Concerns the application of the laws of physics to analyze common situations encountered in everyday life.

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196
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4answers
35k views

Can I compute the mass of a coin based on the sound of its fall?

Other day, I bumped my bookshelf and a coin fell down. This gave me an idea. Is it possible to compute the mass of a coin, based on the sound emitted when it falls? I think that there should be a ...
88
votes
6answers
7k views

Very strange shadow phenomenon

I was laying on my bed, reading a book when the sun shone through the windows on my left. I happened to look at the wall on my right and noticed this very strange effect. The shadow of my elbow, when ...
82
votes
7answers
6k views

Does Earth really have two high-tide bulges on opposite sides?

The bit that makes sense – tidal forces My physics teacher explained that most tidal effect is caused by the moon rotating around the Earth, and some also by the Sun. They said that in the Earth and ...
78
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24answers
9k views

How can you weigh your own head in an accurate way?

I read some methods but they're not accurate. They use the Archimedes principle and they assume uniform body density which of course is far from true. Others are silly like this one: Take a knife ...
68
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12answers
8k views

Why is filling a balloon from your mouth much harder initially?

Why is it that when you first fill up a balloon, it's hard to get air through, but after inflating it a bit, it becomes much easier to further inflate the balloon?
60
votes
12answers
8k views

Why are radiators always placed under windows?

I don't know if anyone else has noticed this but in most buildings and most rooms, radiators are predominantly placed under a window. Now, in my eyes, that is the worst place to put them; hot air ...
56
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7answers
8k views

How does hot water clean better than cold water?

I had a left over coffee cup this morning, and tried to wash it out. I realized I always instinctively use hot water to clean things as it seems to work better. A google search showed other people ...
53
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3answers
5k views

Why can we see the dust particles in a narrow beam of light (and not in an all lighted area)?

Let us say that I am sitting in a room with all the drapes open. Bright sunlight is coming through the window. The whole room is brilliantly lighted. I will not be able to see the dust particles ...
50
votes
8answers
11k views

Why does a remote car key work when held to your head/body?

I was trying to unlock my car, but I was out of range. A friend of mine said that I have to hold the transmitter next to my head. It worked, so I tried the following later that day: Walked away from ...
45
votes
1answer
2k views

Why does dry spaghetti break into three pieces as opposed to only two?

You can try it with your own uncooked spaghetti if you want; it almost always breaks into three when you snap it. I am asking for a good physical theory on why this is along with evidence to back it ...
42
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5answers
7k views

Why does a candle blow out when we blow on it? Our breath is 16% oxygen and only 4% CO2

Don't say that a layer of carbon dioxide covers the flame, because our breath has more oxygen than carbon dioxide. Also, our breath does not cool the flame as it is itself warm. So what is happening ...
42
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4answers
3k views

Why is water clear?

Water appears transparent to visible light, yet most other objects are opaque. Why is that? Is there an explanation why water appears transparent? Is water transparent at all wavelengths, or are ...
41
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2answers
5k views

Why Do Sausages Always Split Lengthwise?

Sausages universally split parallel to the length of the sausage. Why is that?
41
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8answers
3k views

How can Magnets be used to pick up pieces of metal when the force from a magnetic field does no work?

I learned that the force from magnetic fields does no work. However I was wondering how magnets can be used to pick up pieces of metal like small paperclips and stuff. I also was wondering how magnets ...
40
votes
5answers
13k views

How effective is speeding?

At a simple level, speeding in a car attempts to minimize the time required to travel a distance by utilizing the basic relationship: $$d=st$$ So for a given distance, time should be inversely ...
39
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16answers
4k views

Quantum mechanics and everyday nature

Is there a phenomenon visible to the naked eye that requires quantum mechanics to be satisfactorily explained? I am looking for a sort of quantic Newtonian apple.
37
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4answers
6k views

How do bicycle spokes work?

As you know, it is quite obvious that Bicycle spokes attach the hub in the centre to the rim. What else do they do? If you compare the wheels today with the ones from ancient times, there are more ...
37
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3answers
2k views

Why wet is dark?

When something gets wet, it usually appears darker. This can be observed with soil, sand, cloth, paper, concrete, bricks ... What is the reason for this? How does water soaking into the material ...
34
votes
5answers
17k views

Why do power lines buzz?

When near high tension power lines, particularly after a good rain, the lines themselves emit a buzzing noise. A similar noise can be heard coming out of the electric meters attached to my apartment. ...
29
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
4answers
7k views

What causes ballpoint pens to write intermittently?

After a while, a ball point pen doesn't write very well anymore. It will write for a little distance, then leave a gap, then maybe write in little streaks, then maybe write properly again. It seems ...
28
votes
3answers
4k views

Where does the light go when I turn off the light switch?

As above... Surely it must go somewhere? My child asked me this question and it was a difficult one to answer.
28
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4answers
1k views

How much information about the scale of a waterfall can be obtained from its sound?

Is it possible to constrain the height, volume flow, or distance of a waterfall from the quantitative analysis of a high-quality recording of its sound? As an aside, the simulated sounds of fluid ...
25
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6answers
6k views

How do whisky stones keep your drink cold?

From a discussion in the DMZ (security stack exchange's chat room - a place where food and drink are important topics) we began to question the difference between how ice and whisky stones work to ...
25
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6answers
2k views

Canonical everyday-life example of a technology that could not work without humans mastering QM in analogy to the application of GR in GPS?

The GPS is a very handy example in explaining to a broad audience why it is useful for humanity to know the laws of general relativity. It nicely bridges the abstract theory with daily life ...
25
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4answers
4k views

Why does wet skin sunburn faster?

There is a popular belief that wet skin burns or tans faster. However, I've never heard a believable explanation of why this happens. The best explanation I've heard is that the water droplets on the ...
23
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3answers
4k views

Is this really a golden ratio spiral?

In this blog post, I found this picture: Does the water really form golden ratio spiral in such cases? Or is the photo just a provocative example, without physics grounds for claims about ...
23
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6answers
7k views

Why does a tire need to be filled with air?

The Mini 4WD's tires aren't full of air, and it can run. Also, the tank doesn't have tires with air. So, the question is: why do real cars on the road need to be filled with air? What is the idea ...
22
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5answers
2k views

Why isn't the sunset/sunrise rainbow-colored

When the sun is rising/setting, it goes through a phase where the light is bending from the atmosphere. I believe this image will explain much better than I ever could. Now, if light goes through ...
22
votes
2answers
5k views

Why is boiling water loud, then quiet?

Water in my electric kettle makes the most noise sixty to ninety seconds before the water comes to a full boil. I have been fooled many times by the noisy kettle, only to discover that the water was ...
22
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4answers
3k views

Why do 'dead' batteries work again after exchanging the places of the batteries in an electronic device?

My camera, which is powered by two AA batteries in series, would not power on. I removed the batteries, exchanged their locations, and the device worked again - for another 15 minutes or so. The ...
21
votes
2answers
753 views

Physics of weird “boing” sound in racquetball courts?

While playing racquetball, I frequently hear a very prominent "boing" sound (or more formally, a chirp). For example, you can hear it in this video when the ball hits the front wall. Does anyone know ...
21
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6answers
12k views

Lightning strikes the Ocean I'm swimming in - what happens?

I'm swimming in the ocean and there's a thunderstorm. Lightning bolts hit ships around me. Should I get out of the water?
20
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6answers
4k views

Why Won't a Tight Cable Ever Be Fully Straight?

I posted this picture of someone on a zipline on Facebook. One of my friends saw it and asked this question, so he could try to calculate the speed at which someone on the zipline would be going ...
19
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4answers
2k views

Why does a cork float to the side of a glass?

What is this physical phenomenon and when it's happen ? Please take a look at this picture: Link to picture Notice: This is a cork ball attracted to sides of a glass of water
19
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4answers
2k views

Does a car consume more fuel when it's raining?

Yesterday my wife asked me that question, and I couldn't answer. Consider a car, in a sunny day, and that is consumes x gallons per mile. Considering that everything is equal, except that it's ...
19
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11answers
3k views

Are there still 'everyday' phenomena unexplained by Physics? [closed]

There are two very famous quotes from German Nobel Laureate Albert Abraham Michelson that are remembered mainly for being extremely wrong (especially since he said them just before two major ...
18
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3answers
3k views

Is play-dough liquid or solid?

At room temperature, play-dough is solid(ish). But if you make a thin strip it cannot just stand up on it's own, so is it still solid? On a more general note, what classifies or differentiates a ...
18
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2answers
1k views

Why does blowing on a candle put it out but sucking doesn't?

Alternatively, why does the force created by blowing out air feel so much stronger than the force created by sucking in air? Ok, so forget the human factor involved in blowing out candles. Consider a ...
18
votes
2answers
736 views

How hot does the tip of a pencil get while writing?

When writing with a pencil, there seems to be quite a lot of friction - which seems like it would induce heat. How hot would the tip of a #2 pencil get writing on normal copy paper?
17
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3answers
4k views

How would an X-ray scanner identify a mirror?

A mirror is under normal circumstance used to reflect Electromagnetic radiation also known as photons (light) and in airport security or medical facilities, they use X-rays to detect anomalies inside ...
17
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5answers
3k views

When I stretch a rubber band, it breaks. When I hold the broken ends together, why doesn't it join again?

The question is simple. When we join the two broken surfaces, what is it that keeps the surfaces from connecting with each other, while earlier they were attached to each other? Also, would the two ...
17
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1answer
3k views

Why does paper become translucent when smeared with oil but not (so much) with water?

When I smear oil onto a scrap of paper and rub it in, the paper becomes quite translucent; but when I attempt the same with water it doesn't as much. Why?
16
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7answers
6k views

Does an empty refrigerator require more power to stay cold than a full one?

Given that everything else is equal (model of fridge, temperature settings, external temperature, altitude), over a given duration of having the door closed, does it require more electricity to cool ...
16
votes
5answers
2k views

Where does deleted information go?

I've heard that, in classical and quantum mechanics, the law of conservation of information holds. I always wonder where my deleted files and folders have gone on my computer. It must be somewhere I ...
16
votes
2answers
351 views

Stripeless cleaning of windows

Cross post: http://chemistry.stackexchange.com/q/4377/22 Last week I was discussing with a friend how we thought the stripeless cleaning of windows is achieved when using a cleaner like Windex ...
16
votes
2answers
174 views

Why does sand stick to my shoes?

Well, that's easy: the sand is wet, and my shoes are wet, and hydrogen bonding adheres the wet sand to my wet feet and to my shoes. But then I walk home, and my shoes dry, and the sand on them dries, ...
15
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1answer
690 views

Why is boiling water the second time more quiet than boiling it the first time?

First of all: This is a different question than Why is boiling water loud, then quiet?, although the answers might be similar. When I wake up, I boil some water for a cup of tea. It happens quite ...
14
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3answers
743 views

Alternatives to electromagnetism for communication?

It seems, from my (weak) understanding of the standard model that the only field suitable for long range communication is the one we actually use, electromagnetism. (Gravity waves could be used as ...
14
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4answers
2k views

Why do bubbles make a sound?

I have an understanding of how bubbles work. They encapsulate air (or other fluids) in a membrane caused by surface tension. When they pop, there is often a sound. Sound is a type of energy, kinetic ...