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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How do ice spikes form?

I recently saw this picture posted on Twitter which shows a so-called ice spike rising from an ice cube tray. I have read the Wikipedia page, but it doesn't mean much to me. My instinct was that it ...
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6k views

Are specific heat and thermal conductivity related?

Are there any logical relationship between specific heat capacity and thermal conductivity ? I was wondering about this when I was reading an article on whether to choose cast iron or aluminium ...
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451 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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Is there a simple way to derive a T-S diagram from a p-V diagram for arbitrary processes?

Often, for thermodynamic processes only a p-V diagram is shown. Even without hard figures, the shape of the curve can be helpful to evaluate the process. However, it is hard to figure out for real ...
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How do we perceive hotness or coldness of an object?

Some objects, especially metallic ones, feel cold on touching and others like wood, etc. feel warm on touching. Both are exposed to same environment and are in their stable state, so some kind of ...
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If I take a handful of salt and wait for an infinite time will it become a single crystal?

That pretty much says it. Suppose I have some powder of $NaCl$. It is kept in contact with itself in vacuum. You are free to remove all the disturbances that bother you. Is that true that, well, ...
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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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124 views

How do greenhouse gases trap heat?

I am looking for a molecular-level understanding of the greenhouse effect. What is it about the carbon-dioxide molecule (and methane, and water, etc) that is different from other gasses ...
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421 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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220 views

Is energy extensivity necessary in thermodynamics?

Given a partition of a system into two smaller systems, the energy $U$ is devided into $U_1$ and $U_2$, with $$U=\mathcal{P}(U_1,U_2):=U_1+U_2,$$ so that $U_2$ is given by $U-U_1$. Here the ...
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685 views

What are the six degrees of freedom of the atoms in a solid?

A monoatomic ideal gas has heat capacity $C_v=1.5$ which comes from the three translational degrees of freedom. For solids at high temperature, $C_v=3$, implying six degrees of freedom. What are ...
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802 views

Energy equation for an open system

I teach undergraduate thermodynamics and I was quite ashamed that I couldn't explain to a student, the following. I thought I'd bring it to physics.SE in hope of providing my student a good ...
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251 views

Entropy of the Sun

Is it possible to measure or calculate the total entropy of the Sun? Assuming it changes over time, what are its current first and second derivatives w.r.t. time? What is our prediction on its ...
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270 views

Why does Platinum evaporate if left long enough?

I have been reading into research relating to the redefining the 1 kg weight as the current Platinum-Iridium is becoming smaller. In this article, here, it mentions that the original metal weight ...
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760 views

How does the boiling time depend on the number of eggs

My nephew showed me an exercise from his school-textbook about boiling eggs. Here is the exercise (translated from german): To make one hard-boiled egg in a pot of water one has to put it for 8 ...
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224 views

Is there a relativity-compatible thermodynamics?

I am just wondering that laws in thermodynamics are not Lorentz invariant, it only involves the $T^{00}$ component. Tolman gave a formalism in his book. For example, the first law is replaced by the ...
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272 views

Melting point, is it determined only experimentally?

I am interested in the underlying physics of the concept of a melting point, a temperature at which an object tends to gain enough energy to break the bonds that hold it together and be in a liquid ...
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771 views

Imaginary time in quantum and thermodynamics

The following question is about chapter 2 of Sakurai's Modern Quantum Mechanics. I wish I could link to the Google book, but it doesn't seem to have a satisfactory preview to be able to read the ...
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101 views

What do we mean when we talk about Gibbs Free Energy?

Before I start, I'm aware that this question may be better suited on the Chemistry or Biology site, but it's my belief that physicists are more likely to have a clear understanding on what certain ...
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400 views

Mechanical Equivalent of Heat

Recently I have been looking up James Joule's experiment regarding the mechanical equivalent of heat. After viewing some drawings of the apparatus, I assumed that the lines holding the weights would ...
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627 views

Why isn't the Earth's core temperature the average of its surface temperatures?

Assuming that the earth is spherical, that its temperature is continuous, and that some other more or less realistic conditions hold, we might think that the Earth's core temperature should be about ...
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7k 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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259 views

Physical interpretation of changing variables $S(T,V)$ to $S(T,p)$

I'm confused in this situation. In an example of this book (Example 16.5. Thermal Physics, by Blundell) they ask to prove that $$C_P - C_V = VT\frac{\alpha^2}{\beta_T}\tag{1}$$ but using the fact ...
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Can I take heat from the air and convert it to electricity?

Its a summer day and the air in my house has been heated up. I could switch on my air conditioning, but then I'd be using energy from the grid in order to reduce the amount of energy in my house. ...
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1k views

How is thermodynamic entropy defined? What is its relationship to information entropy?

I read that thermodynamic entropy is a measure of the number of microenergy states. What is the derivation for $S=k\log N$, where $k$ is Boltzmann constant, $N$ number of microenergy states. How is ...
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Chemical potential of particles with zero mass

Why massless particles have zero chemical potential?
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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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947 views

Why did my liquid soda freeze once I pulled it out of the fridge?

Can someone explain in both layman's terms and also technically why when I pulled my glass filled with liquid soda from the freezer, the liquid soda quickly froze? Doesn't this violate the 2nd law of ...
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How does the temperature of the triple point of water depend on gravitational acceleration?

Suppose I do two experiments to find the triple point of water, one in zero-g and one on Earth. On Earth, water in the liquid or solid phase has less gravitational potential per unit mass than water ...
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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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635 views

Second Law of Thermodynamics and the Arrow of Time: Why isn't time considered fundamental?

I've come across this explanation that the "arrow of time" is a consequence of the second law of thermodynamics, which says that the entropy of an isolated system is always increasing. The argument is ...
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324 views

How is this process not quasi-static yet reversible?

Consider a (adiabatic) canister with a piston containing some gas kept in a vacuum. There are two weights on the canister which equalize the pressure of the gas on the piston. Assume the system is at ...
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Is energy the ability to do work?

Here was my argument against this, the second law of thermodynamics, in effect says that, there is no heat engine that can take all of some energy that was transferred to it by heat and do work on ...
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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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864 views

What would ACTUALLY happen to a person jettisoned into space?

[insert obligatory statement of my lack of knowledge in physics] Alright, so we have all seen the movies where someone gets blasted out of the airlock on their starship, or their suit decompresses ...
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255 views

What is the deal with heat capacity?

For some time now I've been confused about heat capacity. The way I understand it, if I put in an amount of heat energy into the system, $dQ$, its temperature will change by $CdT$. But now, ...
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387 views

Is temperature quantized?

I'm learning quantum mechanics on my own. I've known that energy is quantized and I've started wondering about temperature. From thermodynamics we have: $$U=\frac{3}{2}NkT $$ (for ideal gas, of ...
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275 views

Is there a number that describes a gas's departure from the ideal gas law?

When judging if relativity is important in a given phenomenon, we might examine the number $v/c$, with $v$ a typical velocity of the object. If this number is near one, relativity is important. In ...
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Measuring temperature at a distance

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKYrXHZwtPw In this video it is explained that Land Skin Temperature (LST) are measured by NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites. It seems it works by collecting the ...
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476 views

Can a single molecule have a temperature?

A show on the weather channel said that as a water molecule ascends in the atmosphere it cools. Does it make sense to talk about the temperature of a single molecule?
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825 views

Is there a relativistic generalization of the Maxwell-Boltzmann velocity distribution?

The Maxwell-Boltzmann velocity distribution in 3D space is $$ f(v)dv = 4\pi \left(\frac{m}{2\pi k_B T}\right)^{3/2} v^2 \exp\left(-\frac{m v^2}{2k_B T}\right)dv$$ It gives the probability for a ...
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Maxwell's Demon Constant (Information-Energy equivalence)

New Scientist article: Summon a 'demon' to turn information into energy The speed of light c converts between space and time and also appears in e=mc^2. Maxwell's Demon can turn information supplied ...
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94 views

Is “detailed balance” equivalent with a continuity equation in state space?

I have a talk tomorrow in which detailed balance is needed and I don't want to bore my audience with elaborate explanations for it so I'm looking for simpler explanations. As far as I understood it ...
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955 views

Clear up confusion about the meaning of entropy

So I though, and was told, that entropy is the amount of disorder in a system. Specifically the example of heat flow and it flows to maximize entropy. To me this seemed odd. This seemed more ordered ...
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Physical interpretation of different boundary conditions for heat equation

When solving the heat equation, $$ \partial_t u -\Delta u = f \text{ on } \Omega $$ what physical situations are represented by the following boundary conditions (on $\partial \Omega$)? $u=g$ ...
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How does an earthen pot keep water cool?

I understand that evaporative cooling takes place thanks to small pores contained in the pot and that allow some water to go through and evaporate. However I couldn't understand clearly whether water ...
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389 views

Confusion regarding entropy, reference papers request

1.a In paragraph at Wikipedia/Entropy it is stated: This is because energy supplied at a high temperature (i.e. with low entropy) tends to be more useful than the same amount of energy ...
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173 views

Why does Joule heating not occur when no current flows through a conductor?

Joule heating happens every time when the conduction electrons transfer kinetic energy to the conductor's atoms through collisions, causing these conductor's atoms to increase their kinetic and ...
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283 views

How can I determine the coefficient $k$ in $ \dfrac{dT}{dt} = -k(T - 100 \mathrm{^\circ C}) $?

I recently spend some time on cooking and I'm curious about the time evolution of the temperature of the water. I did some experiment and the temperature is of the form $$ T = 100 \mathrm{^\circ C} + ...
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144 views

What pressure or tension occurs in a glass jar when I pour boiling water inside?

Sometimes it happens that when you pour a boiling water into a glass jar, it cracks. Since glass is very hard material and resilient to pressure, the tension must be very high. Is it possible to ...