Tagged Questions

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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Could a “living planet” alter its own trajectory only by changing its shape?

In Stanislaw Lem's novel Solaris the planet is able to correct its own trajectory by some unspecified means. Assuming its momentum and angular momentum is conserved (it doesn't eject or absorb any ...
10answers
7k views

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 ...
9answers
14k views

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 ...
2answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Why does a system try to minimize its total energy?

Why does a system like to minimize its total energy? For example, the total energy of a $H_2$ molecule is smaller than the that of two two isolated hydrogen atoms and that is why two $H$ atoms tries ...
5answers
3k 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 ...
12answers
3k views

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): ...
7answers
12k views

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 ...
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 ...
4answers
7k views

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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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.
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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 ...
7answers
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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 ...
4answers
4k views

What is momentum really?

Wikipedia defines momentum as in classical mechanics: In classical mechanics, linear momentum or translational momentum is the product of the mass and velocity of an object. However, an ...
4answers
11k 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?
10answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
5answers
6k 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 ...
4answers
3k 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 ...
2answers
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Is there a limit as to how fast a black hole can grow?

Astronomers find ancient black hole 12 billion times the size of the Sun. According to the article above, we observe this supermassive black hole as it was 900 million years after the formation of ...
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 ...
5answers
6k 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 ...
5answers
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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 ...
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 Euler-...
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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). ...
3answers
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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?
4answers
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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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
6answers
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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. ...
3answers
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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, ...
3answers
3k views

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 ...
9answers
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Why is it possible to drive a nail into a piece of wood with a hammer, but it is not possible to push a nail in by hand?

It is possible to drive a nail into a piece of wood with a hammer, but it is not possible to push a nail in by hand. Why is this so?
3answers
809 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. ...
3answers
3k 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?     &...
4answers
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When is the Hamiltonian of a system not equal to its total energy?

I thought the Hamiltonian was always equal to the total energy of a system but have read that this isn't always true. Is there an example of this and does the Hamiltonian have a physical ...
4answers
3k views

Tree level QFT and classical fields/particles

It is well known that scattering cross-sections computed at tree level correspond to cross-sections in the classical theory. For example the tree level cross-section for electron-electron scaterring ...
3answers
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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 ...
1answer
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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 ...
2answers
618 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 ...
3answers
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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 ...
7answers
7k views

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 effort/...
3answers
512 views

Classical proof of the gyromagnetic ratio $g=2$

I was reading Representing Electrons: A Biographical Approach to Theoretical Entities, by Theodore Arabatzis. At a certain point, where he is explaining the history of the magnetic moment of the ...
1answer
672 views

Vibrational anharmonic coupling and noise-induced spontaneous symmetry breaking in a hexagonal finite mechanical lattice

Happy holidays, everyone! The following is part question, part visual gallery, and part classical mechanics problem. Inspired by snow over the weekend I began simulating the vibrations of the ...
4answers
7k views

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 ...
2answers
495 views

Does the poisson bracket $\{f,g\}$ have any meaning if neither of $f$ or $g$ is the system's Hamiltonian?

Say one has a mechanical system with hamiltonian $H$, and two other arbitrary observables $f,g$. $H$ is super useful since $\{H, \cdot\} = \frac{d}{dt}$. But does $\{f,g\}$ give any useful information ...