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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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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1k views

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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394 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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3answers
276 views

What makes now special?

I recently came across the paper Relation between the psychological and thermodynamic arrows of time (arXiv). Their argument makes sense to me, however their concept doesn't seem to address what ...
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1answer
401 views

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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7answers
3k views

Drying clothes with the sun's heat, without any air

Will my wet clothes dry if I hang them under the sun, and if there is no air around the clothes? In other words, do I need both air and heat to dry wet clothes, or is heat alone (in the imagined ...
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6answers
925 views

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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1answer
2k views

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 ...
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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.
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Temperature of a neutron star

In our everyday experience termperature is due to the motion of atoms, molecules, etc. A neutron star, where protons and electrons are fused together to form neutrons, is nothing but a huge nucleus ...
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3answers
681 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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28k 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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922 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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475 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 ...
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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 ...
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996 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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832 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 ...
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4k 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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2answers
312 views

Will Neil Armstrong's moon boot marks really last for thousands of years?

This question concerns the residual heat (if any) contained within the Earth's moon. At the time of the Apollo moon landings, it was widely reported that the boot marks left by the astronauts would ...
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400 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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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 ...
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3answers
865 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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3answers
13k views

Why do lightbulbs continue to glow after the light is turned off?

I've noticed that whenever I turn the lamp off in my room at night, the lightbulb seems to continue to glow for a minute or so after that. It's not bright though; the only way I even notice it is if ...
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3answers
1k 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
16k 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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924 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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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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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.
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1answer
326 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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1answer
555 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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235 views

Self Stirring Boiling Liquid

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were brewing a new batch of beer. We boil our wort in a turkey fryer. Pretty standard setup for beginners. Anyway, our wort was getting pretty close to boiling ...
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2answers
632 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 ...
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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 ...
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Why is pale coloured skin said to absorb more UV?

Many resources state that light skin/pale skin absorbs more UV than dark-colour skin. Doesn't black absorb maximum radiation? For an example, see this article: Natural selection therefore ...
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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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989 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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3answers
690 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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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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812 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
809 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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2answers
7k 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 ...
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17k 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 ...
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7answers
977 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 ...
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1answer
661 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 ...
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50k 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 ...
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2answers
875 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 ...
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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. ...
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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 ...
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381 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 ...