Discrete means as opposed to continuous. For, instance, people may ask questions about discrete electric charges, discrete spacetime, discrete energies, etc. If discretization is vital/essential to the question then tag it with the [tag:discrete] tag.

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Is time continuous or discrete?

While working on physical system simulation software, I noticed that I had implemented discrete time, which means that there was an update mechanism advancing the simulation for a fixed amount of time ...
61
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2answers
8k views

Does the Planck scale imply that spacetime is discrete?

On a quantum scale the smallest unit is the Planck scale, which is a discrete measure. There several question that come to mind: Does that mean that particles can only live in a discrete grid-like ...
52
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10answers
5k views

Is there something similar to Noether's theorem for discrete symmetries?

Noether's theorem states that, for every continuous symmetry of an action, there exists a conserved quantity, e.g. energy conservation for time invariance, charge conservation for $U(1)$. Is there any ...
44
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7answers
3k views

Why do we have an elementary charge but no elementary mass?

Why do we have an elementary charge $e$ in physics but no elementary mass? Is an elementary mass ruled out by experiment or is an elementary mass forbidden by some theoretical reason?
41
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5answers
4k views

If photon energies are continuous and atomic energy levels are discrete, how can atoms absorb photons?

If photon energies are continuous and atomic energy levels are discrete, how can atoms absorb photons? The probability of a photon having just the right amount of energy for an atomic transition is $0$...
39
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3answers
9k views

Is the Planck length the smallest length that exists in the universe or is it the smallest length that can be observed?

I have heard both that Planck length is the smallest length that there is in the universe (whatever this means) and that it is the smallest thing that can be observed because if we wanted to observe ...
31
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4answers
5k views

Is there an infinite amount of wavelengths of light? Is the EM spectrum continuous?

The electromagnetic spectrum is a continuum of wavelengths of light, and we have labels for some ranges of these and numerical measurements for many. Question: Is the EM spectrum continuous such that ...
29
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8answers
5k views

Is (rest) mass quantized?

I learned today in class that photons and light are quantized. I also remember that electric charge is quantized as well. I was thinking about these implications, and I was wondering if (rest) mass ...
23
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7answers
6k views

Is there a maximum frames per second (FPS)?

Take a video camera and crank up the frames per second rate. Disregarding current technological advancements, could a camera's FPS go so fast that any two captured images be identical? Would ...
20
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4answers
948 views

Is the electromagnetic spectrum discrete?

I'm just starting to learn physics and I have a question (that is probably stupid.) I learned that energy levels that the bound electron can have are discrete. I also learned that when an electron ...
18
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4answers
1k views

Reason for the discreteness arising in quantum mechanics?

What is the most essential reason that actually leads to the quantization. I am reading the book on quantum mechanics by Griffiths. The quanta in the infinite potential well for e.g. arise due to the ...
17
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4answers
2k views

Are voltages discrete when we zoom in enough?

Voltages are often thought of as continuous physical quantities. I was wondering whether by zooming in a lot, they are discrete. I feel like the answer to the above question is yes as voltages in the ...
16
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1answer
291 views

If time isn't continuous, what is the best-known upper bound on the length of time intervals?

There have been several questions about whether time is continuous or not and it seems like the answer isn't currently known. I know quantum mechanics treats time as continuous and any mathematics ...
15
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4answers
1k views

Space-time in String Theory

I would like to understand how Physicists think of space-time in the context of String Theory. I understand that there are $3$ large space dimensions, a time dimension, and $6$ or $7$ (or $22$) extra ...
14
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3answers
786 views

Why does spin have a discrete spectrum?

Why is it that unlike other quantum properties such as momentum and velocity, which usually are given through (probabilistic) continuous values, spin has a (probabilistic) discrete spectrum?
14
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5answers
4k views

Why position is not quantized in quantum mechanics?

Usually in all the standard examples in quantum mechanics textbooks the spectrum of the position operator is continuous. Are there (nontrivial) examples where position is quantized? or position ...
14
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1answer
1k views

Discreteness of set of energy eigenvalues

Given some potential $V$, we have the eigenvalue problem $$ -\frac{\hbar^2}{2m}\Delta \psi + V\psi = E\psi $$ with the boundary condition $$ \lim_{|x|\rightarrow \infty} \psi(x) = 0 $$ If we ...
13
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2answers
548 views

Must bounded operators have normalisable eigenfunctions and discrete eigenvalues?

When we have bound states, to my knowledge, we have states that are normalisable and a discrete energy spectrum. However, in the case of scattering states that have a continuous energy spectrum, the ...
12
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4answers
680 views

Can physics get rid of the continuum?

Almost every physical equation I can think of (even though I don't actually feel comfortable beyond the scope of classical mechanics and macroscopic thermodynamics, as that's enough for dealing with ...
10
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2answers
3k views

What causes a black-body radiation curve to be continuous?

The ideal black-body radiation curve (unlike the quantized emission seen from atomic spectra), is continuous over all frequencies. Many objects approximate ideal blackbodies and have radiation curves ...
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2answers
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Is frequency quantized in the black body spectrum?

I'm aware that there're some questions posted here with respect to this subject on this site, but I still want to make sure, is frequency quantized? Do very fine discontinuities exist in a continuous ...
9
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4answers
720 views

Formalism to deal with discontinuous potentials in classical mechanics (hard wall, hard spheres)

It seems to me that Hamiltonian formalism does not suit well for problems involving instantaneous change of momentum, like particle collisions with hard wall or hard sphere gas model. At least I could ...
9
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3answers
985 views

Are there any quantities in the physical world that are inherently rational/algebraic?

Whenever we measure something, it is usually inexact. For example, the mass of a baseball will never be measured exactly on a scale in any unit of measurement besides "mass in baseballs that are ...
8
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3answers
2k views

Is space infinitely divisible?

As a child I remember hearing the popular paradox presented by Zeno proposing that Achilles could never catch a tortoise in a race since he would have to traverse the infinite space between himself ...
8
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3answers
229 views

Are there any true discontinuities in physics?

When we first learn physics, it's often presented very 'discontinuously'. For example, pop quantum likes to talk about objects being "either" particles or waves, leading to a lot of confused questions ...
8
votes
1answer
314 views

Theoretical reasons for charge quantization

I'm aware of Millikan's oil drop experiment and I've read that quarks have fractional eletric charge, but I was wondering if there's any theoretical argument that makes us believe charge is quantized. ...
8
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4answers
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Bounded and Unbounded (Scattering) States in Quantum Mechanics

I understand that bounded states in quantum mechanics imply that the total energy of the state, $E$, is less than the potential $V_0$ at + or - spatial infinity. Similarly, the scattering state ...
7
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3answers
979 views

Units of a discrete Fourier transform

Normally a Fourier transform (FT) of a function of one variable is defined as $$f_k=\int^\infty_{-\infty}f(x)\exp\left(-2\pi i k x\right) dx.$$ This means that $f_k$ gets the units of $f$ times the ...
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2answers
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Application of Calculus in Physics

Why do we apply Calculus in Physics when most of the quantities are not continuous and are not symmetrical at all levels of magnification? Aren't most, if not all, forms of Matter and Energy discrete? ...
6
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2answers
249 views

Can the momentum eigenstates be non-orthogonal?

Consider the Hilbert space of a particle, whose position domain is confined to $q\in[0,1]$ (e.g. a particle in a box with unit width). Using $$ 1=\int_0 ^1 dq |q\rangle\langle q| $$ and the position ...
6
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1answer
411 views

Can universal continuity be experimentally falsified?

It is an unresolved question whether the universe is discrete or continuous in its intricate quantum level structure. See for example: Is the universe finite and discrete? How could spacetime become ...
6
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0answers
163 views

Do semiclassical GR and charge quantisation imply magnetic monopoles?

Assuming charge quantisation and semiclassical gravity, would the absence of magnetically charged black holes lead to a violation of locality, or some other inconsistency? If so, how? (I am not ...
5
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2answers
338 views

Is the assumption that space-time has to be a continuum just a matter of mathematical taste?

Is the assumption that space-time has to be a continuum just a matter of mathematical taste? Isn't there any physical significance associated with it?
5
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2answers
232 views

Dirac magnetic monopoles and quark fractional electric charge quantization

When applying the Dirac quantization rule for electric and magnetic charge, I assume one is considering unit electric charges such as electrons. How does the Dirac quantization rule apply for the ...
5
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3answers
1k views

What are some approaches to discrete space-time used in modern physics?

This thought gave rise to some new questions in my mind. What are the consequences for: How would it affect duality i.e. particle, wave property of photons? How does this statement affect the ...
5
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1answer
573 views

Switching from sum to integral

I'm specifically asking about an equation in An Introduction to Quantum Field Theory, by Peskin and Schroeder. Example from page 374: $$\mathrm{Tr} \log (\partial^2+m^2) = \sum_k \log(-k^2+m^2)$$ ...
5
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1answer
391 views

Discretizing the Wave Equation in polar coordinates

I want to discretize the wave equation $$\frac{1}{c^2}\frac{\partial^2\psi\left(\vec{r},t\right)}{\partial t^2}=\triangle\psi\left(\vec{r},t\right)$$ in polar coordinates. I find the following ...
5
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1answer
187 views

Gauging discrete symmetries

I read somewhere what performing an orbifolding (i.e. imposing a discrete symmetry on what would otherwise be a compactification torus) is equivalent to "gauging the discrete symmetry". Can anybody ...
5
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1answer
982 views

Is all angular momentum quantized?

Angular momentum is definitely quantized in elementary particles and electrons in atoms. Molecules also have characteristic rotation spectra. Is it true that all angular momentum is quantized, ...
5
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1answer
142 views

Is temperature discrete

Because an object's temperature is inversely proportional to the wavelength of blackbody radiation which it emits, physicists have theorized the existence of Planck temperature at around $1.4×10^{32}$ ...
5
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1answer
436 views

What fundamental reasons imply quantization?

In classical wave mechanics, quantization can occur simply from a finite potential well. In quantum mechanics, the quantization is obtained from the Schrödinger equation, which is, to my knowledge, a ...
5
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2answers
358 views

Integer physics

Are there interesting (aspects of) problems in modern physics that can be expressed solely in terms of integer numbers? Bonus points for quantum mechanics.
5
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2answers
1k views

How could spacetime become discretised at the Planck scale?

I didn't have much luck getting a response to this question before so I have tried to reword and expand it a little: In early 2010 I attended this inaugural lecture by string theorist- Prof. ...
5
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1answer
137 views

How do we choose how to discretise spacetime in loop quantum gravity?

In LQG we choose a two-complex (or other) on which to discretise GR before quantising. I'm a little uncertain about the nature of this choice. Is the two-complex an a priori property of the universe (...
5
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4answers
204 views

Particles scattering on fluids: breakdown of the effective continuum description

When does the macroscopic continuum description of a medium like a fluid break down? Say I'm interested in a scattering process of some particles with momentum $p$ and energy $E$ off a fluid of ...
5
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0answers
137 views

If spacetime is discrete: what would space expansion mean? [closed]

How is space expansion explained in physical theories where spacetime is quantized? Discrete spacetime is claimed in some candidate theories of quantum gravity like loop quantum gravity and algebraic ...
5
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1answer
4k views

Is time quantized? Is there a fundamental time unit that cannot be divided? [duplicate]

Is the present just a sharp line between the past and the future with no time at all, or is the present a short frozen unit of time? Could time be quantized into a fundamental units? Like Planck ...
4
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3answers
2k views

Do quarks violate quantization of charge?

Does existence of various kinds of quarks like up, down, strange, charm, top, bottom violate the quantisation of charge or just redefine it as up quark have charge +2/3 and have -1/3. Or do things get ...
4
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4answers
2k views

How can there be really any instantaneous velocity?

I have read about Zeno's arrow paradox that tells us there is no motion of the arrow at a particular instant of its flight. It can be inferred that there can be no velocity at any instant. Moreover we ...
4
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2answers
91 views

How photons can emerge quantized if their cause is continuous?

I know that photons are quantized, they are not continuous. But they are created by an accelerated charge. So how is it possible to have a quantized outcome from a symmetric continuous event? I mean ...