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41
votes
7answers
3k 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 ...
20
votes
3answers
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 ...
15
votes
4answers
3k 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. ...
9
votes
4answers
271 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
6answers
6k 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
267 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
367 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
5answers
2k 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
375 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
60 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
1k 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
314 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
2answers
83 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
666 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
6answers
317 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
246 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
209 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
911 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
163 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
3k 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
3answers
232 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
2answers
241 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
402 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
1answer
453 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?
3
votes
1answer
50 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
1answer
28 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
354 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
2answers
315 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
2answers
391 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
102 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 ...
2
votes
3answers
158 views

Equilibrium that is not stable

Consider a system which is in an equilibrium state. Now, a small perturbation causes it to start oscillating about the equilibrium state, but over time, the momentum with which it overshoots the ...
2
votes
2answers
323 views

why egg cooks slowly in mountains?

A quick Google tells me "Because water boils at a lower temperature at high altitudes". But I am not being able to understand this answer and fill-in the gap. Like, how does an egg cook in the first ...
2
votes
1answer
1k views

Estimate temperature and pressure of steam in a pot of boiling water

Suppose we have a pot of known dimensions filled to level L with boiling water on a stove, covered by a lid with a vent of known dimensions. Given the steady-state temperature of the stove (bottom of ...
1
vote
2answers
402 views

To find whether a particle is in equilibrium or not

Actually the following question came in an exam i gave yesterday. I know the site does not allow home-work type questions, but as I am having a conceptual problem in solving the question, I am posting ...
1
vote
1answer
146 views

Mechanics question - ladder leaning against a wall

I am struggling with part a) of this question: Here is the solution: In part a) they prove that $F \leq \mu R$ is false for this system. So as $F$ is neither less than nor equal to $\mu R$ it ...
1
vote
1answer
1k views

Kirchhoff law of thermal radiation

Kirchhoff's law of thermal radiation states that for thermal equilibrium for a particular surface the monochromatic emissivity $\epsilon_{\lambda}$ equals the monochromatic absorptivity ...
1
vote
1answer
370 views

Upper equilibrium point of a pendulum with small perturbations

I remember the following fact about a rigid pendulum: The point when the pendulum weight is lowest is a stable equilibrium while the point where the pendulum weight is highest is an unstable one. ...
1
vote
1answer
56 views

How can the tension force be computed to test if a shape is moving or not?

Source Given the coordinates of $n$ 3D joints ($1kg$ each) connected by $m$ rods. Assume rods have zero mass and joints with $z=0$ are fixed to the ground while others are free to move, will the ...
1
vote
1answer
39 views

States of Matter and Equilibrium

Can I say that, matter generally when cooled decreases in volume because, when it is cooled,i.e., we lower the temperature of the surroundings, then the avg. energy of our sample will be higher than ...
1
vote
1answer
275 views

Classify equilibrium points and find bifurcation points of a non-linear dynamic system

Context: The question refers to computational physics of non linear systems with Mathematica. Excercise: Given the system $\{f_1: \dot{x} = a x + y + x^3, f_2: \dot{y} = x - y \}$: Find the ...
1
vote
1answer
135 views

Can exergy and exergy destruction be understood through thermodynamical and/or statistical-mechanical principles?

My textbook Fundamentals of engineering thermodynamics, Moran and Shapiro states: The exergy is the maximum theoretical work obtainable for an overall system consisting of a system and the ...
1
vote
2answers
519 views

Force analysis on truss [closed]

I am reading a book on fundamental physics for mechanics. There is a truss shown in the figure. A train of mass $M=56$ ton is resting at the middle point of AC, ignore all the mass of truss and rails. ...
1
vote
1answer
480 views

Statistical physics of molecular dissociation of a diatomic gas

Say there are $N$ atoms of type $A$ in a box of volume $V$ and they are undergoing a reversible association-dissociation reaction $A + A = A_2$. Let an $A$ atom have mass $m$, and hence the molecule ...
1
vote
0answers
29 views

Criteria for stable equilibrium [closed]

A homogeneous wooden bar of length 10 cm, thickness 4 cm and weight 1 Kg is balanced on the top of a semicircular cylinder of radius R as shown below. What is the minimum radius of the semicircular ...
1
vote
0answers
35 views

How does a simple weighing balance actually work? [duplicate]

I have made a simple sketch of how I think the system looks like. My problem is: I always thought that the angle the balance makes is a function of the difference between the two masses (or the ...
1
vote
0answers
29 views

Vacancy Generation / Annihilation Time (Relaxation Time)

Vacancy Generation/Annihilation Time, Recombination Time and Relaxation Time ($\tau$) are all synonymously used in atomic physics literatures. They're defined as the time that it takes for vacancies ...
1
vote
1answer
130 views

Earnshaw's theorem and springs

Earnshaw's theorem states that the Laplacian of the potential energy of a small charge moving through a landscape full of static negative and/or positive charges (and gravity) is zero. Thus you can't ...
1
vote
1answer
62 views

Uniqueness of equilibria in electrostatics

I have the following problem. Suppose we place some continuous charge distribution (with total charge $Q$)on some conducting domain. The charge will redistribute itself on the domain until it's in ...
1
vote
0answers
46 views

Reconciling Different Vapor Pressure Definitions

In describing vapor pressure, I have often heard the following intuition: Assume a closed container that is partially filled with water. Above the water lies a vacuum. The water will vaporize until ...
1
vote
0answers
813 views

Definitions in thermodynamics: temperature, thermal equilibrium, heat

I'm currently reading Fermi's "Thermodynamics" and I'm trying to grasp the (possibly different) right definitions for temperature, thermal equilibrium, heat. To clarify, I'm looking for definitions ...