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25
votes
1answer
343 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 ...
17
votes
1answer
673 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
242 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
votes
5answers
342 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
622 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
1k 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
138 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
votes
3answers
3k 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
404 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
719 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
493 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
671 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
125 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
620 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
119 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
votes
4answers
285 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
209 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
3answers
82 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 $p^a$ ...
3
votes
2answers
116 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
4answers
577 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
3answers
4k 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
201 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
191 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
2answers
202 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
votes
3answers
705 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
4answers
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
40 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
152 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
1answer
741 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
1answer
202 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
2answers
267 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
105 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 ...
3
votes
0answers
66 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
votes
0answers
32 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
votes
1answer
321 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
2answers
267 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. ...
2
votes
1answer
84 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
103 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
1answer
219 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
102 views

Gravitational potential energy negative?

Can the gravitational potential energy be negative? $PE=mgh$, we kind of have the same fig as this (minus the car)! and we choose the arbitrary point to be the G of the pendulum (point of ...
2
votes
1answer
68 views

Are there reasons for the discrepancies in absolute temp units - Kelvin vs. kelvins vs. degrees Kelvin?

Before 1968, the units for absolute temperature were described as "degrees Kelvin" or "degrees absolute." After that, the SI system got rid of the idea of "degree" for absolute temperature, so the ...
2
votes
2answers
276 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
811 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
727 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
48 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
117 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
65 views

Notation for Translation Group Generators

The generators of the translation group $T(4)$ are given below: $P_0 \equiv -i \begin{pmatrix} 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 1 \\ 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 \\ 0 ...
2
votes
0answers
42 views

Different factors of $4\pi$ and $\epsilon_0$ in Poisson equation [duplicate]

Some authors claim the Poisson equation is $$\nabla^2 \psi = -\dfrac{\rho}{\epsilon\epsilon_0}$$ (e.g. Wikipedia) whereas other ones (e.g. Andelmann) claim it is $$\nabla^2 \psi = ...
2
votes
0answers
91 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 ...