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

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33
votes
11answers
44k 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 ...
26
votes
4answers
6k 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: Are matrices and second rank tensors ...
23
votes
4answers
1k 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 ...
22
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 ...
17
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
176 views

Is there an official name for “Lorentz Pairs” like energy and momentum?

In learning about relativity I've noticed that in the construction of Lorentz invariants (specifically four-vectors) two physical quantities that were previously considered distinct are instead ...
16
votes
2answers
187 views

What is a “Trojan Moon”?

Today I read an article about Saturn's moon Helene, and it was described as a "Trojan Moon" but no further explanation was given. It was difficult to even get any context about the term from the ...
14
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.
13
votes
4answers
266 views

Is the Big Bang defined as before or after Inflation?

Is the Big Bang defined as before or after Inflation? Seems like a simple enough question to answer right? And if just yesterday I were to encounter this, I'd have given a definite answer. But I've ...
13
votes
7answers
3k views

What is a general definition of impedance?

Impedance is a concept that shows up in any area of physics concerning waves. In transmission lines, impedance is the ratio of voltage to current. In optics, index of refraction plays a role similar ...
13
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
13
votes
2answers
20k views

What exactly is the difference between advection and convection?

After reading Wikipedia articles on advection and convection, I still cannot determine whether there is a consensus on a difference between these two terms. Sometimes, the term convection seems to ...
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?
12
votes
5answers
4k views

Does Earth have a code name?

Everything we discover in the sky get eventually a code name, like NGC 7293, Simeis 147, etc. Does Earth/Moon have a code name too? Or it is just Earth/Moon, etc.?
12
votes
3answers
831 views

The notion of an adiabatic process in thermodynamics -vs- quantum mechanics

I'm confused about the terminology in the two contexts since I can't figure out if they have a similar motivation. Afaik, the definitions state that quantum processes should be very slow to be called ...
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
5answers
4k 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 ...
11
votes
4answers
365 views

Is partial derivative a vector or dual vector?

The textbook(Introduction to the Classical Theory of Particles and Fields, by Boris Kosyakov) defines a hypersurface by $$F(x)~=~c,$$ where $F\in C^\infty[\mathbb M_4,\mathbb R]$. Differentiating ...
11
votes
8answers
10k 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 ...
10
votes
6answers
629 views

Gibbs free energy intuition

What is Gibbs free energy? As my book explains: Gibbs energy is the energy of a system available for work. So, what does it want to tell? Why is it free? Energy means ability to do work. What is ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

What's the difference between an entangled state, a superposed state and a cat state?

1) Can a state be entangled without also being a superposition? (Please give an example.) 2) Can a state be a superposition without being entangled? (Again, an example please.) 3) And what about ...
10
votes
3answers
892 views

Planets and Pluto? Neptune?

If one of the rules to be a planet is that it needs to clear ALL objects from their orbit, does this also make Neptune a non-planet? Since it has thus far failed to clear Pluto from it's orbit. Or ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

What does the dual of a tensor mean (e.g. dual stress tensor in relativistic ED)?

I know what the dual of a vector means (as a map to its field), and I am also aware of of the definition a dual of a tensor as, $$F^{*ij} = \frac{1}{2} \epsilon^{ijkl} F_{kl}\tag{1}$$ I just don't ...
10
votes
4answers
504 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 ...
9
votes
3answers
27k 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 ...
9
votes
4answers
301 views

What makes an equation an 'equation of motion'?

Every now and then, I find myself reading papers/text talking about how this equation is a constraint but that equation is an equation of motion which satisfies this constraint. For example, in the ...
9
votes
4answers
441 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
254 views

Word for the star around which an exoplanet orbits:

Is there accepted nomenclature for the star around which a particular exoplanet orbits? Meaning, if I were to say "The exoplanet blah blah blah's (noun)" what noun would I put there? Sun? Star? ...
9
votes
0answers
275 views

Gauge invariant but not gauge covariant regularization

I'm not sure if someone's already asked this before, but I was wondering, in field theory, when we say that a certain field is gauge invariant but not gauge covariant, what does this mean? In ...
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
2answers
546 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 ...
8
votes
4answers
282 views

What does “carry a representation” mean (in SUSY algebra)?

I come from a maths background and am struggling with some of the more physical texts on SUSY. In particular they claim that the fermionic generators $Q_A^i$ carry a representation of the Lorentz ...
8
votes
2answers
383 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
767 views

What's the relation between perturbative and nonperturbative QFT?

In case of any miscommunication let me describe my understanding of the meaning of "perturbative" and "non-perturbative", and correct me if something is wrong: In a perturbatively defined QFT the ...
7
votes
5answers
17k 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
96 views

Do days and months on the Moon have names?

On Earth we have various calendars, for example, Days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc., etc. Months: January, February, March Does the Moon have names for its "daily" rotations, etc.? It sounds ...
7
votes
5answers
590 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, ...
7
votes
3answers
9k views

What is the official difference between a planet and a dwarf planet?

I'm trying to understand how objects are classified as planets, moons, or dwarf planets. Can someone please explain the differences between them? I'm really curious about why Pluto is a dwarf planet, ...
7
votes
1answer
605 views

Constructive vs Algebraic Quantum Field Theory

I am interested to know how the (non)existence theorems of constructive QFT and algebraic QFT are related (or not). I have only a weak grasp of either, so I'm looking for something like a quick ...
7
votes
2answers
947 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
249 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
917 views

Mnemonics for remembering physical data [closed]

Anyone have good mnemonics for remembering standard packets of data in physics? Any field within physics would be welcomed. Examples of such "packets": data in the standard model of particle ...
7
votes
1answer
114 views

Has the Nobel committee mixed up this years prizes for Physics and Chemistry? [closed]

The title of the question is tongue-in-cheek but the question remains: How does the Nobel committee delineate the fields when awarding work which is of such an inter-disciplinary nature. The chemistry ...
6
votes
2answers
9k 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
766 views

Do generators belong to the Lie group or the Lie algebra?

In Physics papers, would it be correct to say that when there is mention of generators, they really mean the generators of the Lie algebra rather than generators of the Lie group? For example I've ...
6
votes
1answer
2k views

Eigenfunctions v.s. eigenstates

Is there a difference between "eigenfunction" and "eigenstate"? They seem to be used interchangeably in texts, which is confusing. My guess is that an "eigenfunction" has an explicit ...
6
votes
3answers
189 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
878 views

Amplitude of Probability amplitude. Which one is it?

QM begins with a Born's rule which states that probability $P$ is equal to a modulus square of probability amplitude $\psi$: $$P = \left|\psi\right|^2.$$ If I write down a wave function like this ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

What is a non linear $\sigma$ model?

What exactly is a non linear $\sigma$ model? In many books one can view many different types of non linear $\sigma$ models but I don't understand what is the link between all of them and why it is ...
6
votes
1answer
459 views

What does “tagging” mean in experimental high energy physics?

Could someone explain in details the meaning of the terminology "tagging" in experimental high energy physics and how is it used in the analysis?