Classical mechanics refers to the classical (i.e., non-relativistic, non-quantum) study of physics. Three major formulations of classical mechanics are newtonian mechanics, lagrangian mechanics, and hamiltonian mechanics. The latter two are rather useful in extensions to Classical Mechanics; ...

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Is Angular Momentum truly fundamental?

This may seem like a slightly trite question, but it is one that has long intrigued me. Since I formally learned classical (Newtonian) mechanics, it has often struck me that angular momentum (and ...
54
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2answers
5k views

Why does dry spaghetti break into three pieces as opposed to only two?

You can try it with your own uncooked spaghetti if you want; it almost always breaks into three when you snap it. I am asking for a good physical theory on why this is along with evidence to back it ...
46
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8answers
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What's the point of Hamiltonian mechanics?

I've just finished a Classical Mechanics course, and looking back on it some things are not quite clear. In the first half we covered the Lagrangian formalism, which I thought was pretty cool. I ...
42
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14answers
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Why quantum mechanics?

Imagine you're teaching a first course on quantum mechanics in which your students are well-versed in classical mechanics, but have never seen any quantum before. How would you motivate the subject ...
37
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4answers
2k views

Is there a Lagrangian formulation of statistical mechanics?

In statistical mechanics, we usually think in terms of the Hamiltonian formalism. At a particular time $t$, the system is in a particular state, where "state" means the generalised coordinates and ...
34
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11answers
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Mechanics around a rail tank wagon

Some time ago I came across a problem which might be of interest to the physics.se, I think. The problem sounds like a homework problem, but I think it is not trivial (i am still thinking about it): ...
33
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5answers
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What are washers for? [closed]

When you attach a bolt to something using a nut, it is clear what the roles of the nut and bold are. The more you tighten the bolt the more secure your fastening. However, you are often also told ...
33
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2answers
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The Impossibility ( or Possibility) of Solving $N$-Body Problem

One can obtain the solution to a $2$-Body problem analytically. However, I understand that obtaining a general solution to a $N$-body problem is impossible. Is there a proof somewhere that shows this ...
32
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7answers
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Why the Principle of Least Action?

I'll be generous and say it might be reasonable to assume that nature would tend to minimize, or maybe even maximize, the integral over time of $T-V$. Okay, fine. You write down the action ...
31
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17answers
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Why does one experience a short pull in the wrong direction when a vehicle stops?

When you're in a train and it slows down, you experience the push forward from the deceleration which is no surprise since the force one experiences results from good old $F=m a$. However, the moment ...
31
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4answers
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Why can't we feel the Earth turning?

The Earth turns with a very high velocity, around its own axis and around the Sun. So why can't we feel that it's turning, but we can still feel earthquake.
31
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4answers
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What's the real fundamental definition of energy?

Some physical quantities like position, velocity, momentum and force, have precise definition even on basic textbooks, however energy is a little confusing for me. My point here is: using our ...
31
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4answers
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How can earthquakes shift the earth's axis?

One often comes across news articles that claim that an earthquake shifted the earth's axis. http://news.google.com/?q=earthquake%20shifted%20OR%20shifts%20earth%27s%20axis If you ignore the ...
31
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1answer
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Why does this object periodically turn itself?

See this video about 30 sec in. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dL6Pt1O_gSE Is this a real effect? Why does it seem to turn periodically? Can it be explained by classical mechanics alone? Is there a ...
28
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10answers
3k views

In reverse time, do objects at rest fall upwards?

I want to develop a game where time runs backwards, based on the idea that physical laws are reversible in time. However, when I have objects at rest on the earth, having gravity run backwards would ...
28
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10answers
4k views

What is the Earth truly rotating about/revolving around?

Earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun, the sun revolves around the galaxy, the galaxy is also moving. So Earth's net rotation as observed from a fixed inertial frame consists of all ...
27
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4answers
7k views

Blowing your own sail?

How it this possible? Even if the gif is fake, the Mythbusters did it and with a large sail it really moves forward. What is the explanation?
27
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8answers
4k views

Classical mechanics without coordinates book

I am a graduate student in mathematics who would like to learn some classical mechanics. However, there is one caveat: I am not interested in the standard coordinate approach. I can't help but think ...
26
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5answers
4k views

What symmetry causes the Runge-Lenz vector to be conserved?

Noether's theorem relates symmetries to conserved quantities. For a central potential $V \propto \frac{1}{r}$, the Laplace-Runge-Lenz vector is conserved. What is the symmetry associated with the ...
25
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5answers
5k views

Artificial gravity on rotating spaceship?

One of the possible ways to simulate gravity in outer space is to have a rotating spaceship, so that the centrifugal force experienced provides a gravity-like force. My question is: shouldn't this ...
25
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4answers
2k views

Physical and Geometrical interpretation of Differential Forms

I have a doubt about the physical and geometrical interpretation of differential forms. I've been studying differential forms on Spivak's Calculus on Manifolds, but my real intent is to use those ...
25
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12answers
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Will a ball slide down a lumpy hill over the same path it rolls down the hill?

Suppose I have a lumpy hill. In a first experiment, the hill is frictionless and I let a ball slide down, starting from rest. I watch the path it takes (the time-independent trail it follows). ...
25
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5answers
5k views

Why is the bell, well, bell shaped?

What is the significance about the bell shape, when its hit at the rim it rings/produces sound better than other shaped objects? If so could anyone explain a little bit on it. EDIT: From the ...
23
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7answers
18k views

What is the difference between Newtonian and Lagrangian mechanics in a nutshell?

What is Lagrangian mechanics, and what's the difference compared to Newtonian mechanics? I'm a mathematician/computer scientist, not a physicist, so I'm kind of looking for something like the ...
22
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6answers
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Why is superdeterminism generally regarded as a joke? [closed]

Before anything, I'm sorry for being an outsider coming to opine about your field. This is almost always a stupid decision, but I do have a good justification for this case. I've been reading about ...
22
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3answers
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Why doesn't a fly fall off the wall?

Pretty simple question, but not an obvious answer at least not to me. I mean you can't just place a dead fly on the wall and expect it to stay there, he will fall off due to gravity. At first I ...
22
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6answers
1k views

Rotation angle of a giant lily when a child crawls on its rim

Below is a picture of Giant Water Lily. Scientific Name: Victoria Amazonica. Leaves of some of these could be as big as 3 m diameter and carry a weight of 45kg spread evenly and can support a child. ...
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4answers
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Is there a physical system whose phase space is the torus?

NOTE. This is not a question about mathematics and in particular it's not a question about whether one can endow the torus with a symplectic structure. In an answer to the question What kind of ...
21
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3answers
775 views

Equations for bent paper

I have a paper which lies on a flat surface. The paper is fixed on one side and the opposite side can slide in the direction of the opposing side. As side end slides toward the other, a "bump" forms. ...
21
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3answers
607 views

How many points are required to make a black box

I have a black box with an arbitrary mass distribution inside it. I want to replace that object with n point masses without changing any mechanical properties of the box (center of mass, total mass, ...
20
votes
2answers
468 views

How to combine these equations of constraint?

I want to model a nonholonomic system of an arbitrary rotating disk in 3D, which rolls without slipping, and doesn't have to stay vertical. (think spinning a penny on the table) I want to use the ...
19
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3answers
3k views

How do crocodiles jump?

In a video (Here), I saw crocodiles jump vertically about three meters without using any solid surface. The wonderful thing is that when they start to jump, their vertical velocity is approximately ...
19
votes
3answers
2k views

Why does a Yo-Yo sleep, and then awaken?

What are the mathematics / mechanics principles behind a sleeping Yo-Yo, and in particular, what changes with a wrist-snap flick that causes it to "awaken" and return to your hand?     ...
19
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3answers
816 views

Does topology have any role in classical physics?

I've seen many applications of topology in Quantum Mechanics (topological insulators, quantum Hall effects, TQFT, etc.) Does any of these phenomena have anything in common? Is there any intuitive ...
19
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7answers
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The best way in which a man can pull a train

I have chosen this example as a paradoxical limit, but my question really regards the optimization, distribution and outcome of force when you try to pull a weight: how can you optimize your ...
19
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1answer
881 views

What happens, if a rocket is filled with a vacuum instead of high pressured air?

Suppose you put wheels under a compressed air tank so that it can move horizontally to the right and to the left. Suppose there is a nozzle on the right hand side of the tank (in the picture on the ...
19
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4answers
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Is the principle of least action a boundary value or initial condition problem?

Here is a question that's been bothering me since I was a sophomore in university, and should have probably asked before graduating: In analytic (Lagrangian) mechanics, the derivation of the ...
19
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3answers
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Phase space volume and relativity

Much of statistical mechanics is derived from Liouville's theorem, which can be stated as "the phase space volume occupied by an ensemble of isolated systems is conserved over time." (I'm mostly ...
18
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7answers
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How was the formula for kinetic energy found, and who found it?

My questions mostly concern the history of physics. Who found the formula for kinetic energy $E_k =\frac{1}{2}mv^{2}$ and how was this formula actually discovered? I've recently watched Leonard ...
18
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3answers
4k views

Deriving the Lagrangian for a free particle

I'm a newbie in physics. Sorry, if the following questions are dumb. I began reading "Mechanics" by Landau and Lifshitz recently and hit a few roadblocks right away. Proving that a free particle ...
17
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4answers
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Does screwdriver length matter?

Everyone who deals with screws and screwdrivers knows that long screwdrivers are stronger than short ones. However, I can't find any relationship between length of a screwdriver and mechanical ...
17
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3answers
4k views

Physical meaning of Legendre transformation

I would like to know the physical meaning of the Legendre transformation, if there is any? I've used it in thermodynamics and classical mechanics and it seemed only a change of coordinates?
17
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1answer
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Mechanics + Thermodynamics: Bouncing Ball

In preparation for an exam, I'm revisiting old exam questions. This one seems neat, but also quite complicated: A soccer ball with Radius $R=11cm$ is inflated at a pressure of $P =9 \times 10^4 ...
16
votes
16answers
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Can a car get better mileage driving over hills?

Two towns are at the same elevation and are connected by two roads of the same length. One road is flat, the other road goes up and down some hills. Will an automobile always get the best mileage ...
16
votes
4answers
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How does a car turn without any skidding?

The rear wheels of a car always face in the direction the car is moving. The front wheels are able to turn left or right and thus can point in the direction the car is moving towards. What I don't ...
16
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5answers
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Is my boss wrong about our mechanical advantage from our pulley system?

I work on a drilling rig as a roughneck and we had a lecture today (at the office) about mechanical advantage in pulley systems. Now, I know that my boss is well educated in oil drilling, but my ...
16
votes
7answers
846 views

Physics of how the cochlea isolates frequencies along its length?

Can anyone explain the separation of frequencies along the basilar membrane of the cochlea please? (equations would be nice) I understand it being related to the resistance caused by fluid in the ...
16
votes
6answers
12k 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
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5answers
414 views

Does the mass point move?

There is a question regarding basic physical understanding. Assume you have a mass point (or just a ball if you like) that is constrained on a line. You know that at $t=0$ its position is $0$, i.e., ...
15
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4answers
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Force as change in momentum vs. change in velocity

Is there ever a situation where the distinction between $F = m \frac{dv}{dt}$ and $F = \frac{dp}{dt}$ is important? I can't think of a situation where one is true and not the other (assuming only ...