The law of conservation of energy, which states that the amount of energy in a system is constant. For questions about Earth's environment, see the climate-science tag instead.

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Where does the extra kinetic energy come from in a gravitational slingshot?

I read in this answer in this site that the KE a free-falling ball acquires is not originated by the attracting body but that energy was actually stored in the ball when it had been lifted to the ...
60
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10answers
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What makes running so much less energy-efficient than bicycling?

Most people can ride 10 km on their bike. However, running 10 km is a lot harder to do. Why? According to the law of conservation of energy, bicycling should be more intensive because you have to ...
42
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10answers
11k views

What happens to the energy when waves perfectly cancel each other?

What happens to the energy when waves perfectly cancel each other (destructive interference)? It appears that the energy "disappear" but the law of conservation of energy states that it can't be ...
41
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4answers
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If I'm floating in space and I turn on a flashlight, will I accelerate?

Photons have no mass but they can push things, as evidenced by laser propulsion. Can photons push the source which is emitting them? If yes, will a more intense flashlight accelerate me more? Does ...
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13answers
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Where does the extra force generated by a lever come from?

Given an object being pulled down to earth by a force of 1000 lb: If a machine were to lift it off the ground for me, and I grabbed on to the rope before it was released, there is no way in the world ...
31
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3answers
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When water climbs up a piece of paper, where is the energy coming from?

Take a glass of water and piece of toilet paper. If you keep the paper vertical, and touch the surface of the water with the tip of the paper, you can see the water being absorbed and climbing up the ...
28
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6answers
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Why are rockets so big?

I'm curious why rockets are so big in their size. Since both the gravitational potential one need to overcome in order to put thing into orbit, and the chemical energy burned from the fuel, are ...
26
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4answers
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Why can't energy be created or destroyed?

My physics instructor told the class, when lecturing about energy, that it can't be created or destroyed. Why is that? Is there a theory or scientific evidence that proves his statement true or ...
24
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2answers
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How does light speed up after coming out of a glass slab?

As I learned today in School, my teacher told me that when light enters a Glass Slab it slows down due to the change in density and it speeds up as it goes out of the Glass Slab. This causes a lateral ...
22
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5answers
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Total energy of the Universe

In popular science books and articles, I keep running into the claim that the total energy of the Universe is zero, "because the positive energy of matter is cancelled out by the negative energy of ...
20
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6answers
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Newton's cradle

Why, when one releases 2 balls in Newton's cradle, two balls on the opposite side bounce out at approximately the same speed as the 1st pair, rather than one ball at higher speed, or 3 balls at lower ...
19
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6answers
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If the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into?

If the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into? When the big bang happened where did it occur? When the big bang happened how did it occur? Where did the energy come from? Energy can not ...
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7answers
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Why can't we store light in the form of light?

We can store cold (ice), heat (i.e. hot water bag) and electrical charge (batteries). We can even "store" a magnetic field in a magnet. We can convert light into energy and then, if we want, back to ...
16
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2answers
839 views

If energy is only defined up to a constant, can we really claim that ground state energy has an absolute value?

Sorry if this is really naive, but we learned in Newtonian physics that the total energy of a system is only defined up to an additive constant, since you can always add a constant to the potential ...
16
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5answers
782 views

Conservation of Mathematical Constraints when deriving Energy and Momentum from $F=ma$

Background: Starting from $F = ma$, integrating with respect to time, and using basic calc, one can derive $\int Fdt = m (v_f - v_i)$ Starting from $F = ma$, integrating with respect to distance, ...
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5answers
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+500

How was the formula for kinetic energy found, and who found it?

My questions mostly concern the history of physics. Who found the formula for kinetic energy $E_k =\frac{1}{2}mv^{2}$ and how was this formula actually discovered? I've recently watched Leonard ...
15
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4answers
726 views

Redshifting of Light and the expansion of the universe

So I have learned in class that light can get red-shifted as it travels through space. As I understand it, space itself expands and stretches out the wavelength of the light. This results in the light ...
15
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3answers
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How does rest mass become energy?

I know that there's a difference between relativistic rest mass. Relativistic mass is "acquired" when an object is moving at speeds comparable to the speed of light.Rest mass is the inherent mass that ...
14
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2answers
1k views

Redshifted Photon Energy

A photon emitted from a receding source (Doppler redshift) has less energy when detected at an observer's location. Please explain the energy loss from the perspective of energy conservation.
14
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4answers
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Energy conservation and interference

I have a problem with energy conservation in case of interfering waves. Imagine two harmonic waves with amplitudes $A$. They both carry energy that is proportional to $A^2$, so the total energy is ...
14
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2answers
383 views

Do accelerated charges radiate or not?

This questions has been asked all over the net (here included) but I can't find a satisfactory answer or discussion. Some say it does not radiate if the acceleration is caused by a uniform gravity ...
13
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4answers
4k views

Is energy really conserved?

In high school I was taught energy was conserved. Then I learned that nuclear reactions allow energy to be converted into mass. Then I also heard that apparently energy can spontaneously appear in ...
13
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3answers
3k views

Energy conservation in General Relativity

I understand that energy conservation is not a rule in general relativity, but I'd like to know under what circumstances it can still be possible. In other words, when is it possible to associate a ...
13
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4answers
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Is there a deep reason why springs combine like capacitors?

I was solving a practice Physics GRE and there was a question about springs connected in series and parallel. I was too lazy to derive the way the spring constants add in each case. But I knew how ...
13
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2answers
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Is kinetic energy a relative quantity? Will it make inconsistent equations when applying it to the conservation of energy equations?

If the velocity is a relative quantity, will it make inconsistent equations when applying it to the conservation of energy equations? For example: In the train moving at $V$ relative to ground, ...
13
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1answer
260 views

As the universe expands, the wavelengths of photons are stretched, and energy is lost. What about electrons?

Will electrons, and other particles, also loose energy as they travel through the cosmos? They have wavelengths. Do they get "stretched"? My guess is that the EM force, somehow, counteracts this ...
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5answers
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Is the total energy of the universe constant?

If total energy is conserved just transformed and never newly created, is there a sum of all energies that is constant? Why is it probably not that easy?
12
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6answers
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Does the Banach-Tarski paradox contradict our understanding of nature?

Since the Banach-Tarski paradox makes a statement about domains defined in terms of real numbers, it would appear to invalidate statements about nature that we derived by applying real analysis. My ...
12
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4answers
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Where do magnets get the energy to repel?

If I separate two magnets whose opposite poles are facing, I am adding energy. If I let go of the magnets, then presumably the energy that I added is used to move the magnets together again. However, ...
12
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3answers
2k views

Popular depictions of electromagnetic wave: is there an error?

Here are some depictions of electromagnetic wave, similar to the depictions in other places: Isn't there an error? It is logical to presume that the electric field should have maximum when ...
12
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6answers
3k views

Is the energy conserved in a moving frame of reference?

Consider this situation: When the box is at the bottom of the frictionless incline, it will have a velocity of $v_f$. The person is an inertial frame of reference that moves at a constant ...
12
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2answers
758 views

Compressed Spring Dissolving in Acid

This is just an interesting question a friend's uncle asked me that I was somewhat annoyed I couldn't answer. When a material dissolves in acid there is a chemical process that causes the changes in ...
11
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9answers
1k views

Is it possible all matter in the universe emerges from nothing?

If the Universe is flat and the total energy of the universe can be zero (we don't know if it is, but many theorists support the idea, i.e. at BB initial conditions: t = 0, V = 0, E = 0) then is it ...
11
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3answers
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Is the normal force a conservative force?

Most of the time the normal force doesn't do any work because it's perpendicular to the direction of motion but if it does do work, would it be conservative or non-conservative? For example, consider ...
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5answers
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Does the amount of gravitational potential energy in the universe increase as it expands?

It seems to me that extra gravitational potential energy is created as the universe expands and the distance between massive objects such as galaxy clusters increases; this implies that energy is not ...
10
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2answers
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Calculating the force required to lift a weight with a screw

I am trying to learn physics by myself as I do not have a good teacher at school. I've been reading Feynman Lectures on Physics and I can't figure out how he found out this number. Here is an excerpt ...
10
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5answers
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What happens to light after it enters an eye

What happens to the light [energy] after it enters an eye and hits the rods and cones? I presume the energy becomes electrical, and it must be near 100% perfect, else our eyes would heat up? Or am I ...
10
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2answers
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What prevents this magnetic perpetuum mobile from working?

As a child, I imagined this device, which may seem to rotate indefinitely. I have two questions. Is this perpetual motion machine already known? If it is, could you please give some references? What ...
10
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3answers
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Where does the electricity, generated by a solar panel, go if you don't use the electricity?

I'm sorry if this question is too trivial for this Q&A forum. I am a layman when it comes to physics (though I did cover the high-school physics courses). I was wondering what happens to the ...
10
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4answers
235 views

What kind of energy does superfluidity use?

Liquid helium (and other similar fluids) can "climb up" the walls of their containers. Who does the work in this case, and what kind of energy does it use? I'm sure we can't make a perpetuum mobile ...
9
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2answers
555 views

When they say that the universe cooled after the big bang, where did the heat go?

Layman here, Stumbling through some physics stack posts and started reading the Wikipedia for the chronology of the big bang. In it, it states The very earliest universe was so hot, or energetic, ...
9
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1answer
141 views

How can a planet gravitationally capture objects?

I would expect that any asteroid or other object originating far away but passing near a planet would pick up speed and energy as it approaches, but unless it comes into contact with the atmosphere ...
8
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2answers
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Does a cooling mass lose mass as it radiates?

Assume we have a red hot cannonball in space. It starts off with mass M at 1000K. Later it has cooled by radiation to 100K. Has the mass decreased?
8
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4answers
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What is the relationship between kinetic energy and momentum?

I can't seem to figure out the relationship between $E_k$ and $p$ or $F$. I understand that the units are pretty different. But for example: A bullet with a mass of 10.0g is moving at the speed of ...
8
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4answers
795 views

Potential energy in $E_f^2=(mc^2)^2+(pc)^2$?

Let's consider $$E_f^2=(mc^2)^2+(pc)^2$$ where the $mc^2$ is the rest energy due to the rest mass -- in Finnish "lepomassa". $$ \sqrt{(mc^2)^2+(pc)^2} - mc^2~=~(\gamma-1)mc^2$$ is the kinetic ...
8
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4answers
2k views

On what basis do we trust Conservation of Energy?

I'm happy to accept and use conservation of energy when I'm solving problems at Uni, but I'm curious about it to. For all of my adult life, and most of my childhood I've been told this law must hold ...
8
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6answers
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Energy conservation and quantum measurement

Consider a particle in a potential well. Let’s assume it’s a simple harmonic oscillator potential and the particle is in its ground state with energy E0 = (1/2) ℏω0. We measure its ...
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2answers
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What happens to orbits at small radii in general relativity?

I know that (most) elliptic orbits precess due to the math of general relativity, like this: source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-body_problem_in_general_relativity I also know that something ...
8
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2answers
874 views

How can neutrinos oscillate though the lepton flavors have differing masses?

Since the total mass-energy for the neutrino presumably does not change when a neutrino changes lepton flavor, though the mass is different, what compensates for the gain or loss of mass? Does the ...
8
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2answers
235 views

Speed of gravity

Consider two objects presented in the figure below. Objects have equal masses and are separated by a distance of 60 light seconds. Assume that we move left object by 3 light seconds to the left in ...