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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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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715 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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1answer
668 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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971 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 ...
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If temperature is average KE per particle, and heat is total KE of all the particles, how can molar heat capacity vary?

If temperature is defined as the average kinetic energy per particle, and heat energy is defined as the total kinetic energy of all the particles (or more strictly, heat transferred is the total ...
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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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Can entropy be equal to zero?

I've searched for it but I only found contradicting answers from "scientists": Dr. David Balson, Ph.D. states: "entropy in a system can never be equal to zero". Sam Bowen does not refutes the ...
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407 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 ...
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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 ...
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309 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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193 views

Why do turbine engines work?

I know roughly how a turbine engine (let's say a gas turbine producing no jet thrust) is supposed to work: The compressor forces fresh air into a combustion chamber, where it reacts with fuel to ...
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271 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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788 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 ...
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419 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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276 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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614 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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987 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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540 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 ...
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232 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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709 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.
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235 views

Nonequilibrium thermodynamics in a Boltzmann picture

The Boltzman approach to statistical mechanics explains the fact that systems equilibriate by the idea that the equillibrium macrostate is associated with an overwhelming number of microstates, so ...
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193 views

Thermal equilibrium in general relativity

The Newtonian condition for thermal equilibrium for a static system is $T = \mathrm{const}$. In this homework I'm asked to show that it's curved space generalization is $T(-g_{00})^{\frac{1}{2}} = ...
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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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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 ...
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LED Thermal Modeling (How to solve heat equation with constant heat source)

I have a mechanical design with LEDs that generate heat. I want to estimate the temperature at the LED junction vs. time, but especially at steady state. Knowing the LED voltage drop and current, I ...
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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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337 views

Can we detect whether food has previously been heated in a microwave oven?

An acquaintance told me that she refuses to eat microwaved food because she read that the microwave changes the molecules of the food somehow. Her statement is vague and her sources are dubious but I ...
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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 ...
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Black and white matters. But why and how?

I know black conducts heat while white reflects it. But they are colors after all. If a metal is painted black, it conducts more heat or at a rapid speed than it would do before it was coated. But, ...
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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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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. ...
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641 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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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 ...
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Why does pizza cheese seem hotter than the crust?

When I eat hot pizza or a melted cheese sandwich, the cheese feels a lot hotter than the crust or bread: in particular, the cheese might scald the roof of my mouth. but the crust will not. Is this ...
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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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610 views

What's the best strategy to fully fill the fridge with beer bottles and have them all cooled?

I'm having a party. Suppose I'd like to have a fridge full of cold ($6~^\circ\text{C}$ or below) beer bottles, in as short a time frame as possible. The fridge indicates that it is targeting (and ...
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Does the scientific community consider the Loschmidt paradox resolved? If so what is the resolution?

Does the scientific community consider the Loschmidt paradox resolved? If so what is the resolution? I have never seen dissipation explained, although what I have seen a lot is descriptions of ...
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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 ...
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404 views

Doesn't the use of a thermometer alter the temperature of the system?

If I place a mercury thermometer in hot water, heat energy will transfer from the water to the mercury inside the thermometer. Will this continue until thermal equilibrium is reached and thus the ...
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500 views

What made the keys in my pocket so hot?

Not sure where to ask this question - thought you guys would probably have the best idea! Today a single key on my keychain in my pocket heated up so that it was too hot to handle and scalded my leg. ...
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1answer
258 views

Strange behaviour of water drops on a heated pan

I did an experiment in my home and I was surprised by the results. I heated a pan without anything in it. After some time it became very hot and I took some water (2 drops) and put it into the pan. It ...
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260 views

Chemical potential in Thermodynamics

In many scenarios, on computing the partial derivative of the internal energy (U) with respect to mole number (N) is negative. This implies that adding more moles of the substance decreases the U of ...
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Why does maximal entropy imply equilibrium?

From a purely thermodynamical point of view, why does that entropy have to be a maximum at equilibrium? Say there is equilibrium, i.e. no net heat flow, why can the entropy not be sitting at a ...
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Why was the universe in a extraordinarily low-entropy state right after the big bang?

Let me start by saying that I have no scientific background whatsoever. I am very interested in science though and I'm currently enjoying Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos. I'm at chapter 7 and ...
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159 views

What conditions do a bunch of atoms need to satisfy to have a temperature?

What conditions do a bunch of atoms need to satisfy to have a temperature? Suppose that we have a beam of helium atoms travelling in a common straight line, equally spaced with the same velocity. If ...
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417 views

Modification of Newton's Law of Cooling

Yesterday I randomly started thinking about Newton's Law of Cooling. The problem I realized is that it assumes the ambient temperature stays constant over time, which is obviously not true. So what I ...
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472 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 ...
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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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How can point-like particles in an ideal gas reach thermodynamical equilibrium?

Having learned that the particles of an ideal gas must be point-like (for the gas to be ideal) I wonder how they can reach thermodynamical equilibrium (by "partially" exchanging momentum and energy). ...
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432 views

What determines bubble locations in boiling water?

Something a little different to our usual fare. I was boiling a pan of water for cookery the other day, and got to wondering what caused the location of the bubble streams from the bottom of the pan. ...