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52
votes
3answers
5k views

How can ants carry items much heavier than themselves?

This morning I saw an ant and suddenly a question came to my mind: how do ants actually carry items much heavier than themselves? What's the difference (in physics) between us and them?
52
votes
3answers
41k views

Why can Hiroshima be inhabited when Chernobyl cannot?

There was an atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima, but today there are residents in Hiroshima. However, in Chernobyl, where there was a nuclear reactor meltdown, there are no residents living today (or ...
44
votes
8answers
9k views

Why does holding something up cost energy while no work is being done?

I read the definition of work as $$W ~=~ \vec{F} \cdot \vec{d}$$ $$\text{ Work = (Force) $\cdot$ (Distance)}.$$ If a book is there on the table, no work is done as no distance is covered. If I ...
42
votes
7answers
4k views

Cyclist's electrical tingling under power lines

It's been happening to me for years. I finally decided to ask users who are better with "practical physics" when I was told that my experience – that I am going to describe momentarily – prove that I ...
32
votes
3answers
6k views

Why is the sky not purple?

I realise the question of why this sky is blue is considered reasonably often here, one way or another. You can take that knowledge as given. What I'm wondering is, given that the spectrum of ...
24
votes
4answers
2k views

The physical definition of work seems paradoxical

So this is possibly a misunderstanding of the meaning of work, but all the Physics texts, sites, and wiki that I've read don't clear this up for me: In the simplest case with the simplest statement, ...
17
votes
8answers
2k views

What's the difference between running up a hill and running up an inclined treadmill?

Clearly there will be differences like air resistance; I'm not interested in that. It seems like you're working against gravity when you're actually running in a way that you're not if you're on a ...
17
votes
2answers
3k views

How does space affect the human body (no space suit, no space craft)

How does "outer space" affect the human body? Some movies show it as the body exploding, imploding or even freezing solid. I know space is essentially a vacuum with 0 pressure and the dispersion of ...
17
votes
3answers
1k views

Why does light of high frequency appear violet?

When people are asked to match monchromatic violet light with an additive mix of basic colours, they (paradoxically) mix in red. In fact, the CIE 1931 color space chromaticity diagram shows this ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

Why can't Humans run any faster?

If you wanted to at least semi-realistically model the key components of Human running, what are the factors that determine the top running speed of an individual? The primary things to consider would ...
13
votes
4answers
3k views

What does Peter Parkers formula represent?

Okay, so the trailer for the new Spider Man movie is out and appearently our friendly physicist from the neightborhood came up with something. However I can't find out what this is. ...
13
votes
1answer
488 views

Is colour, as represented using primary colours, accurate only to humans?

Slightly biological, hopefully physical enough to be answered. Suppose a magenta hue is represented by a mix of red and blue pigment. This is all very well for a creature with red and blue ...
13
votes
2answers
2k views

How strong of magnetic field would noticibly attract a person?

There is Iron in blood. Iron is magnetic. Roughly how strong would a magnet have to be to induce a noticeable attraction? It would be nice to know this for several distances. Also, do electromagnets ...
13
votes
5answers
905 views

Octave equivalence: biological or more?

I'm a graduate student in mathematics doing a bit of research in signal processing and Fourier analysis and I've come across a question that could probably be better answered by a physicist: Is the ...
12
votes
3answers
8k views

Google interview riddle and scaling arguments

I am puzzled by a riddle to which I have been told the answer and I have loads of difficulties to believe in the result. The riddle goes as follows: "imagine you are shrunk to the size of a coin ...
10
votes
5answers
2k views

What happens to light after it enters an eye

What happens to the light [energy] after it enters an eye and hits the rods and cones? I presume the energy becomes electrical, and it must be near 100% perfect, else our eyes would heat up? Or am I ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

Do eyeballs exhibit chromatic aberration?

Fairly straightforward question. If not, why not? I suspect that if they do, it is not perceived due to the regions of highest dispersion being in one's region of lowest visual acuity.
10
votes
2answers
19k views

Effects of a very large magnetic field on the human body

Ever since reading about the NHMFL I have always wondered about this and asked several people without getting a good satisfactory answer. My question is, considering the simplest case let's say a ...
9
votes
1answer
395 views

How much does increased world population contribute to global warming?

In 1974 there where 4 billion people on earth. Now in 2013 we passed 7 billion people. So the world population is nearly doubled in 40 years. Every living human being also haves a body temperature of ...
7
votes
1answer
797 views

Do we breathe air by creating a vacuum?

How do we suck air into our lungs, are we generating a vacuum?
7
votes
2answers
770 views

What physical forces pull/press water upwards in vegetation?

Each spring enormous amounts of water rise up in trees and other vegetation. What causes this stream upwards? Edit: I was under the impression that capillary action is a key factor: the original ...
7
votes
1answer
275 views

How can tunneling be one-way?

I was recently at a lecture given by Dr. Harry Gray, a biophysical chemist, where he talked about how proteins (specifically those involved in photosynthesis) are able to use various phenomena, like ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

What's the source of electricity for the human brain?

I keep hearing that there's always electrical activity taking place inside the human brain. Our heart and various other organs function because it receives electrical signals called impulse. But, ...
7
votes
1answer
425 views

``What is life?'' by a physicist definition [closed]

The question is about defining ``What is life?'' in the field of Physics. Whether there is any (insightful) way of defining ``What is life?'' from physicists. There are pioneer works, including ...
6
votes
2answers
4k views

How can an an ant lift 50 times its own weight and pull 30 times its weight?

According to many sites like this one, an ant can apparently lift 50 times its own weight and pull 30 times its weight. Is it true? Can it be proved using physics? Though most sites agree that an ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

How are the calories in food calculated?

This is intended to be a fun question. Calorimetry used for calculating the heat generated from chemical changes has been around for centuries, however, I suspect the process for calculating food ...
6
votes
1answer
3k views

Adverse Health Effects of Strong Radio Waves

A while ago, I was hiking near the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles. When I got to the sign, I found out it was fenced off; with several signs and a security camera promising prompt enforcement. As I was ...
6
votes
2answers
410 views

Quantum Computing and Animal Navigation

Someone sent me this link to a talk by Prof. Klaus Schulten from the University of Illinois: (my emphasis) Quantum Computing and Animal Navigation Quantum computing is all the rage nowadays. ...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

What are the characteristics of the magnetic field surrounding a human brain?

The human brain is said to produce a magnetic field resulting from the action potentials released inside the brain. What's the nature of such a field in terms of size and strength, and what is the ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

Are regular light bulbs better for the eyes than CFLs or “tube lights”?

I've heard that regular light bulbs with a filament are better for the eyes. Is the spectrum of one worse than the other? If so, are there any regulations for their use in industrial settings for ...
6
votes
2answers
148 views

While holding an object, no work done but costs energy (in response to a similar question)

I read the answer to Why does holding something up cost energy while no work is being done? and wanting to know more, I asked my teacher about it without telling him what I read here. Instead of ...
6
votes
0answers
229 views

Predicting the ratio of translational diffusion coefficients for a sphere and a sheet

Imagine that I have a spherical particle of molecular weight $M$, volume $V$, and some experimentally observed center-of-mobility translational diffusion coefficient $D_{sphere}$ in water. I take ...
5
votes
2answers
281 views

Do viruses suffer from quantum de-localization?

Consider some microscopic life form. It should obviously be localized in space, in the quantum-mechanical sense, if it is treated as a single particle (though it is composite). If its characteristic ...
5
votes
1answer
4k views

Newton's color Disk

How does Newton's color disk work? Newton's disk - Take a circular white color disk, make 7 equal intersections and paint section with respective VIBGYOR colors, now when you spin the disk in certain ...
5
votes
0answers
267 views

Do human bodies give off a consistent but unique radiation/electromagnetic/energy signature?

Is there any facet of the energy emitted by a human body that is consistent and unique - like a fingerprint, but a signal that could be detected by a remote device?
5
votes
4answers
796 views

A quantitative explanation of EM coherence domains in liquid with DNA

I've been looking with interest at a recent biology paper claiming that DNA molecules give off electromagnetic signals which can cause the same types of molecules to be reconstructed at a remote ...
4
votes
2answers
515 views

Human perception of distance

When we see things around us, distant objects look smaller to our eyes than nearby objects do. Is there any physics-related reason why our eyes or brain perceive things like this? Or if this is ...
4
votes
2answers
367 views

Why don't massive water-borne animals crush under their own weight when they're in water?

If you take a giant whale out of the water and put it on land for long enough, it will crush itself under its own weight. Why doesn't the animal get crushed under its own weight when it's in water?
4
votes
2answers
2k views

How do stun guns not kill people?

Now, I've seen a lot of answers to this sort of question, but most of them provide answers that don't actually make sense from a physics perspective. As an example of such an answer, I've commonly ...
4
votes
1answer
158 views

Radiation exposure to a child who was briefly in the presence of an adult who had received a 18FDG PET scan

I am a physician who thought she was good at math, but apparently am not as I cannot figure out this mathematical/physics question. (My background is obviously NOT nuclear medicine!) A family friend ...
4
votes
2answers
177 views

Difference in perception of unpolarized and polarized light

What is the difference in perception of polarized light and unpolarized light? What difference does polarized light cause to our eyes?
4
votes
2answers
444 views

Frequency of touch, taste, and scent [closed]

So I was thinking about sound - and how anything below 20Hz is basically inaudible to humans (because it is too low of a frequency to be recognized), as well as anything above around 20KHz (because it ...
4
votes
2answers
10k views

How efficient is the human body?

This question sort of comes to mind when hearing how efficient an internal combustion engine is turning chemical energy in mechanical energy (something like 20-40%) with lots of excess heat. As an ...
4
votes
2answers
709 views

Is plant photosynthesis more efficient than solar panels?

Is photosynthesis more efficient than solar panels? If so, by how much?
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Is any work done when I walk?

I am trying to figure out the amount of work done when I walk X miles or for X minutes. So I got Work=Force x Distance and Force=Mass x Acceleration and Acceleration=(change in velocity)/time. I am ...
4
votes
1answer
498 views

How do sunflowers rotate?

Is there a physics mechanism to explain how sunflowers rotate to always face the sun? I tried to find more information or references using google search, but no luck.
4
votes
2answers
486 views

Examples of circuitry using proton currents

Proton cuircuits and proton motive force are part of standard discussion in biology and processes involving photosynthesis. The sort of proton currents discussed in biology are obviously slightly ...
4
votes
3answers
145 views

How to calculate when wheels are better than legs?

We all know that it uses less energy to go by wheeled transport than walking if the terrain is smooth and there are not too many hills. We also all know that when going up steep hills we get off ...
4
votes
1answer
185 views

What is the minimum pressure difference for your ears to pop?

I'm assuming the answer to this largely varies from person to person. Assuming you could instantly change the pressure around your head by amount $\Delta p$, what is the minimum $\Delta p$ for your ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

Why do people with bigger hands/wrists have bigger torque advantages in arm wrestling?

I have arm wrestled people with less strength than me who win simply because they have thicker wrists, or larger hands. It has nary to do with having better technique either, because their wrist size ...