Use this for questions relating to the proper use of physics terminology or nomenclature.

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5
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1answer
810 views

Is there a difference between a postulate and a principle in physics?

Is there a difference between a postulate and a principle in physics? Both seem unproved statements taken as true. If thats correct, why the different names?
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8answers
9k views

What is the difference between electric potential, potential difference (PD), voltage and electromotive force (EMF)?

This is a confused part ever since I started learning electricity. What is the difference between electric potential, potential difference (PD), voltage and electromotive force (EMF)? All of them have ...
8
votes
2answers
480 views

What does “the ${\bf N}$ of a group” mean?

In the context of group theory (in my case, applications to physics), I frequently come across the phrase "the ${\bf N}$ of a group", for example "a ${\bf 24}$ of $SU(5)$" or "the ${\bf 1}$ of ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

What sets a “Law” apart from a “Rule” or a “Principle”? [duplicate]

Basically, I understand the difference between a "Theory" and a "Theorem" but I am quite confused when it comes to "Law", "Rule" and "Principle". Can you make the differences clear to me?
22
votes
4answers
5k views

Are matrices and second rank tensors the same thing?

Tensors are mathematical objects that are needed in physics to define certain quantities. I have a couple of questions regarding them that need to be clarified: 1-Are matrices and second rank tensors ...
9
votes
4answers
404 views

Is the Lagrangian of a quantum field really a 'functional'?

Weinberg says, page 299, The quantum theory of fields, Vol 1, that The Lagrangian is, in general, a functional $L[\Psi(t),\dot{\Psi}(t)$], of a set of generic fields $\Psi[x,t]$ and their time ...
3
votes
1answer
369 views

What is “charge discreteness”?

I assume it is some kind of quantity. Google only made things more confusing. I get that it has something to do with circuits. I also get what a discrete charge is. In fact, I thought charges ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

What is the meaning of the word “Principle” in Physics?

What is the meaning of the word principle in Physics? For example in the "action principle". Is it an action law, an action equation, or an unproved assumption? (I have an idea what an action is). ...
20
votes
1answer
3k views

Differentiating Propagator, Greens function, Correlation function, etc

For the following quantities respectively, could someone write down the common definitions, their meaning, the field of study in which one would typically find these under their actual name, and most ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

Definitions: 'locality' vs 'causality'

I'm having trouble unambiguously interpreting many answers here due to the fact that the terms locality and causality are sometimes used interchangeably, while other times seem to mean very different ...
13
votes
1answer
1k 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?
18
votes
3answers
966 views

“Slightly off-shell”?

I'm not new to QFT, yet there are some matters which are quite puzzling to me. I often come across the statement that real particles (the ones we actually measure in experiments, not virtual ones) are ...
8
votes
2answers
363 views

Should it be obvious that independent quantum states are composed by taking the tensor product?

My text introduces multi-quibt quantum states with the example of a state that can be "factored" into two (non-entangled) substates. It then goes on to suggest that it should be obvious1 that the ...
4
votes
3answers
324 views

What are the differences between indistinguishable and identical?

What is the difference between indistinguishable particles and identical particles?
4
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4answers
4k views

Torque vs Moment

I was wondering, why in Newtonian physics torque is called "torque" while in static mechanics they call it "moment"? I prefer by far the term "torque", for not only it sounds strong, but also ...
1
vote
1answer
123 views

Where can I find the equations for “quasi” elastic collisions?

Yes, you all talk about neutrinos and spins, but I came out with this basic s**t :D All of us learnt the basic equations of collisions, elastic (everything bounces and energy remains the same), or ...
28
votes
11answers
36k views

What is the difference between “kinematics” and “dynamics”?

I have noticed that authors in the literature sometimes divide characteristics of some phenomenon into "kinematics" and "dynamics". I first encountered this in Jackson's E&M book, where, in ...
11
votes
8answers
1k views

What is the name of the principle saying it is meaningless to talk/ask questions that can not be measured/tested?

Watching quantum mechanics lectures and it was mentioned that it is pointless/meaningless to try to talk/question things that can not be tested/measured. Is this a principle? And if so what is it's ...
11
votes
2answers
5k views

What's the difference between inclusive and exclusive decays?

For example, why is the semileptonic $B$ decay $B \to X\ell\nu$ inclusive? I can't find any definition of these frequently used terms, strange.
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2answers
200 views

Representations of Lie algebras in physics

Why is an invariant vector subspace sometimes called a representation? For example in Lie algebras, say su(3), the subspace characterized by the highest weight (1,0) is an irreducible representation ...
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2answers
1k 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
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3answers
21k views

What exactly is the difference between radiation and convection?

Okay, so everywhere I've read, I hear the main difference is the requirement of a medium. But for example, if you take the case of heat 'radiating' from a red-hot iron, isn't that actually convection ...
5
votes
2answers
471 views

What does a non-perturbative theory mean?

I'm a science writer and I'm having difficulty understanding what a non-perturbative approach means. I thought I understood what perturbative meant, but in looking for explanations of ...
6
votes
5answers
14k views

What's the difference between Fermi Energy and Fermi Level?

I'm a bit confused about the difference between these two concepts. According to Wikipedia the Fermi energy and Fermi level are closely related concepts. From my understanding, the Fermi energy is the ...
4
votes
1answer
139 views

Which transformations are canonical?

Which transformations are canonical? Why do canonical transformations preserve the measure of integration in phase space?
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3answers
554 views

Nomenclature: Yang-Mills theory vs Gauge theory

If you're writing about a theory with Yang-Mills/Gauge fields for an arbitrary reductive gauge group coupled to arbitrary matter fields in some representation, is it best to call it a Yang-Mills ...
2
votes
1answer
48 views

Are there more distinctive names of “null curves” with certain additional properties (absence of “chord curves”)?

In this answer (to the question "In general relativity, are light-like curves light-like geodesics?", PSE/q/76170) a particular example of a curve is discussed whose "tangent is everywhere null" and ...
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3answers
2k views

Why is Higgs Boson given the name “The God Particle”?

Higgs Boson (messenger particle of Higgs field) accounts for inertial mass, not gravitational mass. So, how could it account for formation of universe as we know it today? I think, gravity accounts ...
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4answers
1k views

Work done by the Magnetic Force

The magnetic part of the Lorentz force acts perpendicular to the charge's velocity, and consequently does zero work on it. Can we extrapolate this statement to say that such a nature of the force ...
2
votes
2answers
120 views

Why “Dark Energy” is called energy instead of force?

The overly simplified explanation I'm giving myself right now is dark energy causes the opposite of what gravity does, that's why the universe is expanding. Now where gravity is a force, why dark ...
2
votes
1answer
2k views

What is the difference between Quantum Physics, Quantum Theory, Quantum Mechanics, and Quantum Field Theory?

What is the difference between Quantum Physics, Quantum Theory, Quantum Mechanics, and Quantum Field Theory? Are they the same subject? I believe that they are not the same subject! Maybe there is not ...
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vote
2answers
294 views

Are the intersections of past and future light cones spacelike?

Given a timelike reference worldline (not necessarily geodesic), we can define light-cone coordinates $\tau^+$ and $\tau^-$ so that the 3-D hypersurfaces of constant $\tau^+$ are past light cones of ...
1
vote
1answer
786 views

What do physicists mean when they say “speed of light”?

Does it make sense to say, "The speed of light varies?" Some may say right off the bat "Yes, it changes as a wave passes through a different medium." However, I'd like to say no, because when I hear ...
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votes
2answers
862 views

What is “code” in “toric code”?

When I first heard people talking about using Kitaev's toric code to do topological quantum computation, I was thinking how many lines does the toric code have. Then I was told that the "code" really ...
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votes
5answers
3k views

Difference between theoretical physics and mathematical physics?

I'm a huge fan of mathematical physics and I know what the formal definitions of those two areas are, I've seen them. But I still get completely baffled when someone asks me to explain it simply. The ...
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votes
2answers
1k views

Is Pauli-repulsion a “force” that is completely separate from the 4 fundamental forces?

You can have two electrons that experience each other's force by the exchange of photons (i.e. the electromagnetic force). Yet if you compress them really strongly, the electromagnetic interaction ...
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votes
3answers
2k views

What's the difference between “boundary value problems” and “initial value problems”?

Mathematically speaking, is there any essential difference between initial value problems and boundary value problems? The specification of the values of a function $f$ and the "velocities" ...
3
votes
1answer
128 views

How to determine the order of indications of a clock?

Given the description of a clock $\mathcal A$, as (1) a set $A$ of all (more than 2) distinct indications of this clock, in no particular order (where the individual indications contained in set ...
5
votes
1answer
70 views

Is there an established standard for naming exoplanets?

I understand that exoplanets are named by adding a lowercase letter to the a designation of the planet's parent star or stellar system, beginning with 'b' (the star itself is 'a') in order of ...
3
votes
1answer
44 views

Off-diagonal terms of the Husimi $Q$ function?

The Husimi $Q$ function of a quantum state $\rho $ is defined as $ Q (\alpha)=\langle \alpha \vert \rho \vert \alpha \rangle $, where $\alpha = (x, p) $ is a phase space coordinate and $\vert \alpha ...
1
vote
1answer
120 views

A terminological question about work and energy

Work is force applied over distance. Is it also reasonable to say that work is (the same thing as) the transfer of energy? When work is done, the equivalent energy is transferred. But if energy is ...
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votes
2answers
97 views

Is a “shift in the meaning” of Accuracy and Precision occurring?

Accuracy and precision are among the most fundamental concepts in experimental physics, and, I always believed, completely unambiguous. Recently I found that the Wikipedia article on Accuracy and ...
7
votes
1answer
198 views

Numerical schemes, time integration algorithms and energy conservation

What does it mean when someone says a numerical scheme or a time integration algorithm is "energy conserving". How can a numerical scheme "gain" or "lose" or "conserve" energy apart from the numerical ...
5
votes
1answer
855 views

What does the concept of phase space mean in particle physics?

I came across the concept of phase space in statistical mechanics. How does this concept come about in particle physics? Why was it introduced and how is it used? What does it mean when ...
4
votes
3answers
391 views

Is speed an intensive property?

I remember being taught in elementary physics that while it makes sense to add volumes, masses, or heat, it makes no sense to add temperatures. As I wanted to use that to illustate some other issue, ...
3
votes
1answer
51 views

What is a Nyquist edge?

I've come to this sentence and I don't understand the term Nyquist edge. Because observing in the FM band is not feasible, a sampling frequency of 200 MHz has been chosen for most of the receiver ...
3
votes
2answers
451 views

Is Hubble's constant really constant? [duplicate]

How does Hubble's constant resembles age of universe? Isn't universe getting old each day? How can a constant be a reciprocal of age of universe? Hubble's value must be variable, isn't it?
3
votes
4answers
817 views

Basic question concerning pure energy

Inside the core of a star thermonuclear fusion reaction fuses hydrogen atom into helium releasing massive heat/light and energy.When a blackhole eats up enough stars and gases it devours itself by ...
3
votes
1answer
520 views

What's a better phrase than “speed of light” for the universal spacetime speed constant? [closed]

The phrase "speed of light" is commonly used for the constant c =3E8 m/s, a feature that's "hardcoded" into the structure of spacetime. All massless waves and particles move at this speed, and it's a ...
2
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4answers
5k views

What does the magnitude of the acceleration mean?

I am a little confused as to what the magnitude of acceleration is and what it means.