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36
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5answers
5k 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 ...
30
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
29
votes
5answers
5k 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 ...
28
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 ...
24
votes
6answers
3k 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 ...
22
votes
5answers
8k 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 ...
18
votes
3answers
4k 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. ...
18
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
16
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
2answers
4k 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 ...
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 ...
9
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
8
votes
5answers
286 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?
8
votes
3answers
691 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
691 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
693 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 ...
6
votes
3answers
104 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?
5
votes
4answers
190 views

What was the amount of energy released in the 9/11 terrorist attacks?

I read somewhere on the internet that the amount of energy released by the terrorist attacks on the twin towers on 9/11 should have been of the order of 100 tons of TNT. This number surprised me, ...
5
votes
3answers
146 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
507 views

How to estimate condensation from air?

How to estimate the amount of water condensing from air on a surface, given the air's temperature and relative humidity and how they change over time, the surface temperature, material's thermal ...
4
votes
0answers
81 views

Intuitively, why does removing solutes cost $k_B T$ of free energy per molecule?

I can calculate that if you want to, for example, desalinate water, you will have to pay a free energy cost of $k_B T$ for each ion you remove. In other words, removing an ion from a volume of water ...
3
votes
1answer
114 views

What is the force required to move a raindrop?

I'm doing some research on how much force is required to move a typical raindrop (assuming that it is falling straight down) off to the side of X distance. This is for a school project on creating our ...
3
votes
1answer
224 views

What is an approximation of the average number of supernovae every century in the Milky Way?

Besides giving out a number and quoted source I would appreciate a short derivation of this number/formula based on our current data and knowledge of supernovae and the Milky Way. Show some traceable ...
3
votes
1answer
75 views

How powerful would a laser need to be to make a hole in snow?

How strong would a laser beam have to be (and what frequency would be optimal) for it to be able to make a hole in snow? Here I am looking for a laser beam that could make the hole after less than 2 ...
3
votes
3answers
72 views

Does my (too low) tire pressure, affect the speedometer of my car?

Does my (too low) tire pressure, affect the speedometer of my car? How big is this effect?
3
votes
1answer
97 views

Estimate for minimum potential depth required for bound states in 3D attractive potential well

Consider a 3D spherically symmetric potential well, $$H = \frac{p^2}{2m} + V(r)$$ with $V(r) = - V_0$ for $r < a/2$ and $0$ else, for some $V_0 > 0$. Now, it is well known that $V_0$ needs to ...
3
votes
1answer
26 views

Can physicist estimate is it safe to walk/drive on ice? [closed]

I'm curious about the following: Suppose that I know the the weather forecasts of a given place. How can I compute from that data whether or not it is secure to walk or drive by a car to an island.
3
votes
1answer
67 views

Mammal Population Estimates as a Fermi problem [closed]

Can We estimate the order of magnitude of number of mammals on earth? Can this be treated as Fermi problem or not?
3
votes
2answers
48 views

Is it possible to calculate the radius of star?

Suppose I know the Luminosity $L$, temperature $T$ and Mass $M$ of star. Assuming the star is very heavy so that we can treat it to be radiation-dominated star. This would imply that pressure inside ...
3
votes
2answers
109 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 ...
2
votes
3answers
152 views

Will my car consume more if I plug in my laptop?

I drive a Volvo v40 with a 110hp diesel engine. It usually use 4.6L/100km. If I plug my laptop which is 85W, will this change the fuel need? If so, by how much?
2
votes
2answers
2k views

When do I apply Significant figures in physics calculations?

I'm a little confused as to when to use significant figures for my physics class. For example, I'm asked to find the average speed of a race car that travels around a circular track with a radius of ...
2
votes
3answers
1k views

How much energy does a super nova generate?

For a scene in a SciFi book, I want to know: Is it possible to estimate how much energy per m² an object would receive that hides behind an in-system planet when the sun goes nova?
2
votes
2answers
131 views

Order of magnitude estimation for some intriguing questions

The physics TA showed us a few examples in which one can estimate many things from first principles, sound logic, and scaling arguments. This led usually to understanding of why some numbers have the ...
2
votes
3answers
94 views

How can Denver offer Hot Air Balloon rides?

So the air density in Denver is 1.0 kg/m^3. And heated air has the density of 0.95 kg/m^3. So adding the weight of the basket and balloon I don't understand how a hot air balloon could get off the ...
2
votes
1answer
81 views

Force and lions

Alright. So me and some other people right now need an answer to this. If you have 1 trillion lions traveling at 81 kilometers (top speed of a lion) towards the Sun in a pretty dense ball. (As dense a ...
2
votes
1answer
61 views

How much potential fusion energy is in Earth's ocean?

Assuming the most efficient manner for extraction, and a ready supply of other necessary materials not mentioned herein, and given the current estimates about the volume of Earth's ocean, how much ...
2
votes
1answer
83 views

When will the Earth stop rotating?

I looked up leap second in Wikipedia. It is a second added (usually) to clocks to keep them in sync with the atomic clock. It said that 25 leap seconds were added in the last 43 years and that none ...
2
votes
1answer
44 views

What are the tidal effects of Io on Jupiter?

I recall reading an essay by Asimov (I think) around 1980 stating that the tides are a function of a power of the diameter of the primary, so (surprisingly) small close moons of Jupiter raise large ...
2
votes
1answer
57 views

The fly and the sphere of iron

When I was a child, I read something like the following in a book whose name I have now forgotten (I tried to find the original quote on the web, but although there are some similar passages the ...
2
votes
1answer
266 views

Why do some liquid metals have anomalously-high surface tension/heat of vaporization ratios?

In a didactic article, Victor Weisskopf estimated the size of molecules in a liquid from measurements of their surface tension and heat of vaporization. If atoms are exceedingly small, then only a ...
2
votes
1answer
52 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
64 views

Is there a Fermi estimations toolbox?

I am a theoretical physics student and am a little ashamed at my inability to estimate any measurable quantity. I would like to develop my skills at Fermi estimations. Although it is hopeless to ...
2
votes
0answers
29 views

Quantum Efficiency Estimation

Might there be a way to do a rough estimate of the quantum efficiency of a photo-detector like a CCD or CMOS sensor based only on a picture taken with it? I've read papers and guides (like this one: ...
2
votes
2answers
692 views

Temperature on the surface of the sun calculated with the Stefan-Boltzmann-rule

In a German Wikipedia page, the following calculation for the temperature on the surface of the Sun is made: $\sigma=5.67*10^{-8}\frac{W}{m^2K^4}$ (Stefan-Boltzmann constant) $S = 1367\frac{W}{m^2}$ ...
2
votes
0answers
63 views

Are there any connections between James–Stein estimator and quantum mechanics?

Very nice statement from wiki: When three or more unrelated parameters are measured, their total MSE can be reduced by using a combined estimator such as the James–Stein estimator; whereas when ...
1
vote
5answers
3k views

Estimate number of hairs on human head [closed]

A technique of vital importance at all levels in physics is estimation. This is obvious from the first chapter in any introductory physics textbook, but is also related to the working physicist. ...
1
vote
2answers
70 views

What should we do If we wanted to increase the angular velocity of a planet? [duplicate]

We could hit it with really fast objects, but could we manipulate the orbit of a large satellite to speed up its rotation? What would be the easiest way?
1
vote
2answers
92 views

Would it be possible to make a space elevator only in the atmosphere?

I wonder if with current day technology we could make a "floating platform" which hangs from a satellite by a space elevator. This could allow a "launch process" involving floating a balloon to the ...
1
vote
1answer
194 views

How much lead is there in the universe?

I know there is around 10^80 atoms in the observable universe, but is there any estimate the amount of lead in the universe (within a couple magnitudes of 10)?