Questions that ask about some aspect of physics research or study which doesn't involve the actual physics. In general, soft questions can be answered without using physical reasoning.

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17answers
3k views

Can pure maths create new theories in physics or does the “idea” ALWAYS come before the math?

I am in a debate with a friend about the value of string theory in physics. He is concerned that we are wasting valuable intellectual and financial resources on a path that is fanciful and can't ever ...
12
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7answers
9k views

What does it take to understand Maxwell's equations?

Assume I want to learn math and physics enough to reach a level where I understand Maxwell's equations (The terms and reasoning in the equations I.e. why they "work"). What would I have to learn in ...
12
votes
10answers
893 views

What objective criteria distinguish between valid science, fringe science and pseudoscience in physics?

Plenty of research activity in physics have been vigorously opposed by their opponents as pseudoscience or fringe science, while other research are mainstream. It is possible some topic is ...
12
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4answers
897 views

What does it mean to say that the electron is a near-perfect sphere?

It's announced that researchers at Imperial College London has found that the electron is almost a perfect sphere. The popular articles all have a nice photo of a billiard ball, etc. It is reported ...
12
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2answers
2k views

Are we living in a false vacuum? Is there any way to tell?

I was thinking of the noted 1980 paper by Sidney Coleman and Frank de Luccia--"Gravitational effects of and on vacuum decay"-- about metastable vacuum states that could tunnel to a lower energy "true ...
11
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9answers
1k views

Why beauty is a good guide in physics? [closed]

Dirac once said that he was mainly guided by mathematical beauty more than anything else in his discovery of the famous Dirac equation. Most of the deepest equations of physics are also the most ...
11
votes
7answers
1k views

Is physics rigorous in the mathematical sense?

I am a student studying Mathematics with no prior knowledge of Physics whatsoever except for very simple equations. I would like to ask, due to my experience with Mathematics: Is there a set of ...
11
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5answers
2k views

Do Category Theory and/or Quantum Logic add value in physics?

I know they have their adherents, but do more or less esoteric branches of mathematics such as Category Theory and/or Quantum Logic provide powerful tools for new theory development or are they just ...
11
votes
6answers
720 views

What is an effective way to search for post-doc positions in physics?

I am a graduate student in experimental physics, currently writing up my dissertation and beginning to apply to post-doc positions. While it is very easy to find out about open positions in my ...
11
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2answers
110 views

Who should I contact if I see an unknown object in the sky?

Who should I contact if I see an unknown object in the sky? Should I contact the nearest observatory? Or is there some official place run by, say, NASA or ESA that take in observations in their ...
11
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4answers
3k views

What happens when we cut objects?

What is the role of the molecular bonds in the process of cutting something? What is the role of the Pauli exclusion principle, responsible for the "hardness" of matter? Moreover, is all the energy ...
11
votes
1answer
211 views

What strategies can a researcher use when confronted with a long and complicated symbolic expression?

When doing research in theoretical physics, a frequent task one encounters is trying to express some physical quantity as a function of other quantities. A lot of times this can't be done ...
11
votes
3answers
246 views

$1.7\cdot 10^{-24}$ mole apples a day

As the title suggests I was wondering why the International Bureau of Weights and Measures decided a mole to be a standard (SI-)unit. After some research I found I was not alone with this problem. ...
11
votes
3answers
2k views

Why are they called “cyclic” coordinates?

In Lagrangian formalism, when $\frac{\partial L}{\partial q} = 0$, the coordinate $q$ is called cyclic and a corresponding conserved quantity exists. But why is it called cyclic?
11
votes
2answers
2k views

How should a theoretical physicist study maths? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: How should a physics student study mathematics? If some-one wants to do research in string theory for example, Would the Nakahara Topology, geometry and physics book and ...
11
votes
3answers
1k views

Mathematical Physics Book Recommendation [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Best books for mathematical background? I want to learn contemporary mathematical physics, so that, for example, I can read Witten's latest paper without checking other ...
10
votes
10answers
3k views

Physics for mathematicians

How and from where does a mathematician learn physics from a mathematical stand point? I am reading the book by Spivak Elementary Mechanics from a mathematicians view point. The first couple of pages ...
10
votes
5answers
4k views

How useful is programming in physics?

I have been wondering recently how useful programming is to a physicist. It seems fairly useful (simulations are a lot cheaper than the actual thing in many cases) in some areas (say space programs), ...
10
votes
7answers
598 views

Why are the physical sciences described perfectly by mathematics?

Why are the physical sciences described perfectly by mathematics?
10
votes
8answers
11k views

Which Mechanics book is the best for beginner in math major?

I'm a bachelor student majoring in math, and pretty interested in physics. I would like a book to study for classical mechanics, that will prepare me to work through Goldstein's Classical Mechanics. ...
10
votes
2answers
455 views

Old Russian Physics Papers?

Where can one find old Russian scientific papers in physics, say, in the Proceedings of the Russian Academy of Sciences or Zhurnal Eksperimentalnoy i Teoreticheskoy Fiziki? Can they be found online ...
10
votes
4answers
561 views

What is an interpretation of quantum mechanics?

In the sense of "Copenhagen Interpretation", what exactly is an interpretation? What purpose does an interpretation serve? Can an interpretation be tested or even be correct or incorrect independent ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

How to convert a FITS file to .xls Excel file?

We are trying to determine the isophots in elliptical galaxies in order to check De-Vaucouleurs law. To do so, we want to convert the data from a FITS file to Excel and analyze it using Excel math ...
9
votes
3answers
13k views

Is time a Scalar or a Vector?

In Wikipedia it's said that time is a scalar quantity. But its hard to understand that how? As stated that we consider only the magnitude of time then its a scalar. But on basis of time we define ...
9
votes
7answers
4k views

What are the most important papers in physics? [closed]

Recently I got the book "On the Shoulders of Giant" from Stephen Hawkings. It consists of more than 1000 pages of classical publications in physics. However 900 pages are given to the work of ...
9
votes
5answers
360 views

Where do theta functions and canonical Green functions appear in physics

In the beginning of Section 5 in his article, Wentworth mentions a result of Bost and proves it using the spin-1 bosonization formula. This result provides a link between theta functions, canonical ...
9
votes
1answer
357 views

Has a human ever perished in space?

Apollo 13 returned safely. The Challenger was leaving when it exploded. The Columbia was coming back when it burned up, as was that Russian guy who was profiled on National Public Radio (NPR) and that ...
9
votes
3answers
164 views

What do the various journals and publications bodies offer for their subscriptions? [closed]

I would like to abide by the site policies on not asking open-ended/chatty questions so if someone feels there is a better location or wording for this question, please feel free to modify it as ...
9
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4answers
2k views

Why is the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics the most widely accepted one?

I've been digging a lot into quantum physics in the last few weeks. I didn't care much about the maths, just about what empirically happens to get a conceptual idea about quantum phenomena. The most ...
9
votes
4answers
4k views

Reading Paul Dirac's “Principles of Quantum Mechanics”

I have a similair question to the question here, but regarding a different book. "Principles of Quantum Mechanics" is a 1930 work by British Nobel laureate Paul Dirac. The wikipedia article on this ...
9
votes
5answers
898 views

Simple applications of group theory which can be understood by a senior undergrad

I am looking for references (books or web links) which have "simple" examples on the use of group theory in physics or science in general. I have looked at many books on the subject unfortunately ...
8
votes
5answers
3k views

Graduate School for Theoretical Physics

First off, let me just say that I am unsure if this question is appropriate for this site, and if the community deems it necessary, the question should be closed. So right now I am a fourth year ...
8
votes
10answers
175 views

Are there websites or programmes that permit a simulation of the night sky in the past and the future on an ordinary computer?

Are there websites or programs that permit a simulation of the night sky in the past and the future on an ordinary computer? (For the past, I would be content with objects visible to the naked eye.) ...
8
votes
5answers
1k views

Uses of the 'Golden Ratio' in Physics

What are some physics applications of the golden ratio? $$\varphi~=~ \frac{1+\sqrt{5}}{2}~\approx~ 1.6180339887\ldots$$ Does it ever function specifically as a constant in any formulas or theorems? ...
8
votes
5answers
2k views

Is 'amp' a technically invalid term?

I've been told to use the term ampere in exams and class (I'm in high school), instead of amp as it's not a valid unit, although I've been using the amp for years along with all of my friends who do ...
8
votes
4answers
1k views

Study Quantum Physics

I'm an aspiring physicist who wants to self study some Quantum Physics. My thirst for knowledge is unquenchable and I can not wait 2 more years until I get my first quantum physics class in ...
8
votes
7answers
311 views

Are the results from models considered “data”?

At the AGU, I presented a poster on vocabulary for discussing data systems, and someone left a note at my poster stating: You have a bias here towards observational data. Need to recognize that a ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Is it Possible to Determine Radiation Levels Using Satelites?

Given recent events in Japan, this got me wondering. Is it possible to determine radiation levels reliably not having Geiger counters near the possible radiation contaminated zone? According to ...
8
votes
2answers
296 views

Who is usually credited for the creation of QFT?

I read in a book just now that says: [...] but it was not explained until the invention of quantum field theory by Richard Feynmann [sic] and others in the 1940's. I have been under the ...
8
votes
2answers
95 views

Can I use two SI prefexes

Is it ok to say $145\,{\rm k\,MPa}$ for $145\, {\rm GPa}$. We are so used to comparing stresses in ${\rm MPa}$ that I want to keep things relative to this unit. So would it be a no-no to do so.
8
votes
5answers
224 views

How to communicate institutional knowledge in a big physics collaboration?

I am a graduate student in a large experimental physics collaboration. Newcomers to the collaboration invariably complain about excessive use of jargon and insufficient documentation as barriers to ...
8
votes
1answer
2k views

Is it possible to kill a human with a powerful magnet?

I'm asking in terms of physics. Can powerful magnetic induction rearrange spins of my body in such way I will die? How? Or maybe it can rip all iron from me, which would make my blood cells useless? ...
8
votes
3answers
385 views

Supersymmetry in Quantum Mechanics

I was reading Supersymmetry in Quantum Mechanics and got stuck in the various mathematical terminology like "Graded-Lie Algebra", "Super Algebra". Is there any good lecture notes concerning these ...
8
votes
5answers
693 views

How would I go about detecting monopoles?

A question needed for a "solid" sci-fi author: How to detect a strong magnetic monopole? (yes, I know no such thing is to be found on Earth). Think of basic construction details, principles of ...
8
votes
5answers
2k views

Physics book for 15 year old boy [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: List of good classical physics books my name is Bruno Alano. As stated in the title, I'm 15 years old (I'll do 16 on 7 of Feb) and much love Computer Science (C, C++), ...
8
votes
2answers
418 views

Understanding Cherns-Simons-Witten Theory

I want to read about Wittens work, on Cherns-Simons theory, and relations to knots and jones polynomials. I am extremely motivated to read his paper: Quantum Field Theory and Jones polynomial. What ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Is there a nice tool to plot graphs of paper citations? [closed]

I would like a tool which allows me to enter some paper citation, and then will begin drawing a graph, where each paper is linked to other papers that cite the original paper or are cited by it. It ...
8
votes
1answer
269 views

Can You Obtain New Physics from the use of Fractional Derivatives?

I was curious if anyone could give me an example of the use of fractional derivatives in physics and explain what they offer that "conventional" mathematics does not (in terms of new physics and not ...
8
votes
3answers
950 views

Current scope of Chaos theory and non-linear dynamics? [closed]

I am a physics undergrad interested in stuff like dynamical systems, chaos theory etc. Is there ongoing research in these fields? I am talking about pure research and not applications to things like ...
8
votes
1answer
2k views

What programming languages would be helpful for a physicist to know? [closed]

From the vantage point of a physicist and the kind of problems he would like a computer program to solve, what are the essential programming languages that a physicist should know. I know C++ and I ...