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130
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3answers
16k views

How does a knife cut things at the atomic level?

As the title says. It is common sense that sharp things cut, but how do they work at the atomical level?
82
votes
5answers
20k views

What does it mean for two objects to “touch”?

If you've ever been annoyingly poked by a geek, you might be familiar with the semi-nerdy obnoxious response of "I'm not actually touching you! The electrons in the atoms of my skin are just ...
21
votes
3answers
3k views

Why isn't the color of a molecule a combination of the colors of its component atoms?

I was watching a documentary on youtube regarding Quantum Physics when it introduced the wavelengths of light emitted. Did a bit more research over the internet and I believe I understand the gist of ...
15
votes
3answers
2k views

Why is the bottom part of a candle flame blue?

What’s the explanation behind the bottom part of a candle flame being blue? I googled hard in vain. I read this. I don’t understand how it’s explained by the emission of excited molecular radicals in ...
11
votes
2answers
791 views

In counting degrees of freedom of a linear molecule, why is rotation about the axis not counted?

I was reading about the equipartition theorem and I got the following quotations from my books: A diatomic molecule like oxygen can rotate about two different axes. But rotation about the axis ...
9
votes
4answers
502 views

Can we detect whether food has previously been heated in a microwave oven?

An acquaintance told me that she refuses to eat microwaved food because she read that the microwave changes the molecules of the food somehow. Her statement is vague and her sources are dubious but I ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

The distance between touching objects

What is the distance between, say, a cup of coffee and the table it rests on? What is the distance between two touching hands?
8
votes
4answers
1k views

Hot water freezing faster than cold water

This question has puzzled me for a long time. There is already a question like this on Physics.SE. John's answer to the question seems quite satisfying. But when I googled the cause I found this and ...
8
votes
3answers
470 views

What is the microscopic picture for warm air rising?

The usual explanation for warm fluids rising past cooler ones is that the warmer fluid has a lower density. I'm trying to understand what this looks like at a molecular scale. The density seems to ...
8
votes
1answer
233 views

Are Born-Oppenheimer energies analytic functions of nuclear positions?

I am looking for references to bibliography that explores the smoothness and analyticity of eigenvalues and eigenfunctions (and matrix elements in general) of a hamiltonian that depends on some ...
7
votes
4answers
1k views

Can a single molecule have a temperature?

A show on the weather channel said that as a water molecule ascends in the atmosphere it cools. Does it make sense to talk about the temperature of a single molecule?
7
votes
1answer
3k views

What happens when you shake a can of soda?

Of course the CO2 comes out of the liquid, and it will even build up a lot of pressure if needed. The question is what happens at a molecular level to cause it to leave the liquid?
7
votes
2answers
5k views

How to construct the Hamiltonian matrix?

I'm trying to understand if there's a more systematic approach to build the matrix associated with the Hamiltonian in a quantum system of finite dimension. For example, I know that for the ammonia ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the “direction” of the transition dipole moment? (Understanding Eq. 9.29, Charge and Energy Transfer 3rd Ed, May & Kuhn)

For a real vector $\mathbf{r}$, the direction is given by: $\hat{\mathbf{n}}=\mathbf{r}/\left|\mathbf{r}\right|$. The transition dipole moment is a complex vector. How do you define its direction? ...
6
votes
1answer
5k views

Why does a breeze of wind make us feel cooler? [duplicate]

In my Astronomy class, I learned that temperature results from the speed of air molecules colliding into your skin. Thus, if the air molecules in the room have a high kinetic energy and thus collide ...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

How the bond angle of a water molecule is measured?

How the angle of a water molecule is measured? The bond angle for water was first determined by vibrational and rotational analysis of its infrared absorption spectra. How is bond angle extracted?
6
votes
1answer
612 views

Gas kinetic representation of trans-critical conditions

From a molecular point of view, can we think of the super-critical conditions as conditions where T and p are large enough that the collisions of gas molecules are frequent and powerful enough to ...
6
votes
3answers
7k views

What is the resonant frequency of liquid water?

I learned it's not 2.45 GHz. But what is it, then? In my failure to find the real value, I'm starting to wonder: does it even make sense talking about a resonant frequency of water molecules?
6
votes
0answers
98 views

How do proteins perform their function? [closed]

Let's, for example, take a ribosome. It is an enzyme that is in turn just a molecule that must follow the laws of physics. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it can be looked upon as a molecular machine ...
5
votes
5answers
773 views

Why is quantum physics needed to explain photosynthesis?

Why is quantum physics needed to explain photosynthesis? In what aspect does the corresponding classical theories for photosynthesis fail?
5
votes
3answers
2k views

Does gas spread out equally everywhere?

An excerpt from this page: Gases can fill a container of any size or shape. It doesn't even matter how big the container is. The molecules still spread out to fill the whole space equally. That is ...
5
votes
2answers
333 views

Extra vibrational mode in linear molecule

When calculating the number of vibrational modes for a molecule, the formulas differ for linear $(n = 3N - 5)$ and non-linear $(n = 3N - 6)$ molecules, where $n$ is number of modes and $N$ is number ...
5
votes
4answers
7k views

Water in vacuum (or space) and temperature in space

So, water in vacuum will boil first and then freeze. I don't know how the freeze happens. As pressure lowers to zero, what happened to freezing point? (I know heat taken by vapor, and the water cool ...
5
votes
3answers
867 views

Is photon emission possible without electrons changing energy levels?

Does molecular vibrational transition and consequent emission of infrared radiation involve electrons changing energy level? In wikipedia, about vibronic transitions it says "Most processes leading to ...
5
votes
3answers
276 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
116 views

For how long must a molecule remain stable to be considered “stable”?

In the Star Trek: Voyager episode The Omega Directive, Seven of Nine says that the Borg synthesized a molecule which was "kept [] stable for one trillionth of a nanosecond before it destabilized". ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

Why do we say linear molecules only have 2 rotational degrees of freedom? Why does the third 'frozen' one not count?

It is possible to excite rotations around the axes perpendicular to the bond of a linear molecule. However, rotation around the axis along the bond of the molecule would require huge energies, due to ...
4
votes
2answers
322 views

What methods exist to calculate the density of states in the continuum of a molecule?

Say I have an arbitrary molecule in the Born-Oppenheimer approximation, and furthermore say that I can approximate the molecule as having only one active electron. What methods exist to calculate the ...
4
votes
3answers
5k views

Does stirring water in a bucket in whirlpool keeps it warm?

I did an experiment when I was a teenager. I want to prove/see what really went on in that experiment. When taking a bath, take a warm water in bucket and start taking a bath. You will notice that ...
4
votes
2answers
201 views

Why is it energetically favourable for molecular bonds to form from a QM point of view?

For example, if you have two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom, they are all electrically neutral and don't attract each other. But then if they manage to get "close enough" somehow they snap together ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Where does the Pauli Repulsive Force come from that counteracts the attraction between atoms and ions? [duplicate]

I'm learning about such things as ionic and covalent bonds, and the reason given for the ionic bonds is electrostatic attraction. However, if that were true, then the two ions would accelerate toward ...
4
votes
2answers
89 views

Mountains and their local effects on Earth's gravity

I was once a truck driver and can feel the inertia and kinetic energy on heavy loads while traveling. While climbing mountains in the Rockies I noticed gravity was different on the side of the ...
4
votes
1answer
416 views

What's the underlying particle physics of endothermic reactions?

I don't just mean reactions that require heat to proceed, storing surplus energy in chemical bonds. I wonder about strongly endothermic reactions that suck heat out of environment. You take some ...
4
votes
0answers
264 views

Electron hopping among molecules - Marcus equation

I'm running out of professors to talk to, and I need to clarify a couple of things for the sake of making a realistic model of electron travel through a mesh. This is about calculations of electron ...
3
votes
2answers
134 views

Time-dependence in LCAO

I would like to study time-dependence (TD) in linear combinations of atomic orbitals (LCAO). The Hückel method enables quick and dirty determination of MOs for suitable systems (view link for ...
3
votes
2answers
29 views

Creasing of a material at the molecular level

What exactly happens when a material (particularly paper or even cloth or a metal) is folded to form a crease? Why is it that a creased material tends to retain form, while a lightly folded one, ...
3
votes
3answers
504 views

How to understand this symmetry in the wavefunctions of a diatomic molecule?

In Wikipedia (and elsewhere), a particular symmetry of the quantum system of a diatomic molecule is mentioned: symmetry under reflection along a plane containing the internuclear axis. The ...
3
votes
4answers
855 views

Molecule vs Crystal

Feynman mentions in his lectures: ...the concept of a molecule of a substance is only approximate and exists only for a certain class of substances. It is clear in the case of water that the ...
3
votes
1answer
92 views

Using the fine structure constant to measure atomic and molecular sizes

This is kind of a coursework question but it bring up some really interesting things about the fine structure constant $\alpha$ so I wanted to post it to not only make sure I understood something but ...
3
votes
4answers
1k views

How to determine what an object is composed of?

Heads up: This question has never been asked (here) before the way I will ask it here, so let's shed some light on it a bit. Prelude and anecdote(can be skipped): The other day I was walking home, ...
3
votes
1answer
74 views

Will a gas keep forever in a “perfect” flask?

I've been wondering about the porosity of materials, I know that, for example the air comes out of tires/balloons because (besides having huge gaps on the rim contact area/knot) they are made of a ...
3
votes
1answer
8k views

Why is oxygen in a triplet state and what are the consequences?

From Wikipedia here and here: ''Almost all molecules encountered in daily life exist in a singlet state, but molecular oxygen is an exception.'' ''The unusual electron configuration prevents ...
3
votes
1answer
51 views

How do molecules absorb heat?

How do molecules absorb and retain heat, and how is that heat able to still affect nearby molecules? On Venus there is a green-house effect where the large, dense Carbon-Dioxide atmosphere absorbs ...
3
votes
1answer
104 views

Finding Electronic Energy Levels by Representation Theory

Let $$u=\left( \begin{array}{cccc} c_1&c_2&c_3&c_4 \end{array} \right)^T$$ for $$\psi = c_1\psi_1 + c_2\psi_2 + c_3\psi_3+ c_4\psi_4$$ We assume that $\left<\psi_i|\psi_j\right> = ...
3
votes
1answer
60 views

Why is the photoelectric absorption coefficient finite at the threshold frequency?

I mean the photoelectric effect of the hydrogen atom. It is weird. By the Fermi golden rule, the transition or absorption rate is proportional to the density of the final states. At threshold, the ...
3
votes
1answer
136 views

If we cut an object in half and touch the two halves together, why do the bonds not reform automatically?

A friend recently posed this question to me: let us take an arbitrary object and cut it into two pieces (not necessarily equal in any way). If we touch the two pieces back together so the object ...
3
votes
1answer
375 views

Measuring Atomic Radius of a Noble Gas

How exactly can you measure the atomic radius of a noble gas such as Neon or Helium accurately? Would liquefaction help? I also heard that the aforementioned gases are the only common elements which ...
3
votes
1answer
110 views

What methods exist for us to measure the position and momentum of atoms that make up molecules?

In this paper, Localization of an atom by homodyne measurement. A. M. Herkommer et al. Quantum Semiclass. Opt. 8 no. 1, p. 189 (1996) (paywalled). the authors are able to localize atoms using ...
3
votes
1answer
141 views

Experiment to find structure of water

Who first determined the structure of water (two hydrogen atoms stuck to an oxygen atom at approx 105 degrees), and, more importantly, how was this done?
3
votes
1answer
122 views

Relative weights in rotational bands of symmetric diatomic molecules

In an old paper, Ehrenfest 1931, the introduction starts off as follows: The band spectra of symmetric diatomic molecules show certain striking differences from those of asymmetric molecules. For ...