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79
votes
6answers
9k views

Does a gun exert enough gravity on the bullet it fired to stop it?

My question is set in the following situation: You have a completely empty universe without boundaries. In this universe is a single gun which holds one bullet. The gun fires the bullet and the ...
67
votes
8answers
6k views

Does quantum mechanics play a role in the brain?

I'm interested in whether the scale of processes that occur in the brain is small enough to be affected by quantum mechanics. For instance, we ignore quantum mechanics when we analyze a game of tennis ...
37
votes
5answers
7k views

Freefall into snow

In the movie Frozen, the following dialogue takes place: Anna: "It's a hundred-foot drop." Kristoff: "It's two hundred." Anna: "Okay, what if we fall?" Kristoff: "There's 20 feet of ...
37
votes
4answers
4k views

How far out from the Sun is visible light still sufficient to read a book?

Recent pictures from the New Horizons spacecraft, shown below, seem to indicate that, at Pluto's distance, we are entering a twilight zone, with a distinct lack of colors, although that could be due ...
31
votes
5answers
8k views

If the Earth is a good conductor of electricity, why don't people get electrocuted every time they touch the Earth?

Since the Earth is a good conductor of electricity, is it safe to assume that any charge that flows down to the Earth must be redistributed into the Earth in and along all directions? Does this also ...
31
votes
3answers
3k views

Floating a ping pong ball in the air just using a pen!

Caution: Apparently this problem is harder than it seems! There is a well known phenomena, which I first learnt about when I was a 10 years old kid. You can levitate a ping pong(or whatever ...
30
votes
5answers
4k views

Why don't things get destroyed by gas molecules flying around?

Gas molecules go at an insane velocity, and though they are miniscule, yet there is a LOT of them. Of course, because of all these molecules hurtling around, there is air pressure; yet if you envision ...
29
votes
4answers
6k views

How is it possible that the energy needed to stop a train is the same as the (chemical) energy in a pack of chocolate cookies?

Today my friend told me something that blew my mind completely. He said: The energy necessary to stop a train is equal to the energy in a pack of cookies. How is that possible? Is he right? I'm ...
28
votes
6answers
4k views

How fast a (relatively) small black hole will consume the Earth?

This question appeared quite a time ago and was inspired, of course, by all the fuss around "LHC will destroy the Earth". Consider a small black hole, that is somehow got inside the Earth. Under ...
27
votes
3answers
4k views

How many X-rays does a light bulb emit?

I read somewhere that most things1 emits all kinds of radiation, just very few of some kinds. So that made me wondering whether there is a formula to calculate how many X-rays an 100W incandescent ...
25
votes
5answers
12k views

Is it possible to shoot bullets in space or would the recoil of the gun be too strong?

I've read a few articles that say that astronauts have already brought guns in space and that shooting bullets in space is possible. But won't the recoil of the gun be too strong? Law of ...
22
votes
2answers
5k views

How long until we fall into the Sun?

As a planet moves through the solar system, a bow shock is formed as the solar wind is decelerated by the magnetic field of the planet. Presumably the creation of this shock wave would cause drag on ...
20
votes
3answers
6k views

Roughly how many atoms thick is the layer of graphite left by a pencil writing on paper?

Actually I can't expand much as the question pretty much explains the query. I would be interested in the method of estimating an answer as well as a potential way to measure it experimentally. ...
19
votes
4answers
7k views

Can lasers lift objects?

I have been fascinated by a very intriguing question - Can lasers push objects up? I have done the below math to find out Lets say we have a $1000~\text{mW}$ laser and we would like to lift an ...
19
votes
3answers
5k views

How quickly was the Earth rotating 250 million years ago?

The Earth is slowing at a rate of $4.7\times10^{-4}$ miles per second every 100 years due to tidal forces of the moon. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth%27s_rotation ...
18
votes
2answers
9k views

Dumbed-down explanation how scientists know the number of atoms in the universe?

It is often quoted that the number of atoms in the universe is 10$^{70}$ or 10$^{80}$. How do scientists determine this number? And how accurate is it (how strong is the supporting evidences for ...
17
votes
2answers
4k views

How big is a 1kW fire?

What is the size/scale of a wood fire that is producing 1kW? I'd like to improve my ability to conceptualize various power scales.
17
votes
7answers
3k views

How big are clouds? [closed]

How big are clouds? When I look up into the sky I have no frame of reference, so I don't know if they are 200 feet or 2 miles across. When I am in a plane looking out at a cloud, I try to use the wing ...
17
votes
2answers
1k views

Why can't Humans run any faster?

If you wanted to at least semi-realistically model the key components of Human running, what are the factors that determine the top running speed of an individual? The primary things to consider would ...
15
votes
1answer
2k views

Can I move an oil tanker?

Let's say that I'm standing at the edge of a basin made of concrete. This basin is filled with salt water and a ship floats on the water close to the edge of the basin. The ship is neither anchored ...
14
votes
6answers
4k views

Throwing an object around the Earth. Is it possible?

Some of you might be familiar with the cartoon called Astérix. In one of the episodes, Obelix (the really strong fat guy in the stylish striped pants) enters a spear throwing competition. He beats the ...
13
votes
1answer
433 views

How hot would tritium water be?

I realize this is kind of a silly question, but if you have tritium water, with the tritium half life of 12.5 years, I expect it would be quite hot. (note, this is not a homework question, I'm just ...
11
votes
1answer
2k views

Why don't they use springs as an energy source for cell phones?

I know they used springs for clocks way back in the day and now it's all lithium ion batteries. For reference, consider the Iphone that has a battery with a capacity of 5 Watt hours (18,000 joules). ...
10
votes
3answers
837 views

Can a building get taller at night?

UberFacts recently tweeted "Office buildings are taller at night—a 1,300-foot-tall skyscraper shrinks about 1.5 millimeters under the weight of 50,000 occupants." Is what they are saying valid? It ...
10
votes
2answers
291 views

Would a rocky planet orbiting so close to a very hot star eventually vaporize?

I was thinking about the physics behind a hypothetical scenario where a planet the size and the mass of the Earth is orbiting so close to a very hot star and what the long-term fate of such a planet ...
10
votes
3answers
7k views

Can superconducting magnets fly (or repel the earth's core)?

If a superconducting magnet and appropriate power supply had just enough $I\cdot s$ (current $\cdot$ length) so that when it was perpendicular to the earth's magnetic field, the force of the ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

Is it possible to produce gravitational waves artificially?

Why don't they make a ball with irregularities, say the size of a tennis ball, then spin it very rapidly, so it would produce gravitational waves like a spinning star with irregularities on it? Is ...
9
votes
5answers
360 views

What are the chances that a deadly asteroid will hit Earth in the next decade?

What are the chances that an asteroid that will kill multiple people will hit Earth in the next decade?
9
votes
6answers
2k views

Gay-Lussac's Law & the Patriots

This may be a question better suited for xkcd what if? section...but here goes: with all the hoopla around the patriots / colts game and allegations of cheating by deflating footballs, I've read/heard ...
9
votes
3answers
383 views

What is the safe distance to a supernova explosion?

In other words, what stars near the Sun may have an impact on the Solar system equilibrium or the Earth life if they become supernova ? Is SN 1987 A too far ?
9
votes
2answers
2k views

Why do mirages only appear on hot days?

A previous question asked why the road sometimes appears wet on hot days. The reason is that when there's a temperature gradient in the air, it causes a gradient in the index of refraction, causing ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

Energy needed for Superman to take off and fly at the speed of sound

I just watched "Man of Steel", and I'm wondering if my logic is correct. Let's assume Superman is 80 kg. The energy required to take off from the rest to reach the speed of sound in air (if I neglect ...
8
votes
3answers
796 views

How can we make an order-of-magnitude estimate of the strength of Earth's magnetic field?

The source of Earth's magnetic field is a dynamo driven by convection current in the molten core. Using some basic physics principles (Maxwell's equations, fluid mechanics equations), properties of ...
8
votes
3answers
250 views

Simple estimation of the critical temperature of water

I'm trying to develop fermi estimation skills and I came up with a question for which I don't even know where to start from. Here goes: Is it possible to estimate the critical temperature (say in ...
8
votes
1answer
193 views

How loud would a sound have to be to be heard around the world?

I'm reading the book Cosmos by Carl Sagan, and in it he states: Striking the Earth's atmosphere, a modest cometary fragment would produce a great radiant fireball and a mighty blast wave, which ...
7
votes
2answers
550 views

How many Gs are my clothes experiencing in my washer? [closed]

During a spin cycle I got curious: How many Gs are at play in my simple washing machine? We can assume the drum is 50 cm wide and spins at 1500 rpm.
7
votes
1answer
721 views

How fast will sublimed dry ice mix with air?

I saw this photo and wondered: Will the CO2 stay mostly in a layer on the floor with the rest of the atmosphere resting on top, or will it quickly diffuse throughout the room? This lab is probably ...
7
votes
4answers
19k views

How much energy in form of heat does a human body emit?

How much energy in form of heat does a human body emit at rest level?
7
votes
1answer
256 views

Is it possible to remove the last block from a the lowest layer of a Jenga tower?

A while back, my brother and I had a discussion about the possibility of removing the last block from the lowest layer of a Jenga tower with the layer immediately above it having only one block in it ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

Could we launch a missile from a planet with the mass of Jupiter?

If the Earth had the mass of Jupiter, would we be able to launch a space missile ? Is there a formula to calculate how the launch of 1-Kg payload increases with gravity?
6
votes
3answers
171 views

How big would a solar sail need to be to be detected from the orbit of Pluto?

Suppose we made a solar sail out of a highly reflective material. How big would that solar sail have to be for the Hubble Space Telescope to detect it visually at the average distance of Pluto?
6
votes
2answers
3k views

How is the Earth heated by a Full Moon?

While the moon is certainly not a good reflector of solar radiation, surely the radiation it reflects back heats the Earth (even if it is a terribly small amount). How would one go about calculating ...
6
votes
2answers
310 views

How much upward force due to ground vibrations does the Earth exert on you?

Say you're walking by the highway and you can feel the vibrations of cars moving along. How would you approximate the force that the ground is exerting on your feet due to these vibrations?
6
votes
4answers
3k views

Effect on length of day as the polar ice caps melt

If the polar ice caps of the Earth melt, how will the length of the day be affected?
6
votes
3answers
245 views

What would it take to cause lightning to jump between the Moon and the Earth?

This question comes from @Floris' speculation at the end of his excellent answer about what it would take to kill everyone on the Earth with electricity. Doing all this in 1/10th of a second ...
6
votes
1answer
189 views

Why do flat sheets of paper twist more than paper cones as they fall?

If I cut a 10cm circle out of a piece of paper and drop it, it will twist as it falls, even if it's rigid. If I then cut out a one-quarter wedge of the circle and tape the remaining three-quarters ...
5
votes
3answers
332 views

What was the density of the universe when it was only the size of our solar system?

What was the density of the universe when it was only the size of our solar system? Did it approach neutron star density? Is it physically correct to even ask such a question?
5
votes
3answers
223 views

How would we estimate, ahead of time, “the chances” of LIGO spotting black holes colliding in the period that it has been operating? [duplicate]

Can anyone summarize calculations that have been done about the theoretical probability of a detectable black hole collision happening in the observable universe within the time that LIGO has been ...
5
votes
1answer
228 views

How far away from the Sun does space start to be cold?

I assume that if I stood on the sun, I would be hot. I similarly assume that if I stood about 10 feet from the sun, I would still be hot. However, if I stood in space 93 million miles away, I would be ...
5
votes
3answers
5k views

How hot can metal get in sunlight? [closed]

I will make some 5mm blackened steel letters for a building. Now, in the sunlight in summer, how hot can they get? EDIT: i want to place some LEDs on the back of the letters. now the question is if ...