for questions about design, process, data, or analysis of experiments and observations.

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497
votes
19answers
185k views

Cooling a cup of coffee with help of a spoon

During the breakfast with my colleagues, a question popped into my head: What is the fastest method to cool a cup of coffee, if your only available instrument is a spoon? A qualitative answer would ...
195
votes
11answers
26k views

What experiment would disprove string theory?

I know that there's big controversy between two groups of physicists: those who support string theory (most of them, I think) and those who oppose it. One of the arguments of the second group is ...
169
votes
9answers
17k views

Why is the detection of gravitational waves so significant?

LIGO has announced the detection of gravitational waves on 11 Feb, 2016. I was wondering why the detection of gravitational waves was so significant? I know it is another confirmation of general ...
108
votes
3answers
4k views

Why is the vibration in my wire acting so oddly?

I was soldering a very thin wire today, and when I had one end firmly soldered, I accidentally bumped the wire diagonally with my tweezers. What I'd expect to happen is that the wire oscillates for a ...
77
votes
5answers
6k views

What was the major discovery on gravitational waves made March 17th, 2014, in the BICEP2 experiment?

The Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics held a press conference today to announce a major discovery relating to gravitational waves. What was their announcement, and what are the implications? ...
59
votes
9answers
6k views

What are the next generation physics experiments? [closed]

The LHC and LIGO are two recent examples of hugely ambitious experiments in fundamental physics, both of which took decades to develop. What are the next major experiments currently being planned and ...
48
votes
7answers
8k views

What technology can result from such expensive experiment as undertaken in CERN?

I wonder what technology can be obtained from such very expensive experiments/institutes as e.g. undertaken in CERN? I understand that e.g. the discovery of the Higgs Boson confirms our understanding ...
48
votes
1answer
1k views

What is the upper-limit on intrinsic heating due to dark matter?

Cold dark matter is thought to fill our galactic neighborhood with a density $\rho$ of about 0.3 GeV/cm${}^3$ and with a velocity $v$ of roughly 200 to 300 km/s. (The velocity dispersion is much ...
47
votes
4answers
4k views

Why does LIGO do blind data injections but not the LHC?

The LIGO group has a team that periodically produces fake data indicating a possible gravitational wave without informing the analysts. A friend of mine who works on LHC data analysis told me that ...
46
votes
3answers
3k views

Why are LIGO's beam tubes so wide?

Gravitational wave detectors and particle accelerators have at least one thing in common -- they require long vacuum tubes through which a narrow beam is fired (a laser in the gravitational wave case, ...
45
votes
1answer
7k views

Why do earphone wires always get tangled up in pocket?

What is the reason? Is it caused by their narrow shape, the soft material, walking vibration or something else?
44
votes
12answers
11k views

Home experiments to derive the speed of light?

Are there any experiments I can do to derive the speed of light with only common household tools?
41
votes
11answers
23k views

How did Newton discover his second law?

I've always assumed/been told that Newton's 2nd law is an empirical law — it must be discovered by experiment. If this is the case, what experiments did Newton do to discover this? Is it related to ...
41
votes
5answers
4k views

Scattering of light by light: experimental status

Scattering of light by light does not occur in the solutions of Maxwell's equations (since they are linear and EM waves obey superposition), but it is a prediction of QED (the most significant Feynman ...
40
votes
13answers
12k views

Why is cold fusion considered bogus?

Cold fusion is being mentioned a lot lately because of some new setup that apparently works. This is an unverified claim. See for example: http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/11/01/24/1550205/...
38
votes
4answers
5k views

Can water falling from a tap follow a spiral path?

The faucet design depicted below is driving me crazy. The water falling from the tap appears to follow a spiral path. No one seems to agree whether it is physically possible for the water to spin in ...
37
votes
4answers
2k views

What is needed to claim the discovery of the Higgs boson?

As I understand the Higg's boson can be discovered by the LHC because the collisions are done at an energy that is high enough to produce it and because the luminosity will be high enough also. But ...
36
votes
2answers
3k views

Cause for spikes in trinity bomb test

In Richard Rhodes' book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, I was reading about the Trinity nuclear test. High speed photos were taken and this one is from <1ms after the detonation. The book mentions ...
36
votes
5answers
6k views

Why isn't Higgs coupling considered a fifth fundamental force?

When I first learned about the four fundamental forces of nature, I assumed that they were just the only four kind of interactions there were. But after learning a little field theory, there are many ...
35
votes
4answers
6k views

Has gravity ever been experimentally measured between two atoms?

Has there been any experiments, or are there any references, demonstrating gravity between atoms? If so, what are the key experiments/papers? Or if not, what is the smallest thing that has actually ...
34
votes
6answers
33k views

Why is jumping into water from high altitude fatal?

If I jump from an airplane straight positioned upright into the ocean, why is it the same as jumping straight on the ground? Water is a liquid as opposed to the ground, so I would expect that by ...
33
votes
3answers
6k views

What is the smallest item for which gravity has been recorded or observed?

What is the smallest item for which gravity has been recorded or observed? By this, I mean the smallest object whose gravitational effect upon another object has been detected. (Many thanks to Daniel ...
33
votes
2answers
4k views

Pouring oil on choppy water to calm it , does it work and if so how?

Near where I live, local fishermen often bring cans of castor oil with them, to calm the water around their boats, if they feel bad weather is due. They claim this method of sea calming works, (...
30
votes
1answer
1k views

Status of experimental searches for tachyons?

Now that the dust has settled on the 2011 superluminal neutrino debacle at OPERA, I'm interested in understanding the current status of experimental searches for neutrinos. Although the OPERA claim ...
29
votes
6answers
3k views

How to determine your position underground?

Crossed my mind after random rant on wikipedia that lead me to articles about chronometers and measuring position. Let's assume I were trapped in the underground laboratory with lots of equipment ...
28
votes
6answers
10k views

Is this kids experiment a legitimate way to show that air has mass?

Consider the experiment in this link. The experiment includes using a ruler as a lever, with an inflated balloon on one side and a balloon which is not inflated on the other. The aim of the ...
28
votes
3answers
4k views

How can an electron fake a jet?

This is a question for experimentalists. I have seen in several ATLAS papers (see for example chapter 4 in arXiv:1602.09058, 6th paragraph), that after objects have been correctly identified, any jet ...
28
votes
2answers
367 views

experimental bounds on spacetime torsion

Did Gravity Probe B provide any bounds on Einstein-Cartan torsion? is a non-zero torsion value at odds with the results regarding frame-dragging and geodetic effects?
27
votes
5answers
4k views

What does air “feel” like to a flying mosquito in terms of viscosity?

If I go for a walk at, say 4 km/hour, unless there is a breeze blowing, I probably won't notice the air around me at all. If I go for a swim though, I will immediately notice the viscosity of the ...
27
votes
5answers
4k views

Interpretation of “transition rate” in Fermi's golden rule

This is a question I asked myself a couple of years back, and which a student recently reminded me of. My off-the-cuff answer is wrong, and whilst I can make some hand-waving responses I'd like a ...
25
votes
3answers
3k views

How strong were the gravitational waves that LIGO detected at the source?

Congrats to the LIGO team on the announcement of their discovery of gravity waves! The articles I've read say that the distortion we see here is much smaller than a proton. What about at the source? ...
25
votes
1answer
779 views

Best current bounds on nonconservation of momentum?

It's not straightforward to test conservation of momentum experimentally, and many experiments that seem like tests really aren't. For example, in a Newtonian system of identical particles that ...
25
votes
0answers
871 views

Are the fast axes on Thorlabs quarter-waveplates mislabeled?

Some members of my lab are performing a polarization-sensitive experiment where they need to use a quarter-waveplate (QWP) with the fast axis in a specific direction. In the process of carefully ...
23
votes
1answer
3k views

How did Rømer measure the speed of light by observing Jupiter's moons, centuries ago?

I am interested in the practical method and I like to discover if it is cheap enough to be done as an experiment in a high school.
23
votes
3answers
1k views

Has the gravitational interaction of antimatter ever been examined experimentally?

I know that the gravitational interaction of antimatter is expected to be the same as normal matter. But my question is, has it ever been experimentally validated? I think it would not be a trivial ...
23
votes
3answers
3k views

How do people calculate proportions of dark matter, dark energy and baryonic matter of the universe?

The Wikipedia page on dark matter mentions that the Planck mission had revealed that in our universe ordinary baryonic matter, dark matter and dark energy are present in the ratio: 4.9%, 26.8% and 68....
23
votes
3answers
27k views

Is there a compound denser than the densest element?

I'm musing about how to give students an intuitive feeling about density by letting them lift a same sized volume of different materials, e.g. 1 liter of water, a 10x10x10 cm cube of iron, lead etc. ...
21
votes
2answers
2k views

What exactly do we see on the famous neutrino image of the sun?

An answer to the question If we could build a neutrino telescope, what would we see? contains a link to a neutrino image of the sun by the Super-Kamiokande neutrino detector. There it says that ...
21
votes
8answers
3k views

What is the proof that the universal constants ($G$, $\hbar$, $\ldots$) are really constant in time and space?

Cavendish measured the gravitation constant $G$, but actually he measured that constant on the Earth. What’s the proof that the value of the gravitation constant if measured on Neptune would remain ...
20
votes
5answers
820 views

What experiments, other than Hubble Expansion, support the Dark Energy theory?

Dark energy is introduced as a constant inside Einstein's equations. Its primary purpose, from what I understand, is to make Einstein's equations compatible with the accelerating expansion of the ...
19
votes
2answers
985 views

Could Google scan books without opening them? [on hold]

A few years ago, I read an article about a proposal Google put forward, as part of its paper-to-digital media project, which had the advantage of greatly speeding up the process of scanning text. The ...
18
votes
4answers
1k views

Is there experimental evidence that massless particles such as photons attract massive objects?

For instance evidence that a highly energetic laser beam attracts objects nearby? In the framework of Einstein's general relativity all energy curves spacetime and hence exerts an attraction, but my ...
18
votes
5answers
3k views

Home experiments using wireless LAN or mobile phones about electromagnetism?

Are there any nice experiments using wireless LAN access points or routers or mobile phones to demonstrate physical features of electromagnetic fields, especially em-waves? More precisely I am ...
18
votes
4answers
4k views

What ways are there to measure the local polarization of a laser beam?

Measuring the polarization of a laser beam is a simple enough task if the polarization is the same everywhere. You can even buy commercial polarimeters. How do you go about it if the light beam has ...
18
votes
5answers
1k views

How can I determine whether the mass of an object is evenly distributed?

How can I determine whether the mass of an object is evenly distributed without doing any permanent damage? Suppose I got all the typical lab equipment. I guess I can calculate its center of mass and ...
17
votes
6answers
3k views

Why should any physicist know, to some degree, experimental physics?

I've been trying to design a list with reasons why a proper theoretical physicist should understand the methods and the difficulty of doing experimental physics. So far I've only thought of two points:...
17
votes
5answers
20k views

How was Avogadro's number first determined?

I read on Wikipedia how the numerical value of Avogadro's number can be found by doing an experiment, provided you have the numerical value of Faraday's constant; but it seems to me that Faraday's ...
17
votes
7answers
5k views

Experimental evidence of a fourth spatial dimension?

As human beings, we observe the world in which we live in three dimensions. However, it is certainly theoretically possible that more dimensions exist. Is there any direct or indirect evidence ...
17
votes
2answers
2k views

Evidence of why the Standard Model is a successful theory of particle physics

When discussing physics with laypersons, I'm often in the situation where I have to explain what the Standard Model is, and why it's a successful theory of particle physics. To help in such ...
17
votes
6answers
2k views

Which experiment gave scientists reason to believe nuclear fission/fusion produced energy?

Every piece of knowledge in science has a beginning lying in someone's experiment. I would like to know which experiment gave scientists the reason to believe nuclear fission/fusion existed and was ...