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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49
votes
5answers
5k views

Which is more fundamental, Fields or Particles?

I hope that I am using appropriate terminology. My confusion about quantum theory (beyond my obvious unfamiliarity with its terminology) is basically twofold: I lack an adequate understanding of ...
7
votes
4answers
2k views

Misused physics analogies [closed]

Have you noticed that many questions and misconceptions in physics arise due to misuse of analogies, which were invented to "explain in simple words" some physical phenomena? For example there is a "...
33
votes
8answers
9k views

How should a physics student study mathematics? [closed]

Note: I will expand this question with more specific points when I have my own internet connection and more time (we're moving in, so I'm at a friend's house). This question is broad, involved, and ...
24
votes
11answers
15k views

Graduate Physics Problems Books

Need to brush up on my late-undergrad and early-grad physics and was wondering if anyone can recommend books or lecture notes (hard copy, or on-line) that also have solutions. Two that I have come ...
13
votes
8answers
15k 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. ...
43
votes
17answers
14k views

Comprehensive book on group theory for physicists?

I am looking for a good source on group theory aimed at physicists. I'd prefer one with a good general introduction to group theory, not just focusing on Lie groups or crystal groups but one that ...
16
votes
5answers
39k views

What is the math knowledge necessary for starting Quantum Mechanics?

Could someone experienced in the field tell me what the minimal math knowledge one must obtain in order to grasp the introductory Quantum Mechanics book/course? I do have math knowledge but I must ...
18
votes
11answers
61k views

How do you start learning physics by yourself? [closed]

I think this question has its place here because I am sure some of you are "self-taught experts" and can guide me a little through this process. Considering that : I don't have any physics scholar ...
30
votes
8answers
31k views

What are the prerequisites to studying general relativity? [closed]

This question recently appeared on Slashdot: Slashdot posts a fair number of physics stories. Many of us, myself included, don't have the background to understand them. So I'd like to ask the ...
48
votes
5answers
6k views

Why is the harmonic oscillator so important?

I've been wondering what makes the harmonic oscillator such an important model. What I came up with: It is a (relatively) simple system, making it a perfect example for physics students to learn ...
23
votes
7answers
12k views

How to learn physics effectively and efficiently [closed]

How do you effectively study physics? How does one read a physics book instead or just staring at it for hours? (Apologies in advance if the question is ill-posed or too subjective in its current ...
53
votes
49answers
10k views

Common false beliefs in Physics [closed]

Well, in Mathematics there are somethings, which appear true but they aren't true. Naive students often get fooled by these results. Let me consider a very simple example. As a child one learns this ...
13
votes
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 ...
92
votes
20answers
100k views

What software programs are used to draw physics diagrams, and what are their relative merits?

Undoubtedly, people use a variety of programs to draw diagrams for physics, but I am not familiar with many of them. I usually hand-draw things in GIMP which is powerful in some regards, but it is ...
79
votes
2answers
17k views

Reading the Feynman lectures in 2012

The Feynman lectures are universally admired, it seems, but also a half-century old. Taking them as a source for self-study, what compensation for their age, if any, should today's reader undertake? ...
15
votes
10answers
4k 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
918 views

What is the significance of Lie groups $SO(3)$ and $SU(2)$ to particle physics?

I was hoping someone could give an overview as to how the Lie groups $SO(3)$ and $SU(2)$ and their representations can be applied to describe particle physics? The application of Lie groups and their ...
10
votes
6answers
5k views

Linear Algebra for Quantum Physics

A week ago I asked people on this site what mathematical background was needed for understanding Quantum Physics, and most of you mentioned Linear Algebra, so I decided to conduct a self-study of ...
8
votes
3answers
2k 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 university,...
21
votes
6answers
4k views

Why do physicists believe that there exist magnetic monopoles?

One thing I've heard stated many times is that "most" or "many" physicists believe that, despite the fact that they have not been observed, there are such things as magnetic monopoles. However, I've ...
16
votes
11answers
3k views

Physics the Why vs. How question?

I've been told that a physicist never asks why and must always ask how. Is this true? Have all discoveries in physics been due to asking how? or have some been discovered by asking why?
6
votes
7answers
1k views

Physical intuition for higher order derivatives

Could somebody give me an intuitive physical interpretation of higher order derivatives (from 2 and so on), that is not related to position - velocity - acceleration - jerk - etc?
4
votes
5answers
1k views

Laws and theories

What is a physical law, a theory, and what is the relationship among them? I know this is a very basic question, so any reference to epistemology will be greatly appreciated :)
29
votes
24answers
27k views

Books that every physicist should read

Inspired by How should a physics student study mathematics? and in the same vein as Best books for mathematical background?, although in a more general fashion, I'd like to know if anyone is ...
13
votes
4answers
5k 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Popular books on QM

After some discussions with my friend about some "popular" aspects of quantum mechanics, my friend asked me whether there exist any books that could convey the basic ideas in a non-technical way (my ...
1
vote
2answers
131 views

Is escape velocity really a velocity (rather than a speed)?

The term escape velocity is quite common to us. But we know velocity is a dimension dependent on the direction. But the escape velocity has same value irrespective of from where it is thrown from the ...
26
votes
14answers
3k views

Learning physics online?

I'm thinking of following some kind of education in physics online. I have a master degree in Computer Science and have reasonable good knowledge in physics. I would like a program of 1-2 years and I'...
11
votes
7answers
2k 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 ...
25
votes
8answers
4k views

Why is there a size limitation on animals?

Why is there a size limitation on human/animal growth? Assuming the technology exists for man to grow to 200 feet high, it's pretty much a given that the stress on the skeletal structure and joints ...
6
votes
4answers
979 views

Entropy as an arrow of time

From what I understand, entropy is a concept defined by the experimentalist due to his ignorance of the exact microstate of a system. To say the number of accessible microstates $W$ of the universe is ...
6
votes
2answers
4k views

Differences between classical, analytical, rational and theoretical mechanics

Can you explain me what are the differences between the four following subjects? analytical mechanics rational mechanics classical mechanics theoretical mechanics
2
votes
3answers
951 views

Mathematics for Quantum Mechanics [duplicate]

What math should I study if I want to get a basic understanding of quantum mechanics and especially to be able to use the Schrodinger's equation.
1
vote
1answer
651 views

How can you test what color different people perceive? [closed]

If I would show someone a yellow object and ask them, "is this object yellow?" That person would say "yes". But I could never know if my perception of the color yellow is the same as that other ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

What should a physics undergrad aspiring to be a string theorist learn before grad school?

The question I guess is pretty clear. I am a physics undergrad wishing to pursue research in quantum gravity(string theory?). What are the subjects I should learn other than the usual compulsory ...
1
vote
1answer
371 views

How to know if something is a primitive concept, a law, a definition or a theorem

Some basic Physics books are often misguiding in the sense that they don't make clear whether something is a primitive concept, a law, a definition or a theorem. This is often a little confusing. I've ...
0
votes
1answer
145 views

Is everything in the physical world composite?

In philosophy there is a principle that anything composite cannot have existed eternally, since it is preceded by its parts and whatever forces assembled it. Is everything in the physical world ...
13
votes
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 ...
23
votes
6answers
4k views

Where should a physicist go to learn chemistry?

I took an introductory chemistry course long ago, but the rules seemed arbitrary, and I've forgotten most of what I learned. Now that I have an undergraduate education in physics, I should be able to ...
29
votes
6answers
3k views

Canonical everyday-life example of a technology that could not work without humans mastering QM in analogy to the application of GR in GPS?

The GPS is a very handy example in explaining to a broad audience why it is useful for humanity to know the laws of general relativity. It nicely bridges the abstract theory with daily life ...
13
votes
11answers
8k views

Books that every layman should read [closed]

To add to Books that every physicist should read: A list of popular physics books for people who aren't necessarily interested in technical physics. (see also Book recommendations)
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 ...
34
votes
8answers
6k views

Will we ever be able to view the past?

By analogy with the sun, whose light is apparently reaching us in 8 minutes, it means that we are only viewing the sun 8 minutes ago when we look up at it. However, what if we were eventually able to ...
15
votes
17answers
4k 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 ...
13
votes
1answer
2k views

What came first, Rice Crispy or “Snap,” “Crackle,” and “Pop”? [closed]

The fourth, fifth, and sixth derivatives of position are called "Snap" "Crackle" and "Pop". What came first, the rice crispy characters, or the physics units?
12
votes
3answers
20k 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 ...
7
votes
4answers
977 views

Church-Turing hypothesis as a fundamental law of physics

The Church-Turing hypothesis says one can not build a computing device which has more computing power (in terms of computability) than the abstract model of Turing machine. So, there is something in ...
6
votes
4answers
1k views

Textbook on group theory to be able to start QFT [duplicate]

I am very enthusiastic about learning QFT. How much group theory would I need to master? Please could you recommend me a textbook on group theory, which would help me to start QFT?
4
votes
3answers
2k views

Equation of everything

Is this equation in the image true? Can you give some topics that I can cover the equation? Similar equation from http://www.preposterousuniverse.com:
14
votes
3answers
1k views

Is classical electromagnetism a dead research field?

Is classical electromagnetism a dead research field? Are there any phenomena within classical electromagnetism that we have no explanation for?