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22
votes
1answer
253 views

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 ...
16
votes
1answer
598 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''?
11
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
7
votes
5answers
325 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
votes
1answer
468 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
667 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
179 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
2k 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
votes
2answers
393 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
votes
2answers
364 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
462 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
votes
2answers
635 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
votes
1answer
116 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
votes
1answer
554 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
votes
3answers
105 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
115 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 ...
4
votes
4answers
150 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
votes
0answers
156 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
votes
2answers
80 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
votes
3answers
3k 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
votes
2answers
183 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
163 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
votes
3answers
658 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
votes
3answers
4k views

Why do we test electric fields with positive charges and not negative ones?

Is there any difference between using a positive versus a negative charge to test an electric field?
3
votes
2answers
36 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
votes
1answer
142 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
votes
4answers
467 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
votes
1answer
320 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
votes
2answers
225 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
161 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
votes
1answer
88 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
209 views

What is the difference between $Q=\Delta U+W$ and $\Delta U=Q+W$?

Is $Q=\Delta U+W$ for when the the work is done from the system while $\Delta U=Q+W$ is for when the work is done by the system? Will anybody explain this to me, please? When do we use $Q=\Delta ...
2
votes
1answer
70 views

Why are there two metric signature conventions?

I understand that it is more common in GR for the metric to be given a $(-,+,+,+)$ signature and more common in particle physics (or field theory, as Peskin & Schroeder tells me) to use the ...
2
votes
2answers
92 views

What distinguishes the particles we chose as matter from their antimatter equivalent? [duplicate]

Back before we knew about antimatter we just called everything matter. Ignoring CP-violation for a moment, there is nothing special about matter versus antimatter. Once we knew about antimatter it ...
2
votes
2answers
186 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
198 views

What is the origin of the naming convention for position functions?

In physics, position as a function of time is generally called d(t) or s(t). Using "d" is pretty intuitive, however I haven't ...
2
votes
2answers
139 views

Why do most of the motor with blades rotate anti-clockwise when viewed from the front facing the blade?

I have noticed that most of the motor with blades and engines rotate anti-clockwise direction when viewed from front facing blade. Is there any specific reason for this? Is it because of any kind of ...
2
votes
1answer
677 views

Thermodynamic cycles, when is the work negative/positive?

ever since I begun calculating thermodynamical cycles, I've had problems with determining the sign of the work along a particular bit of the cycle. Of course, I guess that an arbitrary cycle is ...
2
votes
1answer
601 views

Levi Civita Symbol and contravariance vs covariance

I have a question regarding the Levi-Civita symbol and contravariance vs covariance. Some of this was asked in a previous post, but I think I need more clarification. Consider the magnetic field: ...
2
votes
1answer
41 views

Sign convention for EMF

When we define the field generate by EMF, why there is not negative sign in $\mathcal{E} = \oint \vec{E} \cdot d\vec{l}$? Usually we talk about potential, there should be a negative sign, right?
2
votes
1answer
108 views

Plane waves in QFT

Suppose we work in the metric $(-1,+1)$. How do we describe an incoming particle with a plane wave; $\exp(-\mathrm ikx)$ or $\exp(+\mathrm ikx)$? What's the difference? Does it change if we work in ...
2
votes
0answers
78 views

Is the sign in the Schrodinger equation physical?

I always have trouble remembering the sign in factors like $\exp(\pm ik\cdot x)$ (I'll use mostly minus signature here) that arise in field theory. My mnemonic is to remember that the Schrodinger ...
1
vote
2answers
189 views

Should we necessarily express the dimensions of a physical quantity within square brackets? [duplicate]

For example, should we write the dimension of mass, e.g. $\mathrm{kg}$ as $[M]$ or is it enough to write it as $M$?
1
vote
3answers
5k views

Thermodynamics - Sign convention

I use the sign convention: Heat absorbed by the system = $q+$ (positive) Heat evolved by the system = $q-$ (negative) Work done on the system = $w +$ (positive) Work done by the system = $w -$ ...
1
vote
2answers
239 views

What is the most natural value of Heaviside step function at zero argument?

In many physical applications, the Heaviside step fuction is defined as $$H(x) = \left\{\begin{eqnarray} 1, \quad x>0 \\ 0, \quad x<0 \end{eqnarray}\right.$$ The value $H(0)$ is left undefined. ...
1
vote
1answer
470 views

Levi-Civita symbol in Euclidean space

Suppose a component of tensor field is described by $B^k=\varepsilon^{kij} \phi_{ij}$. If we define $B^k$ in an Euclidean space then does the rising or lowering of the indices of the Levi-Civita ...
1
vote
2answers
275 views

What is wrong with this form of the Maxwell-Faraday equation?

What is wrong with this form of the Maxwell-Faraday equation? $$\oint \vec{E}\ \partial \vec l= \bigcirc \hspace{-1.4em} \int \hspace{-.6em} \int \frac{\partial \vec B}{\partial t}$$ "Line integral ...
1
vote
1answer
62 views

When are leap seconds added in various time zones?

I understand that technically when a leap second is added, it is added after midnight UTC, but I'm unclear how the addition is handled in other timezones. For precise reckoning of course (e.g. ...
1
vote
1answer
127 views

Sign Conventions for Dirac equation

Is it possible to have the Dirac sign convention, (-,+,+,+) and at the same time use the metric $$dt^2-dx^2-dy^2-dz^2$$ i.e have opposing Dirac and metric tensor conventions?
1
vote
1answer
112 views

Conversion of the units BeV (US) and GeV (UN)

What is the difference in the definition of a billion electron volts in United states (US) and United Nations (UN)? When the US people say billion, do they mean $10^{12}$ or $10^9$?