecules are heated, they move from one place to another, taking their heat with them and expanding outward. This creates convection currents of air due to the temperature variations.


This word has to do with absorbing and emitting light. What's the correct spelling?

Fluorescence is the ability to absorb light of short wavelength and emit light of a longer wavelength. For example, fluorescence causes a mineral to "glow" in the visible spectrum when exposed to ultraviolet light.


How do spell the word that describes the rate at which velocity changes over time?

Acceleration is a measure of how fast velocity changes. The formula is the change of velocity divided by the change of time. This force has both a magnitude (a value) and a direction.


Light needs to be measured to describe its intensity, which word does that?

Light needs to be measured so that it can be placed into calculations and formulas to predict results. Luminous flux is the quantity of the energy of the light emitted per second in all directions.


This is a measure of rotation rate. What is it?

This measure of rotation rate is also called angular speed, radial frequency and radian frequency. In SI units, angular frequency is measured in radians per second.


This word means going back and forth repeatedly between two positions or states. Which word might that be?

An oscillation is a periodic motion that repeats itself in a regular cycle. Examples include a sine wave, the swinging of a pendulum, or the up-and-down motion of a spring with a weight.


This word describes the ways in which waves travel. Which word is it?

Sound waves moves through a medium by propagation. What is actually happening is the molecules collide with each other in the same direction as the sound is moving.


A charge can't get through the substance because it has an __________. Fill in the blank.

The white plastic on the copper wires is an example of an electrical insulator. It keeps you from being shocked if you handle live wires because an electrical charge won't pass through the insulator.


A coil of wire, an electric current, and you've got one of these. What is it?

A solenoid is a coil of wire that acts like a magnet when a flow of electricity passes through it. When a current is run through a solenoid, it makes a magnet even stronger.


The more conductive a material is to magnetic fields, the higher is its _________. Fill in the blank.

The higher the magnetic permeability. the better the material allows for magnetic flux to pass through it. Examples of substances with high permeability are copper and gold.


You learned this phenomenon in middle school with the sound of a train whistle, what is it?

Remember the example? You stand at the train station as the train blows its whistle and chugs past. You notice the pitch of the whistle gets higher or lower depending on whether the train is approaching or receding.


What is the word that describes an object that resists being moved?

Inertia is what resists a change in the speed or direction of a moving object until an outside force acts upon it.


When all forces pass through a common point, what is it called?

To find the result of two concurrent forces, you can't just add the forces together. That's because you're dealing with vectors that have a magnitude and a direction, both of which need to be taken into account.


When measuring energy flow in sounds, you might use this. What is it?

The picowatt is a unit of sound power, a unit that is one trillion times smaller than a watt. Sound intensity is usually expressed as the power of picowatts flowing through one square meter in the direction in which the sound propagates.


Balance is a synonym of this word. Which one is it?

You can have several forces acting upon an object at the same time while it is in a state of equilibrium, as long as the magnitude and direction of the force cancel each other out.


This equation describes the wave function of a particle or system. How do you spell it?

This important equation forms the basis of quantum mechanics. It is the most accurate theory of how subatomic particles behave. It was developed by Erwin Schrödinger, who was awarded the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics.


A prism does this. How do you spell it correctly?

A prism disperses white light by separating a wave of different frequencies into individual components or spectrum colors.


Some use elasticity to describe what this word means. Which word is it?

Modulus is a measure of the elasticity of a material under pressure. More specifically, it's the ability of a material to withstand changes in length when under lengthwise tension or compression.


It's the force that keeps an object moving in a circle. What's the word?

Centripetal force is the force that keeps an object that is already moving in a circular path. It does this by pulling the object toward the center of a circle.


If you don't want your substance to chemically change, what kind of mixture do you want?

If you are making concrete, you want the mixture of an aggregate, cement, and water to retain each of the components' original properties. In other words, you want it to be a heterogeneous mixture.


It causes certain metals to attract each other and stick together. What is it?

Magnetism refers to what occurs from the force caused by magnets, which are objects that produce fields that attract or repel other objects.


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