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; ...

learn more… | top users | synonyms

12
votes
3answers
2k views

Significance of the second focus in elliptical orbits

1.In classical mechanics, using Newton's laws, the ellipticity of orbits is derived. It is also said that the center of mass is at one of the foci. 2.Each body will orbit the center of the mass of ...
12
votes
2answers
401 views

Why does vibration loosen screws?

I am trying to figure out why vibrations (say, from an engine) loosen screws. It seems to me that there is evident symmetry between loosening and tightening a screw. I am wondering what breaks this ...
12
votes
3answers
7k 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 ...
12
votes
4answers
1k views

How to sail downwind faster than the wind?

Recently a group set a record for sailing a wind-powered land vehicle directly down wind, and a speed faster than wind speed. Wikipedia has a page talking about it, but it doesn't explain exactly how ...
11
votes
9answers
4k views

Book about classical mechanics

I am looking for a book about "advanced" classical mechanics. By advanced I mean a book considering directly Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulation, and also providing a firm basis in the geometrical ...
11
votes
5answers
983 views

Is it possible to recover Classical Mechanics from Schrödinger's equation?

Let me explain in details. Let $\Psi=\Psi(x,t)$ be the wave function of a particle moving in a unidimensional space. Is there a way of writing $\Psi(x,t)$ so that $|\Psi(x,t)|^2$ represents the ...
11
votes
2answers
602 views

A problem inspired by the ice hockey game

Question shortly: How far would a hockey puck slide in two different cases: The puck is sliding (translation) on ice and spinning on its flat surface. The puck is sliding on ice without spinning. ...
11
votes
3answers
892 views

Imagine a long bar floating in space. What force does it exert on itself in the middle due to gravity?

Problem If you had a long bar floating in space, what would be the compressive force at the centre of the bar, due to the self-weight of both ends? Diagram - what is the force at point X in the ...
11
votes
3answers
235 views

What could cause an asymmetric orbit in a symmetric potential?

My question can be summarized as: Given a potential with a symmetry (e.g. $z\rightarrow-z$), should I expect orbits in that potential to exhibit the same symmetry? Below is the full motivation for ...
11
votes
3answers
497 views

Car accident, put in park or neutral?

I was waiting on a red light the other day and was wondering. If I'm in my car, not moving and I see a car that's going to hit me from behind. Would I (my body) be safer if I put on the break or if ...
11
votes
5answers
1k views

Basic mechanics problems, unsolvable by brute-force numerical integration

I'm looking for simple problems in theoretical mechanics that are impossible or unreasonably difficult to solve by means of "brute-force" numerical integration of Newton or Euler-lagrange equations. ...
11
votes
2answers
2k views

Are there examples in classical mechanics where D'Alembert's principle fails?

D'Alembert's principle suggests that the work done by the internal forces for a virtual displacement of a mechanical system in harmony with the constraints is zero. This is obviously true for the ...
11
votes
2answers
884 views

How to model/simulate pressures and flows in a network of pipes

I'm having a hard time finding information on how to model/simulate this. I attached a couple files, both of which show an example tank & pump network. It's just nonsense that I made up for this ...
11
votes
3answers
2k views

Why do we use operators in quantum mechanics?

In classical mechanics, physical quantities, such as, e.g. the coordinates of position, velocity, momentum, energy, etc, are real numbers, but in quantum mechanics they become operators. Why is this ...
11
votes
1answer
197 views

Theorems on instability of classical systems of charged particles?

Classically, a hydrogen atom should not be stable, since it should radiate away all its energy. I remember hearing from my favorite freshman physics prof ca. 1983 about a general theorem to the effect ...
10
votes
2answers
508 views

Essential background for QFT study

The preface to Mark Srednicki's "Quantum Field Theory" says that to be prepared for the book, one must recognize and understand the following equations: $$\frac{d\sigma}{d\Omega} = ...
10
votes
2answers
377 views

Lagrangian Mechanics - Commutativity Rule $\frac{d}{dt}\delta q=\delta \frac{dq}{dt} $

I am reading about Lagrangian mechanics. At some point the difference between the temporal derivative of a variation and variation of the temporal derivative is discussed. The fact that the two are ...
10
votes
4answers
405 views

Question about canonical transformation

I was going through my professor's notes about Canonical transformations. He states that a canonical transformation from $(q, p)$ to $(Q, P)$ is one that if which the original coordinates obey ...
10
votes
2answers
903 views

Deriving the action and the Lagrangian for a free point particle in Special Relativity

My question relates to Landau & Lifshitz, Classical Theory of Field, Chapter 2: Relativistic Mechanics, Paragraph 8: The principle of least action. As stated there, to determine the action ...
10
votes
4answers
328 views

Non-linear systems in classical mechanics

In general, what is meant by non-linear system in classical mechanics? Does it always concern the differential equations one ends up with (any examples would be greatly appreciated)? If so, is it ...
10
votes
1answer
960 views

In the Lennard-Jones potential, why does the attractive part (dispersion) have an $r^{-6}$ dependence?

The Lennard-Jones potential has the form: $$U(r) = 4\epsilon\left[ \left(\frac{\sigma}{r}\right)^{12} - \left(\frac{\sigma}{r}\right)^{6} \right]$$ The (attractive) $r^{-6}$ term describes the ...
10
votes
2answers
681 views

If the Earth didn't rotate, how would a Foucault pendulum work?

How does the Foucault pendulum work exactly, and would it work at all, if the Earth didn't rotate?
10
votes
4answers
3k views

Meaning of the Poisson bracket as a coordinate transformation

Well, the Possion bracket: $ \{ A(q,p),B(q,p) \} \equiv \sum_{s} \left( \dfrac{\partial A}{\partial q_{s}} \dfrac{\partial B}{\partial p_{s}} - \dfrac{\partial A}{\partial p_{s}} \dfrac{\partial ...
10
votes
1answer
209 views

The most stable way of standing in a bus

Here's what's bugging me for quite a long time. Imagine the every day situation, that you are standing in a bus with your back on wall having only limited space on the floor and no handle to hold. You ...
10
votes
9answers
2k views

What is the difference between translation and rotation?

What is the difference between translation and rotation ? If this were a mathematics site, the question would be at best naive. But this is physics site, and the question must be interpreted as a ...
10
votes
1answer
408 views

D-brane Lagrangian?

As I understand it from the threads I read, D-branes are viewed as somewhat secondary to strings: If I know what all the open strings do, then I know what the D-branes do as well. But if the D-brane ...
10
votes
3answers
613 views

What exactly is a virtual displacement in classical mechanics?

I'm reading Goldstein's Classical Mechanics and he says the following: A virtual (infinitesimal) displacement of a system refers to a change in the configuration of the system as the result of any ...
10
votes
1answer
137 views

Is there a trajectory which is not a solution of the equation of motion but satisfies all conservation laws?

I'm wondering whether conservation laws are sufficient to imply equations of motions. Specifically: 1) In classical mechanics of point particles, are conservation of energy, conservation of momentum ...
10
votes
4answers
3k views

Why does my door shut faster when the window is open?

I've noticed that if I shut my door when the window is open in a room, the door will tend to shut faster. If I shut the door when the window is closed with a normal force it will not fully close as if ...
10
votes
2answers
213 views

Conservation of phase space volume in Rindler space-time

Let us consider Rindler space-time, i.e. Minkowski space-time as seen by a constantly accelerating observer. My question is, does Liouville's theorem, i.e. the conservation of phase space volume in ...
10
votes
1answer
359 views

What's the physical intuition for symplectic structures?

I always thought about symplectic forms as elements of areas in little subspaces because of the Darboux theorem, however I cannot get the physical intuition for it and for the hamiltonian vector ...
10
votes
1answer
373 views

What makes a Lagrangian a Lagrangian?

I just wanted to know what the characteristic property of a Lagrangian is? How do you see without referring to Newtonian Mechanics that it has to be $L=T-V$? People constructed a Lagrangian in ...
10
votes
3answers
661 views

Which direction will Coriolis forces deflect a bubble?

If I throw a ball straight up, it deflects slightly to the west due to Coriolis forces. If instead I watch a bubble float up in water, is the bubble deflected west, east, or neither? I think the ...
10
votes
1answer
422 views

Small oscillations of heavy string

I'm solving problem in classical field theory and I have some difficulties. I'm trying to study small oscilations of heavy string with fixed points. First of all I wrote down this Lagrangian: ...
9
votes
6answers
1k views

Why F=ma and not F=ma'?

What would happen if instead of $F=m*d^2x/dt^2$, we had $F=m*d^3x/dt^3$ or higher? Intuitively, I have always seen a justification for ~1/r^2 forces as the "forces beeing divided equally over the ...
9
votes
4answers
18k views

Which is easier, pushing or pulling?

It is generally assumed, from a person's perspective, that pushing a cart is more easier than pulling one. But why? Is there any difference in terms of force required to achieve the same amount of ...
9
votes
5answers
1k views

Classical limit of quantum mechanics

I have heard that one can recover classical mechanics from quantum mechanics in the limit the $\hbar$ goes to zero. How can this be done? (Ideally, I would love to see something like: as $\hbar$ ...
9
votes
4answers
828 views

Is there a proof from the first principle that the Lagrangian L = T - V?

Is there a proof from the first principle that for the Lagrangian $L$, $$L = T\text{(kinetic energy)} - V\text{(potential energy)}$$ in classical mechanics? Assume that Cartesian coordinates are ...
9
votes
2answers
554 views

Why does the classical Noether charge become the quantum symmetry generator?

It is often said that the classical charge $Q$ becomes the quantum generator $X$ after quantization. Indeed this is certainly the case for simple examples of energy and momentum. But why should this ...
9
votes
2answers
402 views

When “unphysical” solutions are not actually unphysical

When solving problems in physics, one often finds, and ignores, "unphysical" solutions. For example, when solving for the velocity and time taken to fall a distance h (from rest) under earth gravity: ...
9
votes
4answers
440 views

Is the quantization of the harmonic oscillator unique?

To put it a little better: Is there more than one quantum system, which ends up in the classical harmonic oscillator in the classial limit? I'm specifically, but not only, interested in an ...
9
votes
1answer
1k views

Fractal nature of turbulence

Someone described to me the difficulty of numerically simulating turbulence as that as you look at smaller length scales you see more structure like you do in a fractal. Searching on google for ...
9
votes
5answers
341 views

Driving on snowy roads

'tis the season as they say! It seems to me obvious that it's better to drive in high gear on snowy roads to reduce the torque. However, there are completely opposite advices being given on ...
9
votes
1answer
217 views

Cutting a circle and moving endpoints

A metal (or otherwise, suitably elastic) circle is cut and the points are slid up and down a vertical axis as shown: How would one describe the resultant curves mathematically?
9
votes
1answer
206 views

Are the Hamiltonian and Lagrangian always convex functions?

The Hamiltonian and Lagrangian are related by a Legendre transform: $$ H(\mathbf{q}, \mathbf{p}, t) = \sum_i \dot q_i p_i - \mathcal{L}(\mathbf{q}, \mathbf{\dot q}, t). $$ For this to be a Legendre ...
9
votes
3answers
535 views

How do we explain accelerated motion in Newtonian physics and in modern physics?

Maybe my question will seem stupid, but I am not a physicist so I have some problems understanding a classic Newtonian experiment: in the bucket experiment, why does he have to introduce the absolute ...
9
votes
4answers
955 views

Shape of rotating rope (lasso problem?)

Let's take a wire or a rope. I usually do this with a chain or my scarf. I fixate one end in my hand and apply rotation (by subtle movements of this endpoint like spinning a lasso). The rope gets ...
9
votes
3answers
701 views

What happens when a ball stops bouncing?

If I were to drop a bouncy ball onto a surface, each successive bounce will be lower in height as energy is dissipated. Eventually, however, the ball will cease to bounce and will remain in contact ...
9
votes
0answers
374 views

Classical mechanics: Generating function of lagrangian submanifold

I have a short question regarding the geometrical interpretation of the Hamilton-Jacobi-equation. One has the geometric version of $H \circ dS = E$ as an lagrangian submanifold $L=im(dS)$, which is ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Why does water gulp out of a water bottle with a narrow opening instead of a steady flow?

For example, take a water bottle. Fill it with water and then turn it upside down. Instead of flowing steadily downward, it gulps down in parts. Why?