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

learn more… | top users | synonyms

2
votes
1answer
307 views

Is the 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
36 views

Defining creation and annihilation operators

Creation and annihilation operators can be defined in several different ways, some more general than others. We usually choose to denote by $a$ the annihilation operator and by $a^\dagger$ the ...
3
votes
3answers
76 views

What is the physical meaning of electric potential, potential difference, and voltage?

When resembling the electricity flow through a wire to people walking through a street: electrons are people, current is the number of people, resistance is the barriers on the way. But what is the ...
-1
votes
1answer
42 views

Angular displacement after full rotation

I was wondering is why angular displacement isn't $0$ after $n$ full rotations?
4
votes
3answers
904 views

Why does Law of Large Numbers work?

Often I see books and professors reasoning that, in order to make a good experiment, many measurements are necessary because then the average value of a quantity is closer to the expected value ...
2
votes
1answer
1k views

How is Mechanical advantage of Wedge = length of slope/width

Mechanical advantage is defined as Force Output/Force Input For a symmetrical wedge with the length of the slopes being equal and the width being the distance between the end points, articles quote ...
-2
votes
0answers
20 views

understanding the definition of electromotive force of a source?

okay.. the definition of electromotive force of a source( it is the total work done to transfer unit charge throughout the whole electric circuit outside and inside the source), please explain what's ...
4
votes
1answer
299 views

Hamiltonians, density of state, BECs

When working with Bose-Einstein condensates trapped in potentials, how can one tell what the density of state of a system of identical bosons given the Hamiltonian, $H$? (I have been told that it is ...
1
vote
1answer
32 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 $\vec{L}$ ...
0
votes
1answer
44 views

It seems wrong to find the mass using weight alone when using chemical compounds [duplicate]

The difference between mass and weight is pretty straightforward so then how can we WEIGH a substance then ask how many Daltons (atomic MASS units) are in that substance without a conversion in there ...
3
votes
3answers
82 views

Definition of Entropy in thermodynamics

In most textbooks, the definition of entropy in reversible processes on a system $S$ is given simply as $$d S=\delta Q/T.$$ It seems to me this definition is insufficient since it does not specify ...
26
votes
4answers
6k 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
139 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 ...
6
votes
9answers
2k 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 ...
0
votes
1answer
55 views

What is a conservative force?

Currently I have three different pictures to describe/understand conservative forces. For the moment I just want to get an electron from point A to point B. In the near surrounding is another electron ...
6
votes
3answers
211 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 * ...
7
votes
3answers
160 views

Is a “shift in the meaning” of Accuracy and Precision occurring?

Accuracy and precision are among the most fundamental concepts in experimental physics, and, I always believed, completely unambiguous. Recently I found that the Wikipedia article on Accuracy and ...
7
votes
2answers
384 views

Why is the absolute zero a rational number in Celcius?

From the question "Why is the absolute zero -273.15ºC?" I understood that 1°C is the 100th part of the difference of melting and boiling temperature of water (this is my high school physics, ...
2
votes
0answers
72 views

What are Killing spinors?

What are Killing spinors? How can they be motivated? Are they directly related to Killing vectors and Killing tensors and is there an overarching motivation for all three objects? Any answer is ...
2
votes
1answer
60 views

Definition of a field line?

Ok so I finished by A-levels last year (english exams 18 year olds take) and we defined in my physics course we defined field lines (for an electric field) as: The path a free positive test charge ...
1
vote
1answer
200 views

Derivation of formula of potential energy by a conservative force [duplicate]

the formula for potential energy by a conservative force is given by: $$ F = -\nabla U(r), $$ which in one dimension may be simplified to: $$ F = -\frac{dU}{dx} .$$ My question is how is it ...
4
votes
3answers
291 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 ...
2
votes
3answers
93 views

Potential energy graphs of chemical systems

I really wish someone could dissect this for me in the language of physics. The system is that of two atoms that approximate each other along 'r' (or distance themselves apart). My concerns are ...
17
votes
5answers
4k 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?
1
vote
2answers
82 views

Speed of light and distance

Our measure of distance (the meter) is defined in terms of how far light in a vacuum travels in a specific time. When light travels through another medium, we say it travels at a different speed. Why ...
0
votes
1answer
645 views

Distinguish between instantaneous speed and instantaneous velocity

I encountered a line in my text book of physics that: Average speed over a finite interval of time is greater or equal to the magnitude of the average velocity. But instantaneous speed at an ...
11
votes
4answers
628 views

A common definition of a scalar

Some dictionaries define a scalar as follows: A quantity, such as mass, length, or speed, that is completely specified by its magnitude and has no direction. -- The Free Dictionary However, it ...
5
votes
2answers
864 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.
0
votes
1answer
34 views

Variable definition in wave function for scattering particle?

For the wave function of a scattered particle when finding the scattering aptitude we have: $$\psi(r)=Ae^{ik_0∙r}+\frac{2\mu}{\hbar^2} ∫G(r-r')V(r')\psi(r')d^3r'$$ I was wondering what the variables ...
4
votes
3answers
688 views

Definition of a year

Is there an acceptable definition of a year (in number of days)? Google Calculator: https://www.google.com/search?q=seconds+in+1+year returns 3.15569e7 seconds and then ...
2
votes
2answers
75 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 ...
12
votes
3answers
1k 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?
23
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, ...
12
votes
7answers
2k views

What is the current status of Pluto?

Pluto has been designated a planet in our solar system for years (ever since it was discovered in the last century), but a couple of years ago it was demoted. What caused this decision? And is there ...
12
votes
6answers
2k 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 ...
-1
votes
3answers
316 views

Differences between wavefunction, probability and probability density?

I am trying to understand the differences between wavefunction, probability and probability density. There are different definitions on the internet. For example: ...
4
votes
3answers
218 views

Existence of negative temperatures and the definition of entropy

How negative temperatures can be possible has been treated on StackExchange before (several times in fact), but in light of some recent academic discussion, most of these answers seem to be possibly ...
4
votes
1answer
181 views

What's the most fundamental definition of temperature?

What's the most fundamental definition of temperature? Is it the definition concern about average energy, number of micro states, or what? By "fundamental", I mean "to be applied" in such general ...
4
votes
3answers
550 views

Why is the absolute zero -273.15ºC?

I can't find an answer of why the lowest temperature is -273.15ºC. Is it deduced theoretically or is it experimental? An explanation is that when any gas volume tends to zero, the temperature will be ...
8
votes
2answers
4k 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 ...
9
votes
3answers
350 views

What does Feynman mean when he says that $F=ma$ is not exact?

Chapter 12-2 in Feynman Lectures Vol. 1 states: In fact the law, $F=ma$ is not exactly true; if it were a definition we should have to say that it is always true; but it is not ... First, ...
8
votes
4answers
434 views

On the definition of work

Work is defined as $$W = \vec{F}\cdot\vec{s}$$ But what what exactly is $\vec{s}$? Is it the displacement of the body on which the force is being applied? Or is it the displacement of the point of ...
1
vote
5answers
297 views

Are events in this experiment simultaneous if observed in platform's frame?

In some contexts e.g. on wiki it is defined as a matter of happening . In others(e.g. as defined by Einstein in his book "Relativity the special and general theory") it is defined as a matter of ...
1
vote
1answer
113 views

Two definitions: 'semi-classical space-time' and 'supersymmetric Minkowski space'

By reading articles I ran several times into two terms, never being defined so I assume they must have well established definitions somewhere. The first is semi-classical space-time. If I where to ...
0
votes
1answer
109 views

Determination of displacement value in work formula

A net force will always create displacement which approaches infinity if left undisturbed. So how to fix a value of displacement in work formula? Isn't a mention time interval necessary? Or do we ...
2
votes
2answers
83 views

Meaning of “Grounded”

In my opinion, "grounded" means having the same potential as the potential at infinity, which is usually set to zero. Now if we consider a conductor inside a uniform electric field, what is the ...
2
votes
1answer
133 views

What type of mathematical structure is a physicist's definition of a vector space?

A vector space as defined by a mathematician lacks the invariant scalar product that lies at the heart of what I would define as a physicist's definition of a vector space that models the physical ...
11
votes
4answers
1k 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
281 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 ...
1
vote
0answers
57 views

Should Brillouin zone be a continuous object rather than a discrete one in the thermodynamic limit?

For example, just consider a 1D atom chain with $N$ sites and lattice constant $a=2\pi$, under periodic boundary conditions, the crystal momentum reads as $k=\frac{n}{N}\frac{2\pi}{a}=\frac{n}{N}$, ...