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56
votes
3answers
6k 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?
54
votes
8answers
13k 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 ...
54
votes
3answers
65k 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 ...
43
votes
7answers
6k 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 ...
34
votes
3answers
11k 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 ...
26
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, ...
18
votes
8answers
3k 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 ...
18
votes
1answer
1k views

How long would it take for a smelly object to evaporate?

This question is a follow on from this deleted one: http://physics.stackexchange.com/q/177894/26076 as I was writing what I thought to be a valid physics answer to it. Version 1 of this question ...
17
votes
2answers
4k 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
6answers
11k 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 ...
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 ...
15
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. Transcription: ...
14
votes
2answers
3k 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
1answer
514 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
5answers
1k 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
2answers
674 views

Does energy expenditure require movement? [duplicate]

In every formula I've seen that involves energy, I've also seen a distance element. Is there nothing that doesn't involve movement? For instance if I hold my arm out parallel to the ground with a ...
12
votes
2answers
29k 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

Why is pale coloured skin said to absorb more UV?

Many resources state that light skin/pale skin absorbs more UV than dark-colour skin. Doesn't black absorb maximum radiation? For an example, see this article: Natural selection therefore ...
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
4answers
3k 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.
9
votes
1answer
672 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 ...
9
votes
3answers
10k views

Does the human body have a resonant frequency? If so, how strong is it?

Inspired by this question on Music beta SE, I'm wondering if the human body has a strong resonant frequency. I guess the fact that it's largely a bag of jelly would add a lot of damping to the system, ...
8
votes
2answers
5k 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
3k views

Can microwaves affect WiFi?

I listen to the radio via my iPad with wifi. When I switch the microwave oven on, the radio cuts out. When the microwave oven is finished, the radio comes back on. (This is 100% reproducible!) So - ...
8
votes
3answers
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 ...
7
votes
4answers
3k views

Can the brain detect the passage of a neutrino?

On a few occasions either in bed or sitting around a fire, with my eyes closed, I rarely but sometimes see a very quick fast flash of white and then, with my eyes still closed, the flash disappears ...
7
votes
1answer
931 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
860 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
3answers
2k 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
285 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
1answer
2k 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
581 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
340 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
4k 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
425 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
350 views

Why do I hear a deep rumble when I cover my ears?

Probably a trivial thing but a simple google search didn't show anything relevant about it. If I cover both of my ears with my hands, I hear a very deep rumble. If I slowly move my hands away 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
191 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
1answer
491 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?
6
votes
0answers
242 views

Does this method of predicting the ratio of translational diffusion coefficients for a sphere and a sheet, work?

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
6answers
1k views

Why do we lift our feet when we walk?

I'm not sure if this is a good question for here- albeit if I asked it somewhere else I'd want the physical argument. Why do we lift our feet when we walk, as opposed to doing something like ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

Is plant photosynthesis more efficient than solar panels?

Is photosynthesis more efficient than solar panels? If so, by how much?
5
votes
4answers
170 views

How would swimming in low gravity work?

Sorry I know very little of actual physics, I'm not looking for hard and fast numbers just a general idea of how the mechanics would work. For the sake of argument, say you were on a planet or moon ...
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
4answers
885 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
588 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
1k views

Why does adding red light with blue light give purple light?

Our eyes contain 3 photoreceptor cells (cones) to perceive three wavelength ranges of light. Here is a visual representation of the wavelengths by these receptors (S, M and L). So if we have light ...
4
votes
2answers
451 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
4k 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 ...