The tag has no usage guidance.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

46
votes
7answers
4k views

Why is the Earth so fat?

I made a naive calculation of the height of Earth's equatorial bulge and found that it should be about 10km. The true height is about 20km. My question is: why is there this discrepancy? The ...
25
votes
4answers
2k views

Prove that negative absolute temperatures are actually hotter than positive absolute temperatures

Could someone provide me with a mathematical proof of why, a system with an absolute negative Kelvin temperature (such that of a spin system) is hotter than any system with a positive temperature (in ...
23
votes
2answers
1k views

Why do most office chairs have 5 wheels?

(Inspired by Why are four legged chairs so common?) I've been wondering for a while... Why do most wheeled office chairs have 5 wheels? My guess would be that while stability vs. simplicity ...
17
votes
4answers
6k views

Why does the nature always prefer low energy and maximum entropy?

Why does the nature always prefer low energy and maximum entropy? I've just learned electrostatics and I still have no idea why like charges repel each other. ...
13
votes
4answers
251 views

How quickly should a fluid come to hydrostatic equilibrium?

Let's say I'm holding a one-liter water bottle, full of water, which I then drop. Before dropping the water bottle, the equilibrium is for there to be a pressure gradient in the water canceling the ...
11
votes
1answer
836 views

Why is (von Neumann) entropy maximized for an ensemble in thermal equilibrium?

Consider a quantum system in thermal equilibrium with a heat bath. In determining the density operator of the system, the usual procedure is to maximize the von Neumann entropy subject to the ...
10
votes
8answers
13k views

Why does maximal entropy imply equilibrium?

From a purely thermodynamical point of view, why does that entropy have to be a maximum at equilibrium? Say there is equilibrium, i.e. no net heat flow, why can the entropy not be sitting at a ...
10
votes
1answer
997 views

Spikes on ferrofluid?

What exactly are the spikes, or peaks and valleys, caused by in pictures such as these Wikipedia states that "From the point of view of magnetic energy, peaks and valleys are energetically ...
9
votes
6answers
2k views

If the Earth is in constant motion then why do we say that an object is in a state of rest?

I got this question as my physics class homework for tomorrow. Anyone please help me out. If Earth constantly rotates and revolves, then how can we call an object in a state of rest?
9
votes
4answers
372 views

Is “equilibrium state” equivalent to “well-defined state variables”?

Follow up to Intuitively, why is a reversible process one in which the system is always at equilibrium? and How slow is a reversible adiabatic expansion of an ideal gas? Suppose you have a ...
8
votes
3answers
371 views

Airplane with banner in a windy day

Will the banner of this airplane be always in the proper direction if the airplane flies in any direction on a windy day?
7
votes
4answers
575 views

Applying the Maxwell–Boltzmann statistics to astrophysical objects

Quoting Wikipedia: In statistical mechanics, Maxwell–Boltzmann statistics describes the statistical distribution of material particles over various energy states in thermal equilibrium, when the ...
7
votes
2answers
827 views

Do airlocks in space decompress violently as they do in movies?

The standard scene follows: The good guys have finally captured the enemies and have them in an airlock chamber on a spaceship. A button is pressed and out they go, violently propelled by the blast of ...
7
votes
5answers
5k views

How do we perceive hotness or coldness of an object?

Some objects, especially metallic ones, feel cold on touching and others like wood, etc. feel warm on touching. Both are exposed to same environment and are in their stable state, so some kind of ...
6
votes
1answer
138 views

Do the stars in a galaxy have a thermal kinetic energy distribution?

I think, there is practically everything given to that: many point-like masses, able to exchange energy pseudo-randomly, and far long enough time to reach a thermodynamical equilibrium. Of course, ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

What determines the (minimum) angle at which a domino falls over?

Dominoes, when placed upright, remain that way. Sometimes, even if you tip them a little bit, they will go back to their upright position. However, if you tip them too far, they will fall over. ...
5
votes
3answers
386 views

Will Cone standing on its tip, without any other force other than gravity topple?

A cone standing on its tip is considered to be in unstable equilibrium as a slightest force could topple it. So, if the cone is stood on its tip with no other force other than gravity (and the ...
5
votes
1answer
239 views

Fluids in thermodynamic equlibrium

I am reading about the Euler equations of fluid dynamics from Leveque's Numerical Methods for Conservation Laws (Amazon link). After introducing the mass, momentum and energy equations, some ...
5
votes
3answers
308 views

Is it true that spring has more force acting on it at its positive maximum amplitude than than at the negative one?

Am I missing something? It seems obvious to me that at $+A$ and $-A$, the spring has restorative forces equal in magnitude but opposite in direction. But since gravity is always pulling it down, ...
5
votes
1answer
9k views

Difference between steady state and equilibrium?

In semiconductor physics, what is the difference between steady state and equilibrium. How analysis of devices varies in these processes?
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Understanding the Jacobian Matrix

Taking the example of a two dimensional system, desribred by the following ODE's: \begin{align} \frac{dx_1}{dt}&=f_1(x_1,x_2)\\ \frac{dx_2}{dt}&=f_2(x_1,x_2) \end{align} The Jacobian Matrix ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

Understanding moments as forces?

I was watching this lecture on analysis of stress for mechanics of materials. At time 7:20, the lecturer says that in equilibrium, the sum of forces and "moments" in each direction (x,y,z) must be ...
4
votes
2answers
422 views

The “stationary potential energy” condition for static equilibrium in mechanical systems

I've often read that, for a mechanical system which can be described by $n$ generalized coordinates $q_1,...,q_n$, a point $\mathbf{Q}=(Q_1,...,Q_n)$ is a point of equilibrium if and only if the ...
4
votes
6answers
1k views

Why a system should be at its lowest energy state for its stability?

Every possible reaction in chemistry is to attain stability. In physics, the alignment of an electric dipole in an external electric field and in all other physical systems (at least those I study in ...
4
votes
4answers
531 views

Dissolving oxygen into water

I was wondering how one would actually calculate how much oxygen would dissolve into water given the necessary initial conditions, and what those initial conditions would need to be. I assume they ...
4
votes
1answer
301 views

Is this formula for the energy of a configuration of 3 fluids physically reasonable?

I have studied for a couple of months now a mathematical model of the energy of a configuration of immiscible fluids situated in a fixed container such that the fluids fill the container. In other ...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Calculate stainless steel pole necking limit

Background Trying to determine how much weight a post can support without necking when a monitor is attached to an articulated arm: a cantilever problem. Problem There are three objects involved in ...
4
votes
1answer
217 views

H-theorem and Boltzmann equation applied to Boltzmann distribution

Using the Boltzmann equation: $$ \frac{dH}{dt} = \int_0^{\infty} dr \int_0^{\infty} ds W(r,s)[p_r - p_s][\ln{p_r} - \ln{p_s}],$$ and assuming $p_r = e^{-\beta r}$, the equation looks like $$ ...
4
votes
1answer
188 views

Boltzman distribution for chemical potentials

I read that if we have a system with two co-existing phases with chemical potentials respectively $\mu_1$ and $\mu_2$ then, at the equilibrium, the concentrations $X_1$ and $X_2$ are related by the ...
3
votes
3answers
17k views

When a ball is tossed straight up, does it experience momentary equilibrium at top of its path?

This question has been asked many times all over the Internet and answers can be found on places such as yahoo and ask.com, but I'm not satisfied with those answers and I don't trust the validity of ...
3
votes
2answers
762 views

Metal sphere and charged ring

I think this is an interesting question, to which I don't really know the answer to. (Also, not a homework question.) Say you have an uncharged metal sphere constrained to move in the z-axis. There ...
3
votes
3answers
276 views

What are some creative illustrations of the nature of dissipative forces?

I'm teaching a conceptual introduction to physics for American 13-15 year old students this summer. One of the main ideas I want to hit on is the relationship between energy conservation, ...
3
votes
3answers
135 views

Average temperature of the universe

Is it possible to define some average temperature of the universe? If yes, what fixes this temperature and how t estimate today's temperature? Is it different from the temperature of the black-body ...
3
votes
1answer
240 views

What's the point with equilibrium in Thermodynamics?

All the Thermodynamics books I saw until now state that in Thermodynamics we are mainly concearned with equilibrium states (I know there's "non-equilibrium Thermodynamics", but I'm interested on the ...
3
votes
1answer
267 views

Why is $\omega = \sqrt{K/m}$ valid for a quantum oscillator?

I'm working in the 3rd edition of Modern Physics by Serway, Moses, and Moyer. In 6.6, it talks about a quantum oscillator. I don't fully understand how the definition of frequency works. Now, we ...
3
votes
1answer
444 views

Lagrangian formulation of the problem: small oscillations around an equilibrium

I'm having trouble understanding how some conclusions are made in my book. I'm studying from a coursebook based on Goldstein's "Classical Mechanics", here's what's written in my book, with my problems ...
3
votes
2answers
433 views

When do thermal and chemical equilibrium not coincide?

What is an example for a system, which is in chemical equilibrium, but not in thermodynamical equilibrium? And what about the other way around? It seems to me, that as long as Parameters like ...
3
votes
1answer
29 views

Do all equillibrium points of a discrete mapping show up on the bifurcation diagram?

The question in the title is perhaps vaguely posed, so I'll include the concrete example which is bugging me. Suppose we have a mapping given by $$N_{t+1}=N_t\cdot ...
3
votes
1answer
73 views

Does the entropy of a system vary in the equilibrium?

I am not physicist and this question may seem trivial. But I understand that in the equilibrium the magnitudes such as temperature or volumen do not vary. Is the same for entropy? My logical says that ...
3
votes
1answer
64 views

What is the equivalent of a eutectic point for a (two-liquid)+solids system?

I deal with complex phase equilibria involving solid and liquid phases at high temperature. Below is a simplified temperature-XH2O diagram for a multicomponent system at constant pressure. (Note: ...
3
votes
2answers
601 views

Pumping water from a closed column. Will the column get empty or just circualte?

As a picture is worth a thousand words, here is my problem: It is a closed water column with a bit of air in the top section. If I run the pump and make the water flow from IN to OUT, Will the ...
3
votes
1answer
160 views

Local and global detailed balance

I'm taking a course on nonequilibrium statistical mechanics and I encountered the terms local and global detailed balance. I'm a bit confused about what is their exact definition and what is the ...
3
votes
1answer
581 views

How do simple bird waterers work?

I made a simple bird waterer made from two 1.25L PET bottles. Let's call these two bottles the reservoir and the tray. Setup The tray is a bottle with the top cut off to leave only the bottom ...
3
votes
2answers
721 views

Physical significance of Taylor and Maclaurin series - What is the significance of defining a Maclaurin series in Mathematical Physics?

In physics, usually Taylor series is used to express a quantity which keep changes with coordinate. For example the potential energy of a molecule changes with coordinate, so we express the potential ...
3
votes
2answers
575 views

Time to establish saturated vapour pressure above liquid

Thought experiment - a liquid is in a closed container in equilibrium with its vapour, and then suddenly all the vapour is pumped away. Switch off the pump so that instantaneosuly there is no vapour ...
3
votes
0answers
23 views

Timescales of physical and chemical equilibrium

Background When describing the behaviour of a reacting systems, we usually don't hesitate to apply property models to relate the local properties of each species. For example, in the case of a gas ...
3
votes
0answers
90 views

Le Chatelier's principle and energy minimization

In Callen's "Thermodynamics" in section 8.5 he asks us to imagine some perturbation $dX$ of an extensive parameter of a system in contact with a reservoir that acts to hold fixed the intensive ...
3
votes
0answers
56 views

Is it possible to have a line rather than a point where the three states of a substance can exist?

Most of us are familiar with state diagrams that define which of the three states a substance will take given the pressure and temperature. And that some substances, such as water for example, exhibit ...
2
votes
2answers
147 views

Where do forces point in an equilibrium system

I have the system above, with three identical balls of weight $W$ and radius $r$. The angle joining the centres is $\theta$, and the coefficient of friction between the balls and the plane is $\mu$ ...
2
votes
2answers
141 views

Is Boltzmann distribution contradicting with the fundamental assumption of statistical thermodynamics?

In equilibrium statistical physics the fundamental assumption of statistical thermodynamics states that the occupation of any microstate is equally probable (i.e. $p_i=1/\Omega, S=-k_B\sum p_i\,{\rm ...