Covers the study of (mostly homogeneous) macroscopic systems from a heat/energy/entropy point of view. Maybe combine with [tag:statistical-mechanics].

learn more… | top users | synonyms (3)

11
votes
3answers
3k views

How efficient is a desktop computer?

As I understand it (and admittedly it's a weak grasp), a computer processes information irreversibly (AND gates, for example), and therefore has some minimum entropy increase associated with its ...
17
votes
4answers
14k views

How does the Eco-Cooler air conditioner really work?

This article describes a device for developing countries which apparently cools the air by 5 °C without electricity. According to its YouTube video, it works by lowering the pressure to drag in the ...
6
votes
1answer
2k views

Clear up confusion about the meaning of entropy

So I though, and was told, that entropy is the amount of disorder in a system. Specifically the example of heat flow and it flows to maximize entropy. To me this seemed odd. This seemed more ordered ...
11
votes
2answers
2k views

What temperature can you attain with a solar furnace?

A solar furnace is a device that concentrates the sun's light on a small point to heat it up to high temperature. One can imagine that in the limit of being completely surrounded by mirrors, your ...
13
votes
4answers
25k views

Why does adding solutes to pure water lower the the specific heat?

We found that water with salt, sugar, or baking soda dissolved in it cools faster than pure water. Water has a very high specific heat; how do these solutes lower it? We heated a beaker (300ml) of ...
10
votes
1answer
902 views

Why isn't temperature frame dependent?

In (non-relativistic) classical physics, if the temperature of an object is proportional to the average kinetic energy ${1 \over 2} m\overline {v^{2}}$of its particles (or molecules), then shouldn't ...
6
votes
3answers
990 views

Are negative temperatures typically associated with negative absolute pressures?

Negative temperatures and negative absolute pressures are both possible in physical systems. Negative temperatures arise in (for example) populations of two-state systems, which have a maximum amount ...
6
votes
2answers
573 views

Difference between irreversible and entropy?

Cedric Villani recently wrote an article on Landau damping, where at least one topic discussed confused me. Besides discussing the issue of how a process can be microscopically reversible and ...
14
votes
7answers
21k views

How efficient is an electric heater?

How efficient is an electric heater? My guess: greater than 95%. Possibly even 99%. I say this because most energy is converted into heat; some is converted into light and kinetic energy, and ...
6
votes
2answers
3k views

Radiation– white vs black house, hot or cool?

In my book's thermodynamics chapter, it says that an "object that radiates heat faster also absorbs heat faster. This means that an object that is a more efficient radiator comes to equilibrium ...
6
votes
5answers
2k views

Is it possible for the entropy in an isolated system to decrease?

As far as I can tell, the concept of entropy is a purely statistical one. In my engineering thermodynamics course we were told that the second law of Thermodynamics states that "the entropy of an ...
5
votes
3answers
340 views

Temperature in space

Temperature is a measure of kinetic energy transferred to particles, henceforth, space being vacuum, temperature cannot be measured. But then, there is cosmic background radiation. It is the leftover ...
92
votes
5answers
10k views

Why am I not burned by a strong wind?

So I was thinking... If heat I feel is just lots of particles going wild and transferring their energy to other bodies, why am I not burned by the wind? When I thought about it more I figured out ...
78
votes
6answers
9k views

Is it possible to start fire using moonlight?

You can start fire by focusing the sunlight using the magnifying glass. I searched the web whether you can do the same using moonlight. And found this and this - the first two in Google search ...
21
votes
5answers
7k views

Is there any proof for the 2nd law of thermodynamics?

Are there any analytical proofs for the 2nd law of thermodynamics? Or is it based entirely on empirical evidence?
17
votes
4answers
8k views

Why does the nature always prefer low energy and maximum entropy?

Why does the nature always prefer low energy and maximum entropy? I've just learned electrostatics and I still have no idea why like charges repel each other. http://in.answers.yahoo.com/question/...
43
votes
6answers
22k views

Why does cold metal seem colder than cold air?

(I apologize for this elementary question. I don't know much about physics.) Let's say that I put a metal pot in the refrigerator for several hours. At this point, I guess, the pot and the air (in ...
13
votes
11answers
63k views

Why does the gas get cold when I spray it?

When you spray gas from a compressed spray, the gas gets very cold, even though, the compressed spray is in the room temperature. I think, when it goes from high pressure to lower one, it gets cold, ...
10
votes
5answers
874 views

Intuitively, why is a reversible process one in which the system is always at equilibrium?

A process is reversible if and only if it's always at equilibrium during the process. Why? I have heard several specific example of this, such as adding weight gradually to a piston to compress the ...
8
votes
6answers
5k views

The temperature of photon and its energy

Do photons have temperature? If not, does it mean that photon lose energy while travelling through space? As the planets farther away from the sun are comparatively cooler than the one that are ...
10
votes
5answers
3k views

Crash course in classical thermodynamics

I've been working on some projects lately where it would be very handy to know more about thermodynamics than I do, but sadly I never had a chance to take a proper thermodynamics course in college. ...
9
votes
7answers
23k views

The difference between heat and temperature

So as I understand it, heat energy of an object is the SUM of all the kinetic energies of the molecules of the object (upto constant factor). The temperature on the other hand is the AVERAGE of the ...
9
votes
8answers
6k views

Is it theoretically possible to reach 0 kelvin?

I'm having a discussion with someone. I said that it is -even theoretically- impossible to reach 0K, because that would imply that all molecules in the substance would stand perfectly still. He said ...
6
votes
5answers
1k views

What is the meaning of following expression $C=\frac{\delta Q}{dT}$ mathematically?

Our professor raised the following question during our lecture in Statistical Physics (even so it's related to Thermodynamics): Many text books (even Wikipedia) writes wrong expressions (from ...
18
votes
7answers
8k views

Why does ice form on bridges even if the temperature is above freezing?

So with this "arctic blast" continuing, I've noticed that for my area, the temperature drops below freezing just long enough to cause freezing rain, but then the sun comes out and the temperature ...
16
votes
5answers
1k views

What was the entropy of the universe at the time of the Big Bang?

(I asked this question in Philosophy.SE; but I was advised to direct it here, despite it is, in my opinion, somewhat too speculative for physics.SE). High entropy generally means high disorder; and ...
14
votes
4answers
1k views

Is the second law of thermodynamics a fundamental law, or does it emerge from other laws?

My question is basically this. Is the second law of thermodynamics a fundamental, basic law of physics, or does it emerge from more fundamental laws? Let's say I was to write a massive computer ...
10
votes
2answers
10k views

Does tea stay hotter with the milk in it?

A little thought experiment, similar to this one: Imagine you are making a cup of tea when the door bell rings. You've poured the boiling water into a cup with a teabag in it. As you're just about to ...
7
votes
2answers
674 views

What is the resolution to Gibb's paradox?

This question is essentially a duplicate of Gibbs Paradox - why should the change in entropy be zero?. The question concerns the following situation: I have some gas of identical particles and they ...
20
votes
12answers
44k views

Does hot air really rise?

"Heat rises" or "warm air rises" is a widely used phrase (and widely accepted phenomenon). Does hot air really rise? Or is it simply displaced by colder (denser) air pulled down by gravity?
11
votes
6answers
3k views

Can low-gravity planets sustain a breathable atmosphere?

If astronauts could deliver a large quantity of breathable air to somewhere with lower gravity, such as Earth's moon, would the air form an atmosphere, or would it float away and disappear? Is there a ...
8
votes
3answers
10k views

Would being underwater help survive a nuclear bomb?

If I jump in my pool, on the river near my house knowing that a nuclear bomb, or atomic or H-Bomb exploded around 10 km from my house, would I survive? The way I see it is that water will protect me ...
6
votes
1answer
372 views

What is the entropy of the universe today?

What's the entropy of the universe today? How does one go about calculating this? I've heard the statement that black holes account for the bulk of the entropy in the universe today, but don't know ...
6
votes
1answer
418 views

A thermodynamic transformation that can be represented by a continuous quasistatic path in its state space may still be irreversible. Why?

A thermodynamic transformation that has a path (in its state space) that lies on the surface of its equation of state (e.g., $PV=NkT$) is always reversible (right?). However, if the path is a ...
5
votes
2answers
414 views

Does a universe experiencing “heat death” have a temperature?

As defined by Wikipedia: The heat death of the universe is a suggested ultimate fate of the universe in which the universe has diminished to a state of no thermodynamic free energy and ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

Confused about fire?

Im confused about fire. The way I see it : Heat creates (kinetic) energy in mass and this creates stronger vibrations of atoms. When those vibrations are strong enough the electrons interact ...
2
votes
2answers
2k views

Why a mono-atomic crystal layer (2D) can't be stable?

According to Peierls and Landau, 2D crystals were thermodynamically unstable. They can't exist! Of course, this theory was disapproved in 2004 (example: graphene). What is the general definition of ...
6
votes
1answer
253 views

Reflectivity of a glowing-hot metal surface

When a polished piece of metal (or steel in particular) is heated to incandescence, how do its reflective properties change? Given a mirror-like surface, would the object temporarily cease to act ...
5
votes
4answers
392 views

I still don't understand how a gas with an equation of state f(T,p,V)=0 can change if 2 state functions are fixed?

Just like classical potential, it's stated that equilibrium is obtained when the corresponding thermodynamics potential reaches the minimum. Explicitly, according to Wikipedia, in particular: ...
3
votes
4answers
477 views

Can a single molecule have a state?

I was studying a book about thermodynamics of nanosystems and I got stuck with this question in my mind which I couldn't find an answer for. For instance, does a single water molecule have a state, ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

Why do vapour cones form around jet fighters?

Apparently this phenomenon has nothing to do with jets breaking the sound barrier and has something to do with the Prandtl-Glauert singularity as described on Wikipedia. But, the Wikipedia article isn'...
2
votes
1answer
2k views

Understanding the Seebeck effect

Thermoelectricity is, as I understand it, the difference in voltage between the hot and cold ends of two dissimilar materials. If two materials are connected at two different junctions, the hot ...
2
votes
3answers
2k views

Is a plasma a distinct phase of matter?

Long ago I learned that a plasma was a distinct state of matter after solid, liquid and gas, and also that it was achieved by imparting heat to a the matter. But most references describe a plasma as ...
2
votes
2answers
2k views

Heat transfer between two surfaces

Suppose I have surface A in contact with surface B, if I apply Fourier's law of heat transfer, which $K$ should I use, $K_a$ or $K_b$? Essentially asking whether the same block of material heats ...
2
votes
1answer
2k views

How much oxygen would be consumed on a 1 cm squared surface which is on fire?

I'm trying to figure out how much oxygen the Human Torch produces when he is on fire. I figure if I knew how much oxygen on average (per second?) is consumed by a 1 cm squared surface which is ...
1
vote
1answer
187 views

Heat preserving performance of container relative to content

This question has been addressed in the case of a thermos bottle: Performance of a thermos bottle relative to contents I am asking the question again without the hypothesis that it is a thermos ...
0
votes
1answer
127 views

Thermodynamics - internal energy

What would the curve that describes the change of internal energy ($U$) with the volume ($V$) be like if the change in the temperature is negative? My try: For a ideal monoatomic gas, we have $U=(3/...
6
votes
3answers
769 views

Solidification by the application of heat

When you add heat to a liquid (or a fluid), can it be solidified? If not, why in the world does an egg's stuffs become solid (or at least no more a liquid) when you 'boil' it in water?
6
votes
2answers
839 views

Why isn't the Earth's core temperature the average of its surface temperatures?

Assuming that the earth is spherical, that its temperature is continuous, and that some other more or less realistic conditions hold, we might think that the Earth's core temperature should be about ...
6
votes
3answers
21k views

Temperature behavior over time of black or white cars in hot, sunny regions

How does the color of a car influence its inner temperature change over time when parked outside in windless, hot and sunny regions? I know what's the common idea about that: black cars are supposed ...