To be used for questions on geometry closely pertaining to physics. Includes differential geometry and euclidean geometry.

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116
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2answers
7k views

Why do sunbeams diverge even though the sun is much more than a few kilometers away?

Consider this picture of sun beams streaming onto the valley through the clouds. Given that the valley is only (at a guess) 3km wide, with simple trigonometry and the angles of the beams, this ...
19
votes
3answers
6k views

Why can't a piece of paper (of non-zero thickness) be folded more than $N$ times?

Updated: In order to fold anything in half, it must be $\pi$ times longer than its thickness, and that depending on how something is folded, the amount its length decreases with each fold differs. ...
18
votes
4answers
6k views

Distinguishing between solid spheres and hollow spheres (equal mass)

If there are two spheres (hollow and solid) with equal mass and radius and we want to find the hollow sphere without using any equipment. What's the best way(s) to recognize the hollow sphere and ...
17
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1answer
1k views

Land proportions in NASA blue marble photographs

What is the explanation for the apparent size difference of North America in these two photos from NASA? Image source Image source
17
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7answers
3k views

How big are clouds? [closed]

How big are clouds? When I look up into the sky I have no frame of reference, so I don't know if they are 200 feet or 2 miles across. When I am in a plane looking out at a cloud, I try to use the wing ...
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 ...
15
votes
2answers
560 views

Generalized Complex Geometry and Theoretical Physics

I have been wondering about some of the different uses of Generalized Complex Geometry (GCG) in Physics. Without going into mathematical detail (see Gualtieri's thesis for reference), a Generalized ...
14
votes
4answers
81k views

Does the rotation of the earth dramatically affect airplane flight time?

Say I'm flying from Sydney, to Los Angeles (S2LA), back to Sydney (LA2S). During S2LA, travelling with the rotation of the earth, would the flight time be longer than LA2S on account of Los Angeles ...
11
votes
3answers
1k views

How many times can light revolve around a black hole?

Take a light ray approaching a black hole from infinity which goes out again to infinity. What is the maximum finite rotation it can describe? (I know it can loop around indefinitely in the ...
11
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2answers
798 views

The Reeh-Schlieder theorem and quantum geometry

There have been some very nice discussions recently centered around the question of whether gravity and the geometry and topology of the classical world we see about us, could be phenomena which ...
10
votes
1answer
476 views

Can masses move in 2+1 gravity?

I would like to understand basic concepts of the general relativity in 2+1 spacetime. As far as I know, GR predicts that such a spacetime is flat everywhere except for the point masses which create ...
9
votes
1answer
234 views

Cutting a circle and moving endpoints

A metal (or otherwise, suitably elastic) circle is cut and the points are slid up and down a vertical axis as shown: How would one describe the resultant curves mathematically?
9
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1answer
331 views

Understanding Calculus Notation in Physics

I have just started a first-year calculus-based physics course about electromagnetism and waves. I am having trouble understanding what calculus notation means in the context of physics. Here is a ...
9
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0answers
198 views

The dual of a surface element in 4-space

In reading the classic text, "The Classical Theory of Fields", Third Edition, by Landau and Lifschitz, I found an "obvious" statement not so obvious to me. It is on p.19, the statement of the ...
8
votes
4answers
1k views

What's the dimensionality of a solid angle?

I haven't seen this explained clearly anywhere. Solid angles are described usually as a fraction of the surface area of a unit sphere, similar to how angles are the fraction of the circumference of a ...
8
votes
3answers
352 views

Question about associative 3-cycles on G2 manifolds

Let $X$ be a manifold with $G_2$ holonomy and $\Phi$ be the fundamental associative 3-form on $X$. Let $*\Phi$ be the dual co-associative 4-form on $X$. Now consider a particular associative 3-cycle ...
8
votes
2answers
641 views

Why are conformal transformations so prevalent in physics?

What is it about conformal transformations that make them so widely applicable in physics? These preserve angles, in other words directions (locally), and I can understand that might be useful. Also, ...
8
votes
1answer
974 views

How did Eratosthenes know the suns rays are parallel?

Eratosthenes famously observed that the suns rays were perpendicular to the ground in one location, yet non-perpendicular to the ground at a location some miles to the north. On the assumption that ...
8
votes
4answers
382 views

Physical representation of volume to surface area

I was looking at this XKCD what-if question (the gas mileage part), and started to wonder about the concept of unit cancellation. If we have a shape and try to figure out the ratio between the volume ...
7
votes
11answers
2k views

Is it possible for a physical object to have a irrational length?

Suppose I have a caliper that is infinitely precise. Also suppose that this caliper returns not a number, but rather whether the precise length is rational or irrational. If I were to use this ...
7
votes
4answers
5k views

How far into space does one have to travel to see the entire sphere of earth?

Virgin Galactic will take passengers aboard SpaceShipTwo as high as 65 miles above the surface of the earth. But from this altitude, passengers will only be able to see a certain segment of the ...
7
votes
6answers
3k views

Gravitation is not force?

Einstein said that gravity can be looked at as curvature in space- time and not as a force that is acting between bodies. (Actually what Einstein said was that gravity was curvature in space-time and ...
7
votes
2answers
149 views

Why does the $L_2$ norm give the shortest path between 2 points?

Why not the $L_1$ or $L_3$ distances? Is there some deep reason why the universe (at least at human scales) looks pretty much Euclidean? Could we imagine a different universe where a different ...
7
votes
2answers
578 views

Is Dyson Sphere a stable construction?

Suppose that a star is encompassed by a Dyson Sphere. Do we need a position control system for the Dyson Sphere to keep its origin always aligned with the center of the star? Will it stay aligned ...
7
votes
1answer
4k views

How to calculate roll, yaw and pitch angles from 3D co-ordinates (Euler Angles)

I have digitized a video of a flying fly in a 3-dimensional space. At all instants I know the x, y, and z co-oridinates of the following points on the fly's body --- The points are my choice, and ...
7
votes
2answers
710 views

Geometrical interpretation of the Dirac equation

Is there an intuitive geometrical picture behind the Dirac equation, and the gamma matrices that it uses? I know the geometric algebra is a Clifford algebra. Can the properties of geometric algebra, ...
7
votes
1answer
448 views

The role of metric in the Wave Equation

The wave equation is often written in the form $$(\partial^2_t-\Delta)u=0,$$ involving the Laplace-Beltrami operator $\Delta$. However, the Laplace-Beltrami operator $\Delta$ is defined only in the ...
6
votes
2answers
879 views

Prerequisites to start the study of noncommutative geometry in physics

What are prerequisites (in mathematics and physics), that one should know about for getting into use of ideas from noncommutative geometry in physics?
6
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2answers
2k views

Are there any naturally occurring perfect circles? [duplicate]

Given that $\pi$ is the irrational number that occurs with a perfect circle, and perfection is very difficult to achieve through chance or nature, I think that most circles are really ovals, and ...
6
votes
1answer
506 views

Why are fractal geometries useful for compact antenna design?

While most of what I've read about fractals has been dubious in nature, over the years, I keep hearing that these sorts of self-similar (or approximately self-similar) geometries are useful in the ...
6
votes
1answer
706 views

Two formulas for a particle's acceleration

While on a class my teacher was taking about particle's motion in space. At some point she said the following: Consider that the particle's path is described by a curve in space defined by the ...
6
votes
1answer
672 views

Is C60 really the “most spherical” fullerene?

In the late 80's and early 90's, Smalley and others made claims that the C60 fullerene bearing icosahedral symmetry was the most spherical molecule known, and perhaps the most spherical that could ...
6
votes
1answer
195 views

Null Coordinates

I have a very basic question: what are the advantages of writing a metric in the null coordinates? Which extra insight do they provide? I've looked in Caroll's "Spacetime and Geometry" and Wald's ...
5
votes
5answers
2k views

Do perfect spheres exist in nature?

Often in physics, Objects are approximated as spherical. However do any perfectly spherical objects actually exist in nature?
5
votes
4answers
727 views

How did “no prior geometry” father 50 years of confusion?

I've come across this quote attributed to Misner, Thorne & Wheeler from their book, Gravitation: Mathematics was not sufficiently refined in 1917 to cleave apart the demands for "no prior ...
5
votes
1answer
222 views

What's a geometric explanation for exponential-falloff fundamental forces?

Gravity and electromagnetism are inverse-square laws. This makes geometric sense -- if you build a spherical shell around a lamp then a shell with twice the radius has four times the surface area and ...
5
votes
2answers
462 views

Space-time geometry and metric

I am confused in one question in general relativity, why we can always express a space-time geometry only by metric. It means a metric, which is just about distance in tangent space, can tell us all ...
5
votes
1answer
350 views

Why are three parameters required to express rotation in 3 dimension?

We know that in spherical coordinates angle $\theta$ and $\phi$ (two angles)are enough to express three dimensional rotation of matrix. But to express rotation mathematically as a transformation ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

Is length/distance a vector?

I have heard that area is a vector quantity in 3 dimensions, e.g. this Phys.SE post, what about the length/distance? Since area is the product of two lengths, does this mean that length is also a ...
5
votes
2answers
265 views

How is Chasles' Theorem true?

Chasles' Theorem in its strong form says: The most general rigid body displacement can be produced by a translation along a line (called its screw axis) followed (or preceded) by a rotation about ...
5
votes
2answers
201 views

Poisson equation in 2D and 3D: geometrical reason for the difference

The Poisson equation in 3D shows a fundamental solution in 3D which decays with $\sim 1/r$, whilst in 2D it shows a much different decay $\sim -\ln r$. While in 3D not only the solution, but also its ...
5
votes
1answer
109 views

Is there an upper bound on the gauge group rank in F-theory compactifications on CY 4-folds?

It is known that in F-theory compactifications on CY 4-folds one can get gauge groups with very large ranks. The largest single factor* gauge group for compact CY 4-folds I found in the literature is ...
5
votes
2answers
538 views

Textbook on the Geometry of Special Relativity

I am looking for a textbook that treats the subject of Special Relativity from a geometric point of view, i.e. a textbook that introduces the theory right from the start in terms of 4-vectors and ...
5
votes
2answers
276 views

Is a semi-Euclidean space possible?

Does exists a geometry (3d for example) which is Euclidean in 2 dimensions (x and y coordinates) and non-Euclidean when the third dimension (z) is taken into account? In other words a space where it ...
5
votes
1answer
157 views

An astronaut and a vengeful pole

Imagine an astronaut floating in free-space with no significant nearby gravitational influences. The astronaut takes an arbitrarily thin pole of uniform density with length $l$ and mass $m$, orients ...
5
votes
1answer
101 views

Gravity on and inside a planet-sized bi-lobed body

Admittedly, for yet another science-fiction project Say I have a planet-like body shaped like a sphere with a torus subtracted out of it, leaving a sort of "apple core" shape. Firstly, is the ...
5
votes
1answer
226 views

Why is $S^1\times\mathbb{R}^{n-1}$ the topology of $AdS_n$?

Anti-de Sitter $AdS_n$ may be defined by the quadric $$-(x^0)^2-(x^1)^2+\vec{x}^2=-\alpha^2\tag{1}$$ embedded in ${\mathbb{R}^{2,n-1}}$, where I write ${\vec{x}^2}$ as the squared norm ${|\vec{x}|^2}$ ...
5
votes
2answers
172 views

What is the notion of a spatial angle in general relativity?

Is there a notion of spatial angles in general relativity? Example: The world line of a photon is given by $x^{\mu}(\lambda)$. Suppose it flies into my lab where I have a mirror. I align the mirror ...
5
votes
2answers
129 views

Which causal structures are absent from any “nice” patch of Minkowski space?

Which "causal separation structures" (or "interval structures") can not be found among the events in "any nice patch ($P$) of Minkowski space"?, where "causal separation structure" ($s$) should be ...
5
votes
3answers
257 views

What is the difference between the shapes of molecules with different isotopes

I'll explain my question on example of water molecule. Let us have three water molecules: normal water $H_2 O$, heavy water $D_2 O$ and semiheavy water $HDO$. Is there any difference between the ...