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

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349
votes
19answers
130k 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 ...
119
votes
11answers
16k 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 ...
72
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? ...
47
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 ...
40
votes
2answers
6k 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?
36
votes
13answers
9k 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?
34
votes
13answers
8k 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: ...
33
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 ...
33
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
29
votes
11answers
11k 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 ...
28
votes
6answers
5k 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 ...
26
votes
1answer
589 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 ...
23
votes
5answers
6k 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 ...
23
votes
5answers
3k 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 ...
22
votes
2answers
168 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?
21
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
20
votes
3answers
5k 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. ...
19
votes
3answers
870 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 ...
18
votes
5answers
4k views

Does red shift evidence necessarily imply that the universe started from a singularity?

We are taught that the universe began as a singularity - an infinitely small and infinitely dense point. At the beginning of time there was a 'Big Bang' or, more accurately, 'Inflation'. The main ...
18
votes
4answers
747 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
1k 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 ...
17
votes
1answer
2k views

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

I am interested in the pratical method and I like to discover if it is cheap enough to be done as an experiment in a high school. Thank you.
16
votes
6answers
2k 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 ...
16
votes
5answers
911 views

Does a magnetically suspended frog feel weightless?

Magnetic levitation has been used to suspend frogs in midair. I was wondering: Does the animal still feel gravitational pull? I mean: Does the frog feel like an astronaut on the ISS, or does he feel ...
16
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 ...
16
votes
5answers
2k 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 ...
16
votes
5answers
566 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 ...
15
votes
6answers
8k 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 ...
15
votes
2answers
2k views

Did the researchers at Fermilab find a fifth force?

Please consider the publication Invariant Mass Distribution of Jet Pairs Produced in Association with a W boson in $p\bar{p}$ Collisions at $\sqrt{s} = 1.96$ TeV by the CDF-Collaboration, ...
14
votes
4answers
2k views

How can I measure the mass of the earth at home?

How can I measure the mass of the earth at home? How was the mass of the earth first measured?
14
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
14
votes
3answers
630 views

Accidental, unplanned breakthroughs in physics [closed]

There is possibly some idioms or saying like this, ``If you try too hard for something, you will never get it. If you do not aim for something, it may fall on you accidentally, not as you originally ...
14
votes
9answers
2k views

What are good mechanics experiments for 10 year olds? [closed]

I'm trying to explain elementary mechanics - without the benefits of calculus or even algebra - and struggling. I'd like to find reasonable ways to demonstrate Newton's laws, minimally, and possibly ...
14
votes
1answer
214 views

GHz rate single photon counting

The fluorescent lifetimes of molecules used in biological applications tend to be in the sub-ns to a few ns timescale (let's say 0.8-4). The most direct methods to measure lifetimes typically involve ...
13
votes
5answers
1k views

Why is it easier to break a tightened or stretched string than a loose one?

I want to know, why is it that it is easier to cut through a string which is tightened then a loose one? The question arose when I was watching - "What Happened Next?". In a part, they showed two ...
13
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
13
votes
1answer
481 views

Could LEP II have discovered a 125GeV Higgs?

LEP II eliminated the Higgs up to 114.5GeV. If it had been run for longer could it have detected a Higgs at 125GeV? I Googled for this without any luck, though I did find a comment that LEP II topped ...
13
votes
3answers
651 views

How should I clean a part before installing it in a vacuum system?

What are proven procedures for preparing a part that comes fresh out of the workshop for ultra-high vacuum (UHV) and extremely-high vacuum (XUV)?
13
votes
6answers
4k views

What is the world's biggest Schrodinger cat?

How big is it by a truly quantum measurement? I am thinking of comparing Science magazines "Breakthrough of the Year" (BYOT) with the Zeilinger buckyball. The BYOT is a piezoelectric mechanical ...
13
votes
1answer
353 views

How are neutrino beams emitted at CERN?

As far I know they come from accelerator collisions, but I have read confusing things like magnetically focused. How could neutrinos be guided magnetically if they aren't affected by the ...
13
votes
3answers
420 views

What limitations are there in measuring physical properties accurately?

In a StackOverflow answer, I attempted to explain why a 32-bit float was perfectly adequate for representing the questioner's weight measurement: Physical properties are inaccurately measured ...
13
votes
1answer
197 views

If time isn't continuous, what is the best-known upper bound on the length of time intervals?

There have been several questions about whether time is continuous or not and it seems like the answer isn't currently known. I know quantum mechanics treats time as continuous and any mathematics ...
13
votes
1answer
126 views

Can a discrete dynode mass spec detector get “tired?”

In an electron multiplier (discrete dynode detector), one electron triggers the release of more electrons in a cascade. Is it possible that a "large" number of electrons hitting the detector can ...
13
votes
4answers
738 views

Can we measure an electromagnetic field?

As far as I can check, the Aharonov-Bohm effect is not -- contrary to what is claimed in the historical paper -- a demonstration that the vector potential $A$ has an intrinsic existence in quantum ...
13
votes
0answers
347 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 ...
12
votes
5answers
466 views

Matter-Antimatter Asymmetry in Experiments?

As I hope is obvious to everyone reading this, the universe contains more matter than antimatter, presumably because of some slight asymmetry in the amounts of the two generated during the Big Bang. ...
12
votes
2answers
26 views

Why are binary objects so critical to astronomy?

There are a lot of astronomical objects out there to study but binary objects seem to get more attention. Why is this? What makes binary objects (stars, Kuiper Belt Objects, black holes, galaxies, ...
12
votes
2answers
130 views

Is there a fundamental limit to the temporal resolution of signals from space?

In Earth-based experiments, we can measure phenomenon very rapidly in an experiment given appropriate equipment. Clearly if something takes a long exposure to see (due to a weak signal), then the ...
12
votes
1answer
232 views

Cleaning Already Mounted Microspheres on an AFM

I am running an experiment that uses a microsphere (Diameter ~ 50um) mounted onto the end of an AFM cantilever. I run several experiments in a row, but somewhere during a sequence, the microsphere ...
12
votes
2answers
368 views

Is there a way to directly observe the spin texture of the surface states of topological insulators?

Is there a way to directly, here I means in real space, observe the interaction of the surface states of 3D topological insulators with defects (dopings and adatoms)? How to observe the spin texture ...