A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted norms. It typically helps common efficiency or understanding but is not required, as opposed to a strict standard or protocol.

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Identification of particles and anti-particles

The identification of an electron as a particle and the positron as an antiparticle is a matter of convention. We see lots of electrons around us so they become the normal particle and the rare and ...
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7answers
12k views

Why is the charge naming convention wrong?

I recently came to know about the Conventional Current vs. Electron Flow issue. Doing some search I found that the reason for this is that Benjamin Franklin made a mistake when naming positive and ...
17
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1answer
828 views

Why is the partition function called ''partition function''?

The partition function plays a central role in statistical mechanics. But why is it called ''partition function''?
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2answers
621 views

Symbols of derivatives

What is the exact use of the symbols $\partial$, $\delta$ and $\mathrm{d}$ in derivatives in physics? How are they different and when are they used? It would be nice to get that settled once and for ...
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2answers
3k views

Difference between $\Delta$, $d$ and $\delta$

I have read the thread regarding 'the difference between the operators between $\delta$ and $d$', but it does not answer my question. I am confused about the notation for change in Physics. In ...
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2answers
2k views

Square bracket notation for dimensions and units: usage and conventions

One of the most useful tools in dimensional analysis is the use of square brackets around some physical quantity $q$ to denote its dimension as $$[q].$$ However, the precise meaning of this symbol ...
8
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2answers
305 views

How come the universe is made of matter and not antimatter?

Antimatter is like matter on opposite day: it has the same properties as the stuff that makes up planets, stars and galaxies, but one vital piece is different—its charge. The universe supposedly ...
7
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5answers
360 views

Is the number 1 a unit?

In dimensionless analysis, coefficients of quantities which have the same unit for numerator and denominator are said to be dimensionless. I feel the word dimensionless is actually wrong and should be ...
7
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1answer
973 views

Who (and Why) started the “electrons are negative, protons are positive” convention? [duplicate]

For some reason everyone labels electrons using a minus sign and protons using a positive sign, even though the opposite seems more intuitive: Who started the convention that electrons should be ...
7
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1answer
187 views

Why is there $1/2\pi$ in $\int\frac{dp}{2\pi}|p\rangle\langle p|$?

I'm reading Richard MacKenzie's lectures on path integrals and on page 7 he derives the propagator for the free particle as follows: $$ \begin{align} K &= \langle q'|e^{-iHT}|q\rangle \\ &= ...
7
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2answers
187 views

Historical reason behind using $ν$ instead of $f$ to stand for frequency in the equation $E=hν$?

Normally, we use the letter $f$ to stand for frequency in equations. $$T = 1/f$$ $$v = \lambda f$$ $$Φ +E_k = h f$$ So I'm curious as why the letter $ν$ (nu) is used to represent frequency in the ...
5
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3answers
4k views

What does “clockwise” mean, exactly? [closed]

I am in the middle of a discussion with a friend about the meaning of the term "clockwise". Wikipedia indicates that a clockwise rotation goes as top-right-down-left. However, my friend argues that ...
5
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2answers
419 views

Why do we order the variables in certain physics questions the way we do?

I'm writing a script involving physics equations, and someone complained that my script outputs $F = m a$ as $F = a m$, as well as outputting $E_p = m g h$ as $E_p = g h m$; another example would be ...
5
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2answers
2k views

Is negative 20 psi / 1.5 bar possible?

If I understand correctly, negative pressure usually means relative pressure: the difference between inside and outside. If outside is normal (1 bar, 15 psi, 100 kPa etc), how low can the (relative) ...
5
votes
3answers
583 views

Why do we still not have an exact definition for a kilogram?

I read that there is an effort to define a kilogram in terms that can exactly be reproduced in a lab. Why has it taken so long to get this done? It seems this would be fairly important. Edit Today I ...
5
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2answers
742 views

Why is there a minus sign in this wave equation derivation?

My book on quantum mechanics suggests a derivation of the wave equation $$\left(\Delta - \frac{1}{c^2} \frac{\partial^2}{\partial t^2} \right) \psi(\bar{r},t) = 0$$ from the photon energy-impulse ...
5
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1answer
136 views

Explicit form of $\gamma^\mu \partial_\mu$ in the Dirac equation

I'm in an introductory particle physics class, and in performing manipulations on the Dirac equation, my instructor expands the $\gamma^\mu \partial_\mu$ term as: $$\gamma^\mu \partial_\mu = \gamma^0 ...
5
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1answer
754 views

Is 4-volume element a scalar or a pseudoscalar in special relativity?

In general relativity 4-volume element $\mathrm{d}^4 x = \mathrm{d} x^0\mathrm{d} x^1 \mathrm{d} x^2\mathrm{d} x^3$ is clearly a pseudoscalar (or scalar density) of weight 1 since it transforms as ...
5
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3answers
127 views

Charge signs in current

I've had recently an argument with my friend about different charge carriers in an electric current. Suppose that electrons and holes are moving in the same direction. It effectively means we have ...
4
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3answers
104 views

Metric signature conventions: minus sign for $x^a$ or $x_a$?

Say I use the metric signature $(-+++)$. Then $\partial_a=(\partial_0,\partial_i)=(-\partial^0,\partial^i)$, but $\partial^a=(\partial^0,\partial^i)=(-\partial_0,\partial_i)$. The same goes for $p^a$ ...
4
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4answers
575 views

Sign of Work and potential energy in electrostatics

Conceptual question: Suppose we have a configuration of point charges. If the potential of the energy of the system is negative, this means work is positive. I'm kind of rusty with my mechanics, ...
4
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2answers
133 views

Getting the Lagrangian from the action in curved spacetime

Suppose I have this action: $$ S = \int \mathrm d^4 x\sqrt{-g}\times \text{something}$$ where $g$ is the determinant of the metric. Should I take the Lagrangian to be: $$ \mathcal L = \sqrt{-g} ...
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2answers
215 views

$2\pi$ and Feynman Rules

I notice a $2\pi$ term in the $\delta$-function when trying to construct an amplitude using the Feynman Rules. The $2\pi$ also appears as an integration measure to enforce normalisation in the phase ...
4
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0answers
78 views

Can a discoverer give the name he wants to his finding? [migrated]

Let's assume that some scientist discovers a phenomenon that has never been noticed before. He wants to write a paper about it but he doesn't want to constantly write "effect of change of some ...
4
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2answers
92 views

Weinberg QFT Chapter 5: gamma matrices consistency

Currently reading through Weinberg's QFT book (Vol. 1) [readable in parts here]. In his derivation of the causal Dirac field in Ch. 5, he chooses his gamma matrices as (5.4.17) \begin{align} ...
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0answers
263 views

Dirac action and conventions

I have a (possibly) fundamental question, which is driving me crazy. Notation When considering the Dirac action (say reading Peskin's book), one have $\int ...
3
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4answers
220 views

What is the right order of creation operators?

I started to learn some basics of second quantisation and specifically its use in quantum chemistry. Currently I'm reading this book by Péter R. Surján, and here is small excerpt from it. If one ...
3
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2answers
265 views

What is average life in radioactivity and what is its significance?

By definition, average life of radioactive sample is the amount of time required for it to get decayed to 36.8% of its original amount. But what is the significance of 36.8% and why has that value ...
3
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4answers
6k views

Why the direction of dipole moment is from negative charge to positive charge?

An electric dipole moment is defined as $p = q\times 2d$. How to understand it physically? Why the direction of the electric dipole moment is from negative charge to positive charge?
3
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2answers
136 views

The force of gravity is $F_g=+mg$ or $F_g=-mg$?

I have noticed that in my classical mechanics course and in the textbook I read for it, seem to ignore the gravitational force's position. For example, if we were dealing with a system with a ball of ...
3
votes
4answers
803 views

Potential energy sign conventions

Almost every book on physics that I read have some weird and non-clear explanations regarding the potential energy. Ok, I do understand that if we integrate a force over some path, we'll get a ...
3
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2answers
113 views

The definition of transpose of Lorentz transformation (as a mixed tensor)

In the appendix of the textbook of Group Theory in Physics by Wu-Ki Tung, the transpose of a matrix is defined as the following, Eq.(I.3-1) $${{A^T}_i}^j~=~{A^j}_i.$$ This is extremely confusing for ...
3
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1answer
51 views

Why is electric potential positive?

If there is a positive charge $q$ at the origin of a coordinate system, the electric potential $\phi$ at a distance $r$ from $q$ is (by definition, if we take the point of zero potential at infinity): ...
3
votes
1answer
216 views

Sign crazyness on the stress energy tensor?

I would like to know on what depends the sign of the stress energy tensor in the following formula : $T_{\mu\nu}=\pm(\rho c^2+P)u_{\mu}u_{\nu} \pm P g_{\mu\nu}$ In my case the metric is equal to ...
3
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2answers
215 views

Inner Product Spaces

I am trying to reconcile the definition of Inner Product Spaces that I encountered in Mathematics with the one I recently came across in Physics. In particular, if $(,)$ denotes an inner product in ...
3
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3answers
787 views

How is Planck's law defined?

Now, I found three different definitions of Planck's law: $$ P_1(\nu,T) = \frac{8 \pi}{c}\frac{h \nu^{3}}{c^2} \frac{1}{e^{h\nu/kT}-1} $$ $$ P_2(\nu,T) = 2\frac{h \nu^{3}}{c^2} ...
3
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4answers
2k views

Why is potential energy negative when orbiting in a gravitational field?

I had to do a problem, and part of it was to find the mechanical energy of satellite orbiting around mars, and I had all of the information I needed. I thought the total mechanical energy would be the ...
3
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2answers
46 views

Why a minus in the equation of a paraxial plane wave?

paraxial plane wave = $\exp{(-jkz)}$ for waves propagating to the right I can't figure out why it's not $\exp{(+jkz)}$. Any help would be greatly appreciated, thank you.
3
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1answer
169 views

A naive question about the Second Quantization?

Let's consider a single-particle(boson or fermion) with $n$ states $\phi_1,\cdots,\phi_n$(normalized orthogonal basis of the single-particle Hilbert space), and let $h$ be the single-particle ...
3
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2answers
335 views

How to reconcile the two definitions of work? (mechanical and thermodynamical)

When studying classical mechanics, work is defined as: $W_M=\int F_{tot} \hspace{2 mm} dx$. However, for thermodynamics, work is defined as: $W_T=\int -F_{ext} \hspace{2 mm} dx$. I'm having trouble ...
3
votes
1answer
83 views

Confusion about the Kronecker delta symbol

I am not sure I understand what the short-hand anti-symmetrization means. I.e. I know that $$\delta_{cd}^{[ab]} ~=~ \frac{1}{2}(\delta_{c}^{a}\delta_{d}^{b} - \delta_{c}^{b}\delta_{d}^{a})$$ but how ...
3
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1answer
48 views

Why is there not a delta here in this formula about temperature changes

I have been taught and have seen this formula many times $$Q=m\cdot c\cdot\Delta T$$ Where $Q$ is the internal energy, $m$ is the mass, $c$ is the specific heat and $\Delta T$ is the temperature. ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

Sign conventions for voltage drop and gain in circuit

In Sears and Zemansky's University Physics book and in many other books in English they define the following sign conventions (used for Kirchhoff loop rule for example): While in many other books ...
3
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1answer
252 views

Riemann tensor notation and Christoffel symbol notation

In paper by Barnich and Brandt Covariant theory of asymptotic symmetries, conservation laws and central charges they defined the Riemann tensor like this: $$R_{\rho\mu\nu}^{\quad \ \ ...
3
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1answer
138 views

Notations for statistical / systematic / numeric errors?

I constantly see the notation $$ 5.143(13) $$ for specifying that a value was measures / calculated to be 5.143 with an estimated error of 0.013. I have come to wonder though, just how commonly ...
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32 views

What are the proposed realizations in the New SI for the kilogram, ampere, kelvin and mole?

The metrology world is currently in the middle of overhauling the definitions of the SI units to reflect the recent technological advances that enable us to get much more precise values for the ...
3
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0answers
125 views

Convention in physics for [],{} and operators (QM)

I got a little mixed up with the convention in physics. Usually a hat means an operator. For a given electron-ion Hamiltonian $\hat{H}_{e-n}$, what are the difference between these: 1) ...
3
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0answers
91 views

What decides the signs and coefficients of terms in superfield?

I'm working on a problem in 3d field theory and I'm confused about how to write the superfields. Specifically, I'm not sure if the signs and coefficients of terms are purely a matter of convention or ...
3
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0answers
49 views

Sign convention with the $AdS$ metric

One would say that $AdS_n$ satisfies the equations for the scalar curvature (R) and Ricci tensor ($R_{\mu \nu}$), $R = - \frac{n(n-1)}{L^2}$ and $R_{ab} = - \frac{n-1}{L^2}g_{ab}$. But do the signs ...
2
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2answers
132 views

Solar spectrum units

Why is intensity $I$ on a graph of the solar spectrum always showed in units of $[\mathrm{W/m^2/nm}]$ instead of simply $[\mathrm{W/m^2}]$? (The y-axis on the graph.) It is apparently shown as ...