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Classical mechanics describes the motion of macroscopic objects, from projectiles to parts of machinery, and astronomical objects, such as spacecraft, planets, stars and galaxies. If the present state of an object is known it is possible to predict by the laws of classical mechanics how it will move in the future (determinism) and how it has moved in the past (reversibility). The earliest development of classical mechanics is often referred to as Newtonian mechanics. It consists of the physical concepts employed by and the mathematical methods invented by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and others in the 17th century to describe the motion of bodies under the influence of a system of forces. Later, more abstract methods were developed, leading to the reformulations of classical mechanics known as Lagrangian mechanics and Hamiltonian mechanics. These advances, made predominantly in the 18th and 19th centuries, extend substantially beyond Newton's work, particularly through their use of analytical mechanics. They are, with some modification, also used in all areas of modern physics. Classical mechanics provides extremely accurate results when studying large objects that are not extremely massive and speeds not approaching the speed of light. When the objects being examined have about the size of an atom diameter, it becomes necessary to introduce the other major sub-field of mechanics: quantum mechanics. To describe velocities that are not small compared to the speed of light, special relativity is needed. In case that objects become extremely massive, general relativity becomes applicable. However, a number of modern sources do include relativistic mechanics into classical physics, which in their view represents classical mechanics in its most developed and accurate form.
The following introduces the basic concepts of classical mechanics. For simplicity, it often models real-world objects as point particles (objects with negligible size). The motion of a point particle is characterized by a small number of parameters: its position, mass, and the forces applied to it. Each of these parameters is discussed in turn. In reality, the kind of objects that classical mechanics can describe always have a non-zero size. (The physics of very small particles, such as the electron, is more accurately described by quantum mechanics.) Objects with non-zero size have more complicated behavior than hypothetical point particles, because of the additional degrees of freedom, e.g., a baseball can spin while it is moving. However, the results for point particles can be used to study such objects by treating them as composite objects, made of a large number of collectively acting point particles. The center of mass of a composite object behaves like a point particle. Classical mechanics uses common-sense notions of how matter and forces exist and interact. It assumes that matter and energy have definite, knowable attributes such as location in space and speed. Non-relativistic mechanics also assumes that forces act instantaneously (see also Action at a distance).
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