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

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275
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4answers
42k 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 ...
118
votes
6answers
13k views

Why do shadows from the sun join each other when near enough?

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 ...
114
votes
7answers
15k 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 ...
100
votes
24answers
14k 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 ...
79
votes
11answers
12k 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?
79
votes
2answers
4k views

Why does my wooden door disperse light into a rainbow color spectrum?

On a clear morning, light comes through this window (viewed from the inside) It then hits the door on the opposite side (so viewing from the outside the door straight on the other side) There is ...
74
votes
12answers
23k 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 ...
71
votes
8answers
21k views

Why does hot water clean better than cold water?

I had a left over coffee cup this morning, and I 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 that other ...
67
votes
5answers
10k 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 ...
60
votes
2answers
12k views

Why don't fluorescent lights produce shadows?

I have watched light sources such as incandescent lamps and other lamp sources; they have always made shadows. But a fluorescent lamp doesn't make any shadow. What is the reason behind the ...
59
votes
8answers
62k 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 ...
59
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3answers
20k 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 ...
56
votes
2answers
6k 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 ...
50
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4answers
9k 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 ...
49
votes
5answers
16k 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 ...
47
votes
3answers
8k views

Can kicking a falling phone save it from shattering?

So I saw this tip but I don't think this is true, it would be that your leg or shoe is more flexible than a hard floor so the momentum change would be slower right?
47
votes
8answers
6k 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 ...
46
votes
17answers
5k 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.
46
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3answers
5k views

Why do the big nuts always remain at top? The Brazil-nut Effect

Most of the time I mixed different nuts in a bowl, I observed that the big Brazil nuts were always at top while the small peanuts settled near the base. No matter how you take it, if the big nuts are ...
45
votes
6answers
41k 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. ...
44
votes
2answers
5k views

Why Do Sausages Always Split Lengthwise?

Sausages universally split parallel to the length of the sausage. Why is that?
43
votes
5answers
14k 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 ...
41
votes
4answers
11k views

How do bicycle spokes work?

As you know, it is quite obvious that bicycle spokes attach the hub in the center to the rim. What else do they do? If you compare the wheels today with the ones from ancient times, there are more ...
38
votes
4answers
23k 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 ...
37
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4answers
3k views

What causes this pattern of sunlight reflected off a table leg?

My friend noticed an interference-like pattern around the table leg. However, we do know that interference patterns of sunlight produces rainbow colours. What seems to be happening here?
37
votes
1answer
4k views

Why are dishwasher washed glasses “squeaky clean”?

They seem to have increased friction after going through a dishwasher. The unpleasant (to me) squeaky feel is probably slip-stick friction exciting resonance in the glassware. But why? What has ...
37
votes
2answers
1k views

Why do stickers curl?

When peeling a sticker off its base, the immediate reaction is that it curls; why is this? I am having trouble finding an answer to this. Could it be that the glued side expands upon contact with the ...
33
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
32
votes
6answers
9k views

Why can we see through rain?

I am gazing through my office window into a heavy rain. I am thinking that raindrops are like small lenses that bend the light. Thus I am surprised, that I can clearly see other buildings through the ...
32
votes
3answers
12k 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.
32
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3answers
6k views

Push a Boeing 737 on ice: Did this guy have a chance? [closed]

In this video an airport worker (in blue) tries to prevent a Boeing 737 from sliding on ice in heavy winds: Did he even have a chance? On one side of the argument, the airplane is sliding due to ...
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
2answers
11k 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 ...
29
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3answers
5k views

Is this really a golden ratio spiral?

In this blog post, I found this picture: There are other similar photos: and Does the water really form golden ratio spiral in such cases? Or is the photo just a provocative example, without ...
29
votes
10answers
20k views

Does car tire pressure change with weight of car load?

Does tire pressure measured by a meter on tire gauge change with load? (I am not interested in pressure produced by car tires onto the road). Car spec usually says "inflate to 220kPa normal load, ...
29
votes
3answers
933 views

Why do particles in the molten wax near a burning candle wick get pushed away?

Have a look at this clip I made of my candle burning: I can accept that the molten wax gets sucked into the wick (though not quite sure why: capilary action?). But why does it also seem to get ...
28
votes
4answers
5k views

Why are stars white?

That is may be a easy question, but I am not a professional. The sun is a star and when I look at the sun is usually yellow. Why stars in the night are white? I suppose is for the distance. What is ...
28
votes
6answers
3k 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 ...
28
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1answer
9k 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?
28
votes
6answers
23k 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?
27
votes
6answers
14k 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 ...
26
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6answers
12k 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 ...
26
votes
3answers
4k views

Emptying a bottle faster by swirl

A moment ago, I was emptying bottles filled with water (2 liters) that are on the terrace of my house. As I did so I remembered something I saw on TV a some time ago (I don't remember when or where or ...
26
votes
5answers
10k 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 ...
26
votes
4answers
44k views

Do low frequency sounds really carry longer distances?

It is a common belief that low frequencies travel longer distances. Indeed, the bass is really what you hear when the neighbor plays his HiFi loud (Woom Woom). Try asking people around, a lot of them ...
25
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 ...
24
votes
5answers
3k 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 ...
24
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2answers
2k views

When a drop of water falls into water, where do the splashes come from?

When a drop of water falls into a reservoir of water from a high enough altitude, water droplets will splash (image credit): My question: Does the water in those droplets come from the original ...
23
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2answers
2k views

Is it (practically) possible for a large building to be a Faraday cage?

In my sophomore year of high school, my P.E. teachers kept on complaining about how phones didn't have a network connection in our gym, regardless of model, service provider, etc. A couple of feet ...
23
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3answers
101k views

Why does the moon sometimes appear giant and a orange red color near the horizon?

I've read various ideas about why the moon looks larger on the horizon. The most reasonable one in my opinion is that it is due to how our brain calculates (perceives) distance, with objects high ...