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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405
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21answers
154k views

Cooling a cup of coffee with help of a spoon

During the breakfast with my colleagues, a question popped into my head: What is the fastest method to cool a cup of coffee, if your only available instrument is a spoon? A qualitative answer would ...
83
votes
5answers
9k views

Why am I not burned by a strong wind?

So I was thinking... If heat I feel is just lots of particles going wild and transferring their energy to other bodies, why am I not burned by the wind? When I thought about it more I figured out ...
80
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16answers
148k views

How Does Mass Leave the Body When you Lose Weight?

When your body burns calories and you lose weight, obviously mass is leaving your body. In what form does it leave? In other words, what is the physical process by which the body loses weight when ...
66
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12answers
15k views

Why are radiators always placed under windows?

I don't know if anyone else has noticed this but in most buildings and most rooms, radiators are predominantly placed under a window. Now, in my eyes, that is the worst place to put them; hot air ...
56
votes
4answers
6k views

Is it possible to start fire using moonlight?

You can start fire by focusing the sunlight using the magnifying glass. I searched the web whether you can do the same using moonlight. And found this and this - the first two in Google search ...
52
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5answers
9k views

What is the speed of sound in space?

Given that space is not a perfect vacuum, what is the speed of sound therein? Google was not very helpful in this regard, as the only answer I found was 300 km/s, from Astronomy Cafe, which is not a ...
50
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3answers
2k views

Is temperature a Lorentz invariant in relativity?

If an observer starts moving at relativistic speeds will he observe the temperature of objects to change as compared to their rest temperatures? Suppose the rest temperature measured is $T$ and the ...
45
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5answers
11k views

Why does a candle blow out when we blow on it? Our breath is 16% oxygen and only 4% CO2

Don't say that a layer of carbon dioxide covers the flame, because our breath has more oxygen than carbon dioxide. Also, our breath does not cool the flame as it is itself warm. So what is happening ...
38
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5answers
9k views

Why does cold metal seem colder than cold air?

(I apologize for this elementary question. I don't know much about physics.) Let's say that I put a metal pot in the refrigerator for several hours. At this point, I guess, the pot and the air (in ...
38
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3answers
7k views

How does water help extinguish fire?

How does water extinguish fire? Heat energy from the fire is transferred to the water, isn't that how it works? How does water deprive oxygen and stop combustion? How is the specific heat of water ...
38
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5answers
10k views

Is fire plasma?

Is Fire a Plasma? If not, what is it then? If yes why, don't we teach kids this basic example? UPDATE: I probably meant a regular commonplace fire of the usual temperature. That should simplify ...
38
votes
1answer
11k views

Rubber band stretched produces heat and when released absorbs heat.. Why?

I always used to wonder why this happens.. when one stretches a rubberband to nearly it snapping point holding it close to your skin - preferably cheek(helps feel the heat), it emits heat. While ...
36
votes
8answers
34k views

Will a hole cut into a metal disk expand or shrink when the disc is heated?

Suppose you take a metal disc and cut a small, circular hole in the center. When you heat the whole thing, will the hole's diameter increase or decrease? and why?
35
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3answers
2k views

What is the minimum pressure of a medium for which a sound wave can exist?

At what pressure will be particles in a medium be unable to form a sound wave when disturbed? How can this pressure be described mathematically? My guess is that this would correspond to the point at ...
33
votes
4answers
6k views

How close can you get to lava before burning?

As the title asks: How close can you get to lava before burning? I know that it depends on an number of factors; speed of lava flow, wind direction/strength, type(?) of lava flow (related to speed, ...
32
votes
10answers
3k views

Why are the laws of thermodynamics “supreme among the laws of Nature”?

Eddington wrote The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in ...
32
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3answers
3k views

Cooling a satellite

Satellites are isolated systems, the only way for it to transfer body heat to outer space is thermal radiation. There are solar panels, so there is continuous energy flow to inner system. No airflow ...
32
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7answers
3k views

Homemade salad dressing separates into layers after it sits for a while. Why doesn't this violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics?

The oil, vinegar and other liquids in homemade salad dressing separate into layers after sitting for a while, making the mixture become more organized as time evolves. Why doesn't this violate the ...
32
votes
1answer
453 views

$(\mu,P,T)$ pseudo-ensemble: why is it not a proper thermodynamic ensemble?

While teaching statistical mechanics, and describing the common thermodynamic ensembles (microcanonical, canonical, grand canonical), I usually give a line on why there can be no $(\mu, P, T)$ ...
30
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7answers
5k views

Is it possible to “cook” pasta at room temperature with low enough pressure?

It is known fact, that boiling point of water decreases by decreasing of pressure. So there is a pressure at which water boils at room temperature. Would it be possible to cook e.g. pasta at room ...
29
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10answers
3k views

In reverse time, do objects at rest fall upwards?

I want to develop a game where time runs backwards, based on the idea that physical laws are reversible in time. However, when I have objects at rest on the earth, having gravity run backwards would ...
29
votes
3answers
4k views

Why does a Pewter mug keep a beverage hot better than a foam cup?

I know my subject sounds improbable and that's why I posted it. I helped my daughter with a science project for school. We tested five different materials to determine which would keep hot water ...
29
votes
4answers
3k views

Why do computers generate heat?

Computers generate heat when they work. Is it a result of information processing or friction (resistance)? Are these just different ways to describe the same thing? Or does some definite part of the ...
27
votes
8answers
3k views

Why is absolute zero considered to be asymptotical? Wouldn't regions such as massive gaps between galaxy clusters have temperatures of absolute zero?

Why is absolute zero considered to be asymptotical? Wouldn't regions such as massive gaps between galaxy clusters have temperatures of absolute zero? I just do not see why our model must work the way ...
26
votes
5answers
5k views

Why does wet skin sunburn faster?

There is a popular belief that wet skin burns or tans faster. However, I've never heard a believable explanation of why this happens. The best explanation I've heard is that the water droplets on the ...
25
votes
6answers
9k views

How do whisky stones keep your drink cold?

From a discussion in the DMZ (security stack exchange's chat room - a place where food and drink are important topics) we began to question the difference between how ice and whisky stones work to ...
25
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6answers
3k views

Is a suit that hides a soldier's heat signature fundamentally possible?

I recently played "Crysis", a game where the protagonist wears a suit that allows the player to hide both himself and his heat signature. Then I watched Iron Man 3, where a kid suggests that Tony ...
25
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6answers
5k views

Are internal combustion engines more efficient on cold days?

According to Carnot efficiency formula $\eta=1-T_C/T_H$, can we say that the engines of cars are more efficient on cold days where $T_C$ (the temperature of the surroundings) is less than on hot days? ...
24
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4answers
2k views

How do we know that heat is a differential form?

In thermodynamics, the first law can be written in differential form as $$dU = \delta Q - \delta W$$ Here, $dU$ is the differential $1$-form of the internal energy but $\delta Q$ and $\delta W$ are ...
23
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7answers
1k views

How is $\frac{dQ}{T}$ measure of randomness of system?

I am studying entropy and its hard for me to catch up what exactly is entropy. Many articles and books write that entropy is the measure of randomness or disorder of the system. They say when a gas ...
23
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11answers
2k views

How can it be that the beginning universe had a high temperature and a low entropy at the same time?

The Big Bang theory assumes that our universe started from a very/infinitely dense and extremely/infinitely hot state. But on the other side, it is often claimed that our universe must have been ...
21
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4answers
1k views

The unreasonable effectiveness of the partition function

In a first course on statistical mechanics the partition function is normally introduced as the normalisation for the probability of a particle being in a particular energy level. ...
13
votes
5answers
3k views

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 ...
9
votes
6answers
9k views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
227 views

Is the second law of Thermodynamics an immense tautology?

Let's imagine for a second a system that is changing constantly from one microstate to another one. It could be a given volume of a gas with its atoms moving and bouncing around, or a deck of cards ...
4
votes
2answers
474 views

What's the efficiency of real heat engines?

Real heat engines always have lower efficiency than the Carnot efficiency. I wonder how efficient real engines can be? Can their efficiency get anywhere near the Carnot-limit?
3
votes
1answer
137 views

Rayleigh-Taylor Instability dependence on acceleration direction

I'm trying to bolster my understanding of the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, and I've gotten stuck on the point of which fluid (more or less dense) is being accelerated into the other. Cases of uniform ...
2
votes
3answers
141 views

Where does air pressure come from?

Where does air pressure come from? I thought it was from gravity or the speed of the gas resulting from its heat. However, analyzing my own hypotheses, I think that my 'heat conjecture' is probably ...
2
votes
1answer
36 views

Does it mean the molecules of all matter above absolute zero temperature are moving? [duplicate]

According to my knowledge, heat is the energy that is stored in form of kinetic energy of molecules in Brownian motion. However, in a macroscopic view, a rigid body seem to be "stable" but still store ...
2
votes
1answer
25 views

Rough/ballpark thermodynamics and black body temperature question

This is probobly pretty basic but I got into a debate with someone and the temperature of Titan came up, and I did some quick and dirty calculations - as follows. Titan is about 9.5 times as far from ...
2
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0answers
21 views

Newton's law of cooling for the heat equation boundary condition

Newton's law of cooling says the temperature of an object satisfies $$ \frac{dT}{dt} = -k(T(t) - T_0),\quad (1) $$ where $T_0$ is the surrounding temperature. See ...
1
vote
2answers
20 views

Charles Law inverse for cooling?

Is the inverse of Charles law also true? If I double the volume, the temperature will be halved? In the fire service we ventilate a structure by opening up the ceiling to the attic. If the volume of ...
1
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2answers
24 views

Confusion regarding latent heat of fusion

During vaporizing there is higher increase in internal energy (higher positive $\Delta U$) and more work is done by the liquid (higher $W$) as molecules become widely separated. During melting, there ...
1
vote
1answer
83 views

Spontaneity / Free Energy of Non-Isothermal Process

I'm trying to determine a lower bound for the work input necessary to make an entropy-reducing process "spontaneous" in the sense that the 2nd law is not violated. For a constant temperature and ...
1
vote
1answer
649 views

Pressure vs Volume Calculation for air

I have 1 litre of air in a sealed container at atmosphere pressure (approx 15 psi absolute). I want to reduce pressure in the container by 1 psi ( 14 psi absolute or -1 psig). If I understand ...
1
vote
3answers
87 views

Clausius statement of the 2nd Law

I'm slightly messed up with the Clausius statement of the 2nd Law. I've seen at least two versions, which seem to be conceptually different. a) It is impossible to transfer heat from a colder body ...
0
votes
3answers
340 views

Explain internal energy and enthalpy

Internal energy and enthalpy. I am finding it hard to distinguish between the two. Confused. Can someone explain me the two terms and difference between them? I tried learning from wikipedia but it ...
0
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1answer
20 views

Monoatomic fluids and free space around atoms

In monoatomic fluids the atoms can move quite freely around each other. Is there any thermodynamic/statistical mechanic equation how much free space there is between the atoms? This has to be ...
0
votes
1answer
16 views

Thermo - Plotting constant pressure and temperature on a Pv and Ts diagram

I was just curious what the saturation curve for water (plotting pressure versus specific volume) would look like if you drew both a line of constant pressure as well as constant temperature. I am ...
0
votes
1answer
38 views

Second law of thermodynamics (in terms of entropy)

Is the second law of thermodynamics (in terms of entropy) for closed systems or isolated systems? I thought it must be valid for isolated systems, such as the Universe. But the book Fundamentals of ...