The definition tag is used in situations where the question is either about how some term or concept is defined or where the validity of an answer depends on a subtle definition of some term or concept used in the question.

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21
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6answers
6k views

What is a tensor?

I have a pretty good knowledge of physics but couldn't understand what a tensor is. I just couldn't understand it, and the wiki page is very hard to understand as well. Can someone refer me to a good ...
18
votes
10answers
96k views

What is the difference between weight and mass?

My science teacher is always saying the words "weight of an object" and "mass of an object," but then my physics book (that I read on my own) tells me completely different definitions from the way ...
15
votes
1answer
2k views

What is the definition of how to count degrees of freedom?

This question resulted, rather as by-product, the discussion on how to count degrees of freedom (DOF). I extend that question here: Are necessary1 derivatives such as velocities counted as ...
28
votes
2answers
802 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 ...
10
votes
4answers
72k views

What is the difference between center of mass and center of gravity?

What is the difference between center of mass and center of gravity? These terms seem to be used interchangeably. Is there a difference between them for non-moving object on Earth, or moving objects ...
39
votes
1answer
5k views

Differentiating Propagator, Greens function, Correlation function, etc

For the following quantities respectively, could someone write down the common definitions, their meaning, the field of study in which one would typically find these under their actual name, and most ...
21
votes
5answers
7k views

What does it mean for a Hamiltonian or system to be gapped or gapless?

I've read some papers recently that talk about gapped Hamiltonians or gapless systems, but what does it mean? Edit: Is an XX spin chain in a magnetic field gapped? Why or why not?
34
votes
4answers
14k views

Are matrices and second rank tensors the same thing?

Tensors are mathematical objects that are needed in physics to define certain quantities. I have a couple of questions regarding them that need to be clarified: Are matrices and second rank tensors ...
11
votes
10answers
7k views

What is entropy really?

On this site, change in entropy is defined as the amount of energy dispersed divided by the absolute temperature. But I want to know: What is the definition of entropy? Here, entropy is defined as ...
10
votes
1answer
994 views

Operator Ordering Ambiguities

I have been told that $$[\hat x^2,\hat p^2]=2i\hbar (\hat x\hat p+\hat p\hat x)$$ illustrates operator ordering ambiguity. What does that mean? I tried googling but to no avail.
7
votes
3answers
2k views

Definitions and usage of Covariant, Form-invariant & Invariant?

Just wondering about the definitions and usage of these three terms. To my understanding so far, "covariant" and "form-invariant" are used when referring to physical laws, and these words are ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

Definition of the $Q$ factor?

According to Wikipedia, the $Q$ factor is defined as: $$Q=2\pi\frac{\mathrm{energy \, \, stored}}{\mathrm{energy \, \,dissipated \, \, per \, \, cycle}}.$$ Here are my questions: Does the energy ...
4
votes
2answers
967 views

What is charge actually? How to define it? [closed]

Is charge of something for (e.g.) an electron related to electromagnetic space if it exists due to energy, due to which it may have mass? I don't know about quantum mechanics or advanced particle ...
7
votes
2answers
2k views

In layman's terms, what is a quantum fluctuation?

What causes it and how does it occur? If you do post some mathematics, please explain what each term means too please.
3
votes
2answers
204 views

Can we correctly define momentum operator only by means of position operator and their commutation relation?

In "J.M. Ziman. Electrons and Phonons: The Theory of Transport Phenomena in Solids" the author formally introduces the position (displacement) operator and then defines the momentum operator with the ...
1
vote
2answers
387 views

Why are atoms particles?

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of particle is as follows: "A component of the physical world smaller than the atom." I read an article in NewScientist and it said "...all particles from ...
7
votes
4answers
648 views

What exactly is $F$ in $W = \int_{a}^{b} F dx$?

I am trying to teach myself some basic physics, here is something I do not really understand about the definition of work: When moving from $a$ to $b$ (in one dimension), the work done is defined to ...
6
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
721 views

What is “charge discreteness”?

I assume it is some kind of quantity. Google only made things more confusing. I get that it has something to do with circuits. I also get what a discrete charge is. In fact, I thought charges ...
2
votes
1answer
150 views

Transpose of (1,1) tensor

When we transpose a (1,1) tensor, shall we simply switch the two indices while keeping their upper/lower positions or switch them and also switch their upper/lower positions? In general, would the ...
3
votes
1answer
300 views

What is the meaning of “moment”?

What is the meaning of moment? I'm little confused about the word as there are some terms like moment of momentum, moment of mass, moment of force, etc. I want to know what exactly is meant by the ...
3
votes
5answers
1k views

The elusive difference between force and impulse

Impulse is defined as the product of a force $F$ acting for a (short) time $t$, $J = F*t$, and that is very clear. What I find difficult to understand is how a force can exist that doesn't act for a ...
1
vote
1answer
358 views

How to know if something is a primitive concept, a law, a definition or a theorem

Some basic Physics books are often misguiding in the sense that they don't make clear whether something is a primitive concept, a law, a definition or a theorem. This is often a little confusing. I've ...
1
vote
3answers
23k views

Definition of electric charge and proper explanation

Is there a definition of electric charge and proper explanation of it? It is said "Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when close to other ...
8
votes
6answers
15k views

Simple explanation of quantum mechanics

Can you please describe quantum mechanics in simple words? When ever I read this word (quantum computers, quantum mechanics, quantum physics, quantum gravity etc) I feel like fantasy, myth and ...
15
votes
1answer
1k views

What is a general definition of the spin of a particle?

In quantum field theory, one defines a particle as a unitary irreducible representations of the Poincaré group. The study of these representations allows to define the mass and the spin of the ...
3
votes
4answers
2k views

Newton's first law: is his concept of (force of ) inertia still useful and used?

The force of inertia is the property common to all bodies that remain in their state, either at rest or in motion, unless some external cause is introduced to make them alter this state. That ...
8
votes
6answers
71k views

What is the difference between stress and pressure?

What is the difference between stress and pressure? Are there any intuitive examples that explain the difference between the two? How about an example of when pressure and stress are not equal?
8
votes
2answers
431 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 ...
6
votes
3answers
682 views

How was the definition and the formula of work derived? Is it the best possible?

Work done is defined as the dot product of force and displacement. However, intuitively, should it not be the product of force and the time for which the body is acted upon by the force (force * ...
5
votes
2answers
3k views

What Exactly is a Shock Wave?

The Wikipedia defintion of a shock wave pretty much sums up all I've found online about what a shock wave is: A shock wave is a type of propagating disturbance. Like an ordinary wave, it carries ...
14
votes
5answers
1k views

Hilbert space vs. Projective Hilbert space

Hilbert space and rays: In a very general sense, we say that quantum states of a quantum mechanical system correspond to rays in the Hilbert space $\mathcal{H}$, such that for any $c∈ℂ$ the state ...
15
votes
10answers
30k views

What do people actually mean by “rolling without slipping”?

I have never understood what's the meaning of the sentence "rolling without slipping". Let me explain. I'll give an example. Yesterday my mechanics professor introduced some concepts of rotational ...
26
votes
4answers
2k views

The physical definition of work seems paradoxical

So this is possibly a misunderstanding of the meaning of work, but all the Physics texts, sites, and wiki that I've read don't clear this up for me: In the simplest case with the simplest statement, ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

Definition respective derivation of angular momentum formula

I am reading An Introduction to Mechanics by Kleppner and Kolenkow (2014). On page 241 is the definition of the angular momentum: Here is the formal definition of the angular momentum $\vec{L}$ ...
10
votes
4answers
6k views

Why is the space-time interval squared?

The space-time interval equation is this: $$\Delta s^2=\Delta x^2+\Delta y^2+\Delta z^2-(c\Delta t)^2$$ Where, $\Delta x, \Delta y, \Delta z$ and $\Delta t$ represent the distances along various ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

What is the general statistical definition of temperature?

Temperature in an isolated system is defined as: $$\frac{1}{T} = -\frac{\partial{S(E,V,N)}}{\partial{E}} $$ But I wonder how one can generalize this to a random system. Or for instance to a point in ...
4
votes
1answer
473 views

Equivalent definitions of vectors

Equivalent definitions of vectors. In maths a vector is an object that obeys some axioms of a vector space. But in physics a vector can be thought as an object which is invariant under rotations of ...
1
vote
1answer
80 views

What is Work? What does the quantity suggest intuitively? [duplicate]

The mathematical formula for work says that work is force into displacement, but what is the philosophy behind it? I mean what does the quantity suggest?
1
vote
1answer
4k views

Definition of “intensive” and “extensive” properties

Today I was asked what does it mean for a physical property of a system to be intensive. My first answer, loosely speaking, was: "It is a property that is local." I was specifically thinking ...
1
vote
1answer
1k views

What's the difference between microscopy and spectroscopy?

Both methods collect particles or electromagnetic waves, and in both methods it's possible to reconstruct a 2D image, which may represent morphology (AFM, LEED for example), electronic structure (STM, ...
0
votes
2answers
134 views

Can I define the term energy in terms of work?

Recently, I'm doing my personal task which is to formalize every definition and concept in physics, by means of formal language and of course with intuitional notes. Because I found myself that the ...
13
votes
3answers
5k views

Why are they called “cyclic” coordinates?

In Lagrangian formalism, when $\frac{\partial L}{\partial q} = 0$, the coordinate $q$ is called cyclic and a corresponding conserved quantity exists. But why is it called cyclic?
8
votes
1answer
455 views

Introduction to Gauge Symmetries: Good, Bad or Ugly?

I'm trying to come up with a good (as in intuitive and not 'too wrong') definition of a gauge symmetry. This is what I have right now: A dynamical symmetry is a (differentiable) group of ...
6
votes
3answers
3k views

What's the difference between “boundary value problems” and “initial value problems”?

Mathematically speaking, is there any essential difference between initial value problems and boundary value problems? The specification of the values of a function $f$ and the "velocities" ...
9
votes
3answers
546 views

Axioms behind entropy!

The concept of entropy is very ubiquitous, we learn about its uses starting from Information Theory (Shannon entropy) up to its basic definition in statistical mechanics in terms of number of ...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Potential functions

Can someone please explain what a potential is? Example. velocity potential in ideal flows, acoustic potential (gradient of which gives the particle velocity in a sound wave). Whenever I see potential ...
12
votes
3answers
8k views

273 + degree Celsius = Kelvin. Why 273?

Temperature conversion: 273 + degree Celsius = Kelvin Actually why is that 273? How does one come up with this? My teacher mentioned Gann's law (not sure if this is the one) but I couldn't find ...
6
votes
3answers
684 views

What is a Theory of Everything (TOE)?

I see many learned contribution about the role of a Theory of Everything (TOE), what it might do or not do, what kind of answer it might provide, and what not. But I do not know what a TOE is, how I ...
4
votes
4answers
2k views

Physical meaning of Impedance

So I have been thinking about the way impedance is defined for electrical systems, and the way it is derived. Even after looking through some websites, I cannot seem to grasp something, which every ...