# Tagged Questions

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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### 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 ...
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### Is the Boltzmann constant really that important?

I read a book in which one chapter gave a speech about the fundamental constants of the Universe, and I remember it stated this: If the mass of an electron, the Planck constant, the speed of light,...
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### 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 ...
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### Why doesn't the entropy increase when two similar gases mix with each other?

Entropy increases when two substances mix with each other. For example, the entropy of mixing of two different gases are given by $$\Delta S= 2Nk\ln\frac{V_f}{V_i}\;.$$ But, the entropy doesn't ...
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### 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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### When heat is applied to the top of a stack of pennies, why does the bottom penny melt first?

I just watched this video where a blow torch is used on the top of a stack of pennies. I'd like to know why the bottom penny melted first.
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### Is this Landau's other critical phenomena mistake?

There was an old argument by Landau that while the liquid gas transition can have a critical point, the solid-liquid transition cannot. This argument says that the solid breaks translational symmetry, ...
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### If we feel it's hotter when humidity increases, then why do we feel it's colder when inside water?

When the humidity in the air is high, we sweat more and feel it's hotter than when the humidity is lower. So why don't we feel it's hotter when we go inside water, where the water content is much ...
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### Why isn't absolute $0 K$ temperature possible?

So $T$ is defined as $$T = \left(\frac{\partial E}{\partial S}\right)$$ and $S$ is defined as $$S = k_B \ln \Omega$$ where $\Omega$ is the number of accessible states of the system for a given $E$....
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### Why isn't temperature measured in units of energy?

Temperature is the average of the kinetic energies of all molecules of a body. Then, why do we consider it a different fundamental physical quantity altogether [K], and not an alternate form of energy,...
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### On a hot day, when it's cooler outside than in; is it better to put a fan in an open window pointing inwards or outwards?

If it's really hot inside, but cooler outside; what is the best way to place a single fan to try and cool a room down? I always assumed it would be better pointing inwards (and this thread suggests ...
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### Is the total energy of earth changing with time?

Many years ego, Earth was hot. Over time, it has lost energy and has become colder. Is it now in equilibrium or is its total energy changing?
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### Why doesn't breath condense around poop of flies on the window's glass?

One day it was raining outside and I was breathing on the glass of my window. I noticed that around the spots of fly poop there is a circle where vapor does not condense. With time the circle becomes ...
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### 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.
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### How slow is a reversible adiabatic expansion of an ideal gas?

A truly reversible thermodynamic process needs to be infinitesimally displaced from equilibrium at all times and therefore takes infinite time to complete. However, if I execute the process slowly, I ...
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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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### 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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### 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 ...
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### Do black holes violate the first law of thermodynamics?

When a black hole absorbs matter is it destroying that mass, thereby destroying energy, therefore violating the first law of thermodynamics?
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### Which ball falls faster, the cool one or the hot one?

Suppose we're on the top of the Tower of Pisa (or a larger version of it) with two identical cannonballs. We heat one up (say, to 200 degrees Celsius, or some other high temperature before it starts ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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) = \frac{e^{-E/kT}...
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### Minimal temperature achievable by vanilla Peltier element?

I wonder, are there any fundamental issues leading to reduced performance of Peltier elements at cryogenic temperatures (-100C and lower)? What is theoretical/practical minimum temperature ...
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### Is there some way to narrow down the Leidenfrost point for water?

Cooks sometimes use the Leidenfrost effect to estimate the temperature of a frying pan by flicking a few drops of water onto the heated pan. I had no idea, before looking into this, that this could be ...
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### Does this type of phase transition exist?

The short version of this question is: Is there, or could there be, a system with a phase transition where adding a small amount of heat causes a discontinuous jump in its temperature? Below are ...
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### Entropy of radiation emitted into space

In several papers I see something equivalent to the following expression for the entropy of radiation given by an astronomical object such as the Sun (assuming the object can be approximated as a ...
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### Does the radius of the Universe correspond to its total entropy?

I heard a claim that due to holographic principle, the surface area of the cosmic horizon corresponds to the universe's total entropy. As such the initial state had zero surface area and later ...
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### Why does my fireplace shoot flames out the front until I open my backdoor?

I have a natural gas fireplace with fake logs in it. I open the flue, turn on the gas for a couple seconds, and throw a match in. The flames kind of go up and out of the flue, but most of the flames ...
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### Is this thought experiment violating the the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

There is an adiabatic box, with a board in the middle, which is adiabatic too.The board separates the box into two parts and there is a small hole in it, which is close to a coil and the hole has a ...
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### Why do I feel cold air in the shower?

Our house has a glass sliding door to the shower. The shower has the dimensions of about 2 feet wide, 5 feet long, and 6 feet high. Above the door (and shower head) there is about 1 foot of open space ...
18k views

### After what speed air friction starts to heat up an object?

I understand that air friction cools off an object at low speeds. For example, if you blow on a spoon of hot soup, it cools off. Or if you swing a hot frying pan in the air, it cools off faster. But ...
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### 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, ...
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### How does the heat death looks like from inside the system?

As this answer points out, any human would first freeze rather than experience the heat death. However, assuming hypothetically that we could make some robot live at such low temperature (or even ...
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### How hot would tritium water be?

I realize this is kind of a silly question, but if you have tritium water, with the tritium half life of 12.5 years, I expect it would be quite hot. (note, this is not a homework question, I'm just ...
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### Thermodynamic equilibrium - will the piston move?

Friend asked me this question and I didn't manage to solve it with basic thermodynamic reasoning. I believe this problem is easly solvable via numeric methods by choosing specific systems, though I ...
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### 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 ...
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 ...
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### How to freeze the Niagara waterfalls?

Here is a picture of the usual vigorous Niagara Falls (in the winter). Here is the picture of Niagara Falls frozen in 1933 (in the very cold winter). Here is the picture of Niagara Falls frozen in ...
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### 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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### 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 ...
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### 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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### 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 ...
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### 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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### Definition of stress at the microscale

Take, for simplicity, a Lennard-Jones fluid below the critical temperature, which is to say that there is a phase separation into fluid and gas and thus an interface is formed. The macroscale picture ...