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

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Why are materials that are better at conducting electricity also proportionately better at conducting heat?

It seems like among the electrical conductors there's a relationship between the ability to conduct heat as well as electricity. Eg: Copper is better than aluminum at conducting both electricity and ...
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3answers
642 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 ...
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2answers
381 views

The entropic cost of tying knots in polymers

Imagine I take a polymer like polyethylene, of length $L$ with some number of Kuhn lengths $N$, and I tie into into a trefoil knot. What is the difference in entropy between this knotted polymer and ...
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614 views

Light “diode” and 2nd law of thermodynamics

If I had a light "diode" - an object that only allowed light (at least for a range of frequencies) to travel through it in one direction, would this necessarily allow violations of the 2nd Law of ...
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5answers
3k views

Difference between thermodynamics and statistical mechanics

I've just finished a class a few weeks ago which taught thermo and stat mech, and I still don't know the exact difference between the two. Can someone help clear this up for me? (Yeah it's sad, and ...
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11k 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?
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A water drop in vacuum

Let's imagine the following situation: At an initial moment $t=0$, a large water drop with diameter for example $D=10\ \text{cm}$ is placed in deep space (Say an astronaut is experimenting). Let's ...
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5answers
722 views

Is a world with constant/decreasing entropy theoretically impossible?

I'm not 110% sure exactly what I mean by this question. It was sparked by a friend who said he wished the law of entropy were reversed, so he wouldn't have to worry about cleaning the bathroom. ...
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3k 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?
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354 views

Discontinuities and nondifferentiability in thermodynamics

In physics and engineering sources, calculus-based formalisms - whether differential forms on a manifold, or "differentials" of functions of several variables - are presented as a way of modeling and ...
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1answer
452 views

Thermodynamically possible to hide a Dyson sphere?

You build a Dyson sphere around a star to capture all its energy. The outer surface of the Dyson sphere still radiates heat at much higher temperature than the cold space background, so you're easy to ...
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1answer
273 views

A formal procedure for thermodynamic relations

This is my third time taking a thermodynamics course (two in undergrad, one in grad), and I've finally become frustrated enough about something to post on here. A lot of thermodynamic questions want ...
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0answers
242 views

How is the logarithmic correction to the entropy of a non extremal black hole derived?

I`ve just read, that for non extremal black holes, there exists a logarithmic (and other) correction(s) to the well known term proportional to the area of the horizon such that $S = \frac{A}{4G} + K ...
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6answers
9k 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 ...
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3answers
733 views

Best way to chill a cup of coffee with cold water and 5 minutes [duplicate]

Initial data 1 x 3/4 full cup of hot coffee / tea / your favorite morning beverage cold water 5 minutes Considering that it's starting to get hot outside, and we all want to drink reasonably cold ...
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7answers
1k views

References about rigorous thermodynamics

Can you suggest some references for rigorous treatment of thermodynamics? I want things like reversibility, equilibrium to be clearly defined in terms of the basic assumptions of the framework.
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344 views

Intuitive understanding of the definition of entropy

In Wikipedia, the definition of entropy goes like this: $ d S = \dfrac{\delta q_{\rm }}{T}$. The literal interpretation of this equation is that some amount of heat transferred into a system, if the ...
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2answers
647 views

What is the status of Mpemba effect investigations?

There is this puzzling thing that is called Mpemba effect: paradoxically, warm (35°C) water freezes faster than cold (5°C) water. As a physisist, I've been asked about it several times already. And I ...
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1k views

Why does the Boltzmann factor $e^{-E/kT}$ seem to imply that lower energies are more likely?

I'm looking for an intuitive understanding of the factor $$e^{-E/kT}$$ so often discussed. If we interpret this as a kind of probability distribution of phase space, so that $$\rho(E) = ...
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9k 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 ...
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1answer
214 views

Is the liquid/solid line infinite?

Starting from the triple point, is the melting line between solid-phase and liquid-phase infinite? If not, why does it end? Because pressures are so high that classical inter-molecular interactions ...
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2answers
457 views

Energy from man-made tornadoes

Peter Thiel just paid $300,000 to Canadian inventor Louis Michaud who is working to construct useful "man-made tornadoes" or "atmospheric vortex engines" which could be components of future power ...
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2answers
226 views

In a large city how much hotter on average is it outside due to the air conditioning of all the buildings?

Title pretty much states the question. How much hotter do air conditioning units make it outside in a large city like NYC, Chicago, etc?
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4answers
2k views

Thermodynamics of supercooled water

Now that it's been freezing outside for the last few days, I experimented a bit with supercooling. I've left a bottle of clean water outside for a few hours, and behold, when I shook the bottle, the ...
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If I take a bottle of air into space, and open it, where does it go?

It seems to me that space doesn't have any/much air, and if my bottle is full of air, when I open it, where does the air go?
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Why do power lines sag when they are heated up?

I was reading some information about the 2003 power blackout in the Northeastern US. Beginning early in the afternoon of August 14, 2003 big transmission lines began to fail in First Energy's ...
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574 views

Why does large curvature of spacetime imply high temperature?

I`ve just stumbled about a sentence which says that high curvature of spacetime implies that any matter present is at high temperature. This somehow confuses me, so my probably dumb question(s) are: ...
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3answers
2k views

How long does it take an iceberg to melt in the ocean?

This is a quantitative question. The problem is inspired by this event: On August 5, 2010, an enormous chunk of ice, roughly 97 square miles (251 square kilometers) in size, broke off the Petermann ...
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667 views

How hot is the water in the pot?

Question: How hot is the water in the pot? More precisely speaking, how can I get a temperature of the water as a function of time a priori? Background & My attempt: Recently I started spend ...
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5answers
2k views

Can a single classical particle have any entropy?

recently I have had some exchanges with @Marek regarding entropy of a single classical particle. I always believed that to define entropy one must have some distribution. In Quantum theory, a single ...
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1answer
629 views

Is temperature of a single molecule defined? [duplicate]

Is temperature of a single molecule defined? This question just cropped up in my mind as I have often heard of laws being violated when it comes to the scale of a single molecule. Does this happen in ...
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3answers
684 views

Is there a relativistic (quantum) thermodynamics?

Does a relativistic version of quantum thermodynamics exist? I.e. in a non-inertial frame of reference, can I, an external observer, calculate quantities like magnetisation within the non-inertial ...
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4answers
5k views

What happens when you heat vodka in a microwave?

Since ethanol has a lower dielectric constant than water would the water heat up and boil before the ethanol? Would the water transfer heat to the ethanol and, since ethanol has a lower boiling point, ...
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1answer
205 views

How much does increased world population contribute to global warming?

In 1974 there where 4 billion people on earth. Now in 2013 we passed 7 billion people. So the world population is nearly doubled in 40 years. Every living human being also haves a body temperature of ...
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2answers
378 views

Is thermal noise “quantum random”?

Is the randomness that can be extracted from thermal noise "as random" (that is, even theoretically inaccessible to measurement according to our knowledge of quantum mechanics, and not just random for ...
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4answers
258 views

Is “equilibrium state” equivalent to “well-defined state variables”?

Follow up to Intuitively, why is a reversible process one in which the system is always at equilibrium? and How slow is a reversible adiabatic expansion of an ideal gas? Suppose you have a ...
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1answer
558 views

Second Law of Black Hole Thermodynamics

I've been looking for a satisfying proof of this, and can't quite find it. I read the brief proof of the black hole area theorem in Wald, which is similar, but doesn't quite come down to the actual ...
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2answers
907 views

What's the difference between different speeds of sound?

In astrophysics, I often come across the speed of sound. I understand that, broadly, it represents the speed at which perturbations travel through a medium. But there's more than one speed of sound. ...
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Why is there more steam after a pot of water *stops* boiling?

I have a pot of vigorously boiling water on a gas stove. There's some steam, but not alot. When I turn off the gas, the boiling immediately subsides, and a huge waft of steam comes out. This is ...
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2answers
254 views

Would this pump water up? and if so, how far?

I had this idea of an osmotic pump way back in high school and I never got a satisfactory answer if it would work. If I had this configuration: Would it continually pump water up given ambient ...
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7answers
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Explanation of “thermite vs ice” explosion

There are several videos of the reaction, where some amount of burning thermite explodes on a contact with ice. An "original" video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuPjlYxUWc8 A Mythbusters ...
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1answer
11k 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 ...
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3answers
215 views

Surface energy as thermodynamic potential

Consider free energy of sharp interface $\Gamma$ $$ \int_\Gamma \sigma\;\mathrm{d}S $$ or also free energy of diffuse interface of characteristic width $\epsilon$ given by Cahn-Hilliard/Allen-Cahn ...
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1answer
304 views

Is almost all entropy in our universe entanglement entropy?

Our observable universe, or a subregion of our universe many times larger than the observable universe, originated from inflating from a very tiny inflationary patch. Being so small, the initial ...
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2k views

Why does the low entropy at the big bang require an explanation? (cosmological arrow of time)

I have read Sean Carrol's book. I have listened to Roger Penrose talk on "Before the Big Bang". Both are offering to explain the mystery of low entropy, highly ordered state, at the Big Bang. Since ...
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175 views

Can Lee-Yang zeros theorem account for triple point phase transition?

Now the prominent Lee-Yang theorem (or Physical Review 87, 410, 1952) has almost bocome standard ingredient of any comprehensive statistical mechanics textbook. If the volume tends to infinity, ...
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6answers
2k views

Is “dark clothes for winter, light for summer” relevant?

We are told to wear light clothes in summer as they are better at reflecting sunshine and keeping us cool. And dark clothes absorb sunshine and keep us warm. But is it really relavent? If I buy ...
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2answers
1k views

Do photons lose energy while travelling through space? Or why are planets closer to the sun warmer?

My train of thought was the following: The Earth orbiting the Sun is at times 5 million kilometers closer to it than others, but this is almost irrelevant to the seasons. Instead, the temperature ...
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592 views

Why must the particles of an ideal gas be point-like?

Why is a gas of elastically colliding hard balls of finite size not ideal? Respectively: Why is it essential that the particles of an ideal gas are point-like? Especially: Which ...
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3answers
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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 ...