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 (1)

12
votes
3answers
2k views

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 ...
12
votes
2answers
283 views

Why is cooling much harder than heating?

I'm trying to invent a distillation apparatus that runs solely on electricity. Suddenly, I realized that cooling things is really hard, while heating them up is so easy. Actually, it seems that there ...
12
votes
3answers
911 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 ...
12
votes
4answers
3k 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 ...
12
votes
4answers
383 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
379 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 ...
12
votes
0answers
291 views

List of known universality classes

I am working with RG and have a pretty good idea of how it works. However I have noticed that even though the idea of universality class is very general and makes it possible to classify critical ...
11
votes
5answers
1k views

Is it possible to increase temperature of sun using radiation of sun itself?

We know that we can focus radiation of sun and can burn a paper. If we think of this thought experiment, will that happen? If someone constructs a concave mirror on the sun and concentrate radiation ...
11
votes
3answers
794 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 ...
11
votes
3answers
17k views

Does wrapping a wet paper towel around a glass bottle really speed up the cooling process?

There are claims like this one that you can improve the cooling speed of beverages when you put them wrapped in a wet paper towel inside the refrigerator/freezer. I've just tried it by myself and ...
11
votes
7answers
2k 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.
11
votes
3answers
592 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 ...
11
votes
3answers
932 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 ...
11
votes
3answers
14k 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 ...
11
votes
3answers
890 views

Temperature below absolute zero?

I saw this Nature article today, which cites e.g. arXiv:1211.0545. And it makes no sense to me. The temperature of a collection of particles is the average kinetic energy of those particles. Kinetic ...
11
votes
5answers
342 views

How does dark matter collapse?: Entropy considerations

Inspired by this question. I believe that the usual explanation that preserves the second law of thermodynamics as an astrophysical gas cloud collapses under gravity is that the gas must heat and ...
11
votes
2answers
726 views

How does a gas of particles with uniform speed reach the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution?

Take an empty container and fill it with $N$ gas particles (ideally a monoatomic gas), each having the same kinetic energy $E$, then isolate the container. Since initially the speeds don't follow the ...
11
votes
7answers
9k views

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 ...
11
votes
6answers
1k views

How do you prove the second law of thermodynamics from statistical mechanics?

How do you prove the second law of thermodynamics from statistical mechanics? To prove entropy will only increase with time? How to prove? Please guide.
11
votes
1answer
320 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
532 views

Quantum entaglement and the arrow of time

I have seen several claims to that quantum mechanics is required to explain the arrow of time which I take to mean the macroscopic irreversibility of physical systems. This is presumably to resolve ...
11
votes
1answer
513 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 ...
10
votes
5answers
3k views

How badly could someone be injured by concentrated sunlight?

Recently-ish, I stumbled across an interesting short story (by way of Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange) where a soccer referee is apparently incinerated by concentrated sunlight. Where ...
10
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
10
votes
3answers
871 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 ...
10
votes
3answers
778 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
770 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 ...
10
votes
6answers
530 views

Why does heat added to a system at a lower temperature cause higher entropy increase?

Entropy is defined in my book as $\Delta\ S = \frac{Q}{T}$. To derive the formula it says that entropy should be directly proportional to the heat energy as with more energy the particles would be ...
10
votes
1answer
527 views

What happens to ice cream when you stir it?

I hope this is the appropriate forum for my question. I also considered posting it in the chemistry forum. When I eat ice cream I often stir it into a texture similar to that of soft serve. During ...
10
votes
5answers
41k views

Which direction does air flow?

I remember learning this in high school, but have forgotten it, and can't seem to find it anywhere online. Air travels from areas of high pressure to low pressure...correct? So if I have a cold room ...
10
votes
2answers
527 views

How can it be that the sun emits more than a black body?

As far as I know, a black body is an ideal emitter. So how can it be that a non-ideal emitter emits more radiation than a black body? This happens only in a very limited area at around 500nm, but it ...
10
votes
2answers
1k 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. ...
10
votes
2answers
6k views

How cold does it need to be for spit to freeze before hitting the ground?

What is the dominant form of heat transfer between warm water and cold air? If a $100 mg$ drop of water falls through $-40 C$ air, how quickly could it freeze? Is it credible that in very cold ...
10
votes
1answer
334 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
525 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
270 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?
10
votes
1answer
632 views

Why is (von Neumann) entropy maximized for an ensemble in thermal equilibrium?

Consider a quantum system in thermal equilibrium with a heat bath. In determining the density operator of the system, the usual procedure is to maximize the von Neumann entropy subject to the ...
10
votes
1answer
394 views

Principle of Caratheodory and The Second Law of Thermodynamics

Background Constantin Carathéodory formulated thermodynamics on a purely mathematical axiomatic foundation. His statement of the second law is known as the Principle of Carathéodory, which may be ...
10
votes
1answer
315 views

Is there a true parallel between Gibbs' phase rule and Euler's polyhedral formula?

Gibbs' phase rule states: $$F=C-P+2$$ where $F$ is number of degrees of freedom, $C$ is number of components, $P$ is number of phases. Euler's polyhedral formula states: $$V+F-E=2$$ where $V$ is ...
10
votes
1answer
1k views

Why is compressible flow near the choke point so efficient?

Imagine a steady state, one-dimensional, compressible flow in a horizontal pipe of constant cross sectional area. This flow can be isothermal, adiabatic (Fanno), or diabatic (Rayleigh). As an ...
9
votes
5answers
8k views

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?
9
votes
3answers
9k views

Why does a thermometer in wind not show a lower temperature than one shielded from it?

I'm a little familiar with the physics and thermodynamics of the wind chill effect, but this question seems to come up from time to time: Why, given two temperature sensors or thermometers in the ...
9
votes
4answers
2k 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
3answers
7k views

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 ...
9
votes
7answers
875 views

How does heat actually stay kept in the carbon molecules in the atmosphere? [duplicate]

We have all learned that the earth is getting heat up because of the CO2 and CO molecules absorbing heat. However, how is heat actually kept in those molecules. When photons heat them up, their ...
9
votes
6answers
1k views

Why is it natural to look for solutions involving dimensionless quantities?

While studying the Heat Equation, I got stuck in a statement in my book. It says: We have seen that the combination of variables $\displaystyle \frac{x}{\sqrt{Dt}}$ is not only invariant with ...
9
votes
3answers
645 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: ...
9
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
9
votes
6answers
14k 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
3answers
774 views

Would a perfectly clean and perfectly smooth champagne glass have no bubbles?

My understanding is that nucleation sites for bubbles in a champagne glass are either due to defects in the glass or due to fibers in the glass. (See this article for details on that statement.) Does ...