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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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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459 views

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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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 ...
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319 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 'now'...
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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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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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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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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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Entropy increase vs Conservation of information (QM)

Unitarity of quantum mechanics prohibits information destruction. On the other hand, the second law of thermodynamics claims entropy to be increasing. If entropy is to be thought of as a measure of ...
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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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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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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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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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449 views

Will entropy continue to increase even if the universe begins to contract?

If the universe is heading for a big crunch, when the universe starts to collapse will entropy decrease and the arrow of time consequently reverse or not? I'm interested in the explanations, not just ...
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937 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 ...
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384 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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456 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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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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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 ...
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Local temperature equation for a planet

After seeing in science fiction too many planets with two suns that look too much like a geocentric system, I'm trying for my own amusement to understand if it's really possible to have a planet with ...
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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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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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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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How many fixed points does a Kelvin scale have?

I have a book that says: In the absolute Kelvin scale, the triple point of water is assigned the value of 273.16 K. The absolute zero is taken as the other fixed point. But, then another ...
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Does turning a spoon in water raise the temperature?

I read about Joule's experiment proving the transformation of mechanical work into heat. But say I have a bowl with some water, and I start turning a spoon in it very fast, thus doing work — the ...
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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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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 ...
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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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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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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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In counting degrees of freedom of a linear molecule, why is rotation about the axis not counted?

I was reading about the equipartition theorem and I got the following quotations from my books: A diatomic molecule like oxygen can rotate about two different axes. But rotation about the axis ...
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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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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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What would actually happen to a person jettisoned into space?

Alright, so we have all seen the movies where someone gets blasted out of the airlock on their starship, or their suit decompresses while on a space walk. The poor schmoe usually either decompresses ...
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Can low-gravity planets sustain a breathable atmosphere?

If astronauts could deliver a large quantity of breathable air to somewhere with lower gravity, such as Earth's moon, would the air form an atmosphere, or would it float away and disappear? Is there a ...
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Does electricity have an associated entropy?

One can certainly measure entropy changes associated with the generation of electricity, but does electricity itself have an associated entropy (maybe related to voltage, current etc.)?
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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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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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616 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 ...
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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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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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What temperature can you attain with a solar furnace?

A solar furnace is a device that concentrates the sun's light on a small point to heat it up to high temperature. One can imagine that in the limit of being completely surrounded by mirrors, your ...
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814 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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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 example,...