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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375
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20answers
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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 ...
75
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16answers
133k 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 ...
75
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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 ...
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12answers
10k 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 ...
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3answers
5k 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 ...
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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 ...
42
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5answers
8k 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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3answers
3k 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 ...
37
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5answers
6k 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 ...
37
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1answer
9k 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 ...
34
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5answers
8k 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 ...
33
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8answers
27k 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?
33
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4answers
5k 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
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1answer
383 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 $(\mu, P, T)$ ...
31
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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 ...
31
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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 ...
30
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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 ...
28
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7answers
4k 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 ...
28
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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
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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 ...
25
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6answers
7k 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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4answers
4k 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 ...
24
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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 ...
23
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4answers
1k 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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3answers
8k views

Ice skating, how does it really work?

Okay, some textbooks I came across, and a homework assignment I had to do several years ago, suggested that the reason we can skate on ice is the peculiar $p(T)$-curve of the ice-water boundary. The ...
22
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5answers
2k views

Is it possible to focus the radiation from a black body to make something hotter than that black body?

My previous question wasn't specific enough. I'll try to be more specific. Let's imagine we have a hot body let's say 6000K hot that emits lots of thermal radiation. Let's assume 1kW of radiative ...
22
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1answer
2k views

Energy in bolognese reduction - lid on or off?

Generally, to let my bolognese thicken, I leave the lid off in order to "let water vapor escape." I am however distracted from enjoying the taste because I'm having doubts that my physical reasoning ...
21
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3answers
269 views

Does entropy measure extractable work?

Entropy has two definitions, which come from two different branches of science: thermodynamics and information theory. Yet, they both are thought to agree. Is it true? Entropy, as seen from ...
21
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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 ...
20
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6answers
2k views

Why isn't temperature measured in Joules?

If we set the Boltzmann constant to $1$, then entropy would just be $\ln \Omega$, temperature would be measured in $\text{joules}$ ($\,\text{J}\,$), and average kinetic energy would be an integer ...
20
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3answers
2k views

Prove that negative absolute temperatures are actually hotter than positive absolute temperatures

Could someone provide me with a mathematical proof of why, a system with an absolute negative Kelvin temperature (such that of a spin system) is hotter than any system with a positive temperature (in ...
20
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4answers
2k views

How do you prove $S=-\sum p\ln p$?

How does one prove the formula for entropy $S=-\sum p\ln p$? Obviously systems on the microscopic level are fully determined by the microscopic equations of motion. So if you want to introduce a law ...
20
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4answers
5k views

Why does boiling water in the microwave make a cup of tea go weird?

When I boil water in the kettle, it makes a nice cup of tea. Sometimes I need to use a microwave because a kettle isn't available. I boil the water in the mug and it looks pretty normal, but when I ...
20
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3answers
579 views

Intuitive understanding of the entropy equation

In thermodynamics, entropy is defined as $ d S = \dfrac{\delta q_{\rm }}{T}$. This definition guarantees that heat will transfer from hot to cold, which is the second law of thermodynamics. But, why ...
19
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6answers
2k views

What exactly is heat?

Is it energy? Is it energy per unit volume? Is it energy per unit time i.e power? What is it?
19
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5answers
2k views

Where does deleted information go?

I've heard that, in classical and quantum mechanics, the law of conservation of information holds. I always wonder where my deleted files and folders have gone on my computer. It must be somewhere I ...
19
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6answers
2k views

What are the various physical mechanisms for energy transfer to the photon during blackbody emission?

By conservation of energy, the solid is left in a lower energy state following emission of a photon. Clearly absorption and emission balance at thermal equilibrium, however, thermodynamic equilibrium ...
19
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2answers
435 views

Why are expressions such as $\operatorname{ln}T$ used in thermodynamics where $T$ is not dimensionless?

In all thermodynamics texts that I have seen, expressions such as $\operatorname{ln}T$ and $\operatorname{ln}S$ are used, where $T$ is temperature and $S$ is entropy, and also with other thermodynamic ...
18
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2answers
3k views

Melting diamond and cool down as diamond

Is it possible to melt diamond? And if possible while let it cool will it became diamond again?
18
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2answers
3k views

Why would the lack of air in a mine in an asteroid prevent you from flooding it?

In Isaac Asimov's I, Robot novel, two scientists stationed in an asteroid where mining activities are performed say "We could flood the mines, if this weren't an airless asteroid" when considering ...
18
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4answers
2k views

Home experiment to estimate Avogadro's number?

How to get an approximation of Avogadro or Boltzmann constant through experimental means accessible by an hobbyist ?
18
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2answers
810 views

How hot does the tip of a pencil get while writing?

When writing with a pencil, there seems to be quite a lot of friction - which seems like it would induce heat. How hot would the tip of a #2 pencil get writing on normal copy paper?
18
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4answers
15k views

Why does the air we blow/exhale out from our mouths change from hot to cold depending on the size of the opening we make with our mouth?

Why does the air we blow/exhale out from our mouths change from hot to cold depending on the size of the opening we make with our mouth? It's not just a subtle difference, but significant in my ...
18
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2answers
492 views

Why aren't gas planets and stars fuzzy? [duplicate]

The edge of Jupiter looks very sharp. Even more bothersome, the edge of the sun looks sharp, aside from kind of a soup of particles floating above it. The sun's surface has an incredibly low ...
17
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6answers
4k views

Why does ice form on bridges even if the temperature is above freezing?

So with this "arctic blast" continuing, I've noticed that for my area, the temperature drops below freezing just long enough to cause freezing rain, but then the sun comes out and the temperature ...
17
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4answers
1k views

Does the Moon's core still contain significant heat?

On earth, using earth-sheltering techniques can significantly reduce the temperature fluctuations on a structure. Would the same statement be true as well on the Moon? Does the Moon's core still ...
16
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7answers
8k views

Does an empty refrigerator require more power to stay cold than a full one?

Given that everything else is equal (model of fridge, temperature settings, external temperature, altitude), over a given duration of having the door closed, does it require more electricity to cool ...
16
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3answers
5k views

If your hair was on fire and you entered a vacuum, could you outlast the fire?

Let's say a person's hair was on fire and suddenly we (instantaneously) pumped all the air out of the (sealed) room, then after time period X we put all the air back. Is there an X such that we will ...
16
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1answer
749 views

Does the heat equation violate causality?

I've ran across the idea that, besides simply writing partial differential equations in covariant form, they need to be hyperbolic with all characteristic speeds less than the speed of light. A ...
16
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6answers
1k views

Do all massive bodies emit Hawking radiation?

It is known that any accelerated observer is subject to a heat bath due to Unruh radiation. The principle of equivalence suggests that any stationary observer on the surface of a massive body should ...