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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409
votes
21answers
155k 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
votes
16answers
149k 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
votes
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 ...
54
votes
6answers
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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
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
459 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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
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 ...
24
votes
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 ...
23
votes
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
votes
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 ...
23
votes
3answers
9k 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
votes
3answers
313 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 ...
22
votes
1answer
3k 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
votes
6answers
3k 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 ...
21
votes
7answers
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?
2
votes
0answers
40 views

Is refraction of light a thermodynamic process?

Is refraction of light a thermodynamic process? Can it be explained by conservation of energy? If so, does temperature has an effect on refraction of light?
1
vote
2answers
40 views

Speed of heat / quantification of heat and other magnitudes

Is the speed of heat infinite? When solving the heat equation in a semi-infinite bar, we can see that a pulse in the finite end draws an immediate change in every point of the bar. So, at any given ...
1
vote
1answer
43 views

Mechanical equilibrium : thermodynamics and classical mechanics

A similar question was asked here but mine is a bit different. In thermodynamics, a mechanical equilibrium is defined as a uniform pressure (for a fluid). In classical mechanics, equilibrium is ...
1
vote
1answer
27 views

2nd law of thermodynamics - thought experiment

I have designed this simple thought experiment that seems to contradict 2nd law of thermodynamics. Could you please find a mistake in my reasoning? ...
0
votes
1answer
25 views

Electrical conductivity of metals on heating

What effect does heating have on metals (to be specific, on the electrical conductivity) ? And why does it have that effect?
0
votes
0answers
4 views

Understanding view-/formfactor for radiation with a specific example

There is radiation coming from a point source (black body). How much of the total emitted energy (from the point source) hits a spherical surface given by $\phi = 0 - \pi $ and $\theta = 0 - \pi/2 $? ...
0
votes
0answers
3 views

Vertical wall at 3 different temperatures - do the same natural convection coefficient correlations apply?

I have an vertical enclosure that consists of 3 shelves, each with its own temperature and are thermally isolated from each other. We will call the shelves A, B, and C with A being the base shelf. The ...
0
votes
0answers
22 views

Does heating an electromagnet cause change in its magnetic field?

Does heating an electromagnet cause change in its magnetic field as well and vice versa?
0
votes
2answers
37 views

Can we determine what happened in every event of the past?

All movement in our universe produces heat from collisions with molecules (correct me if I'm wrong). If you had a super-powerful heat sensor/detector, could you use it to detect where heat is and use ...
0
votes
0answers
15 views

Why do some materials have a negative coefficient of thermal expansion in all directions?

Those materials are especially ceramic-glasses. I've found some studies about how does it happens in one dimension (for example a nanocrystalline has a silica helix that works like twisting spring, ...
0
votes
2answers
35 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
2answers
132 views

Heat flow in a hollow cylinder

Consider a hollow cylinder of different outer radius and inner radius and two different temperatures are maintained at the outer and inner surfaces such that inner temperature is higher. Because of ...
-2
votes
0answers
23 views

Tethered vs Liquid membrane [on hold]

Can anyone answer me what is a difference between an LIQUID MEMBRANE and a TETHERED MEMBRANE. I read a lot about it in different textbook, but it seems that I cannot pinpoint the exact difference. ...