89
votes
7answers
12k views

Why do people categorically dismiss some simple quantum models?

Deterministic models. Clarification of the question: The problem with these blogs is that people are inclined to start yelling at each other. (I admit, I got infected and it's difficult not to raise ...
88
votes
8answers
11k views

Why does space expansion not expand matter?

I have looked at other questions on this site (e.g. "why does space expansion affect matter") but can't find the answer I am looking for. So here is my question: One often hears talk of space ...
85
votes
6answers
3k views

What are the justifying foundations of statistical mechanics without appealing to the ergodic hypothesis?

This question was listed as one of the questions in the proposal (see here), and I didn't know the answer. I don't know the ethics on blatantly stealing such a question, so if it should be deleted or ...
85
votes
2answers
4k views

Why is a laserpointer able to “erase” a glow-in-the-dark sticker?

a while ago I tried to charge a glow-in-the-dark sticker using a simple red laser pointer. It was a large sticker, of the type used to mark emergency exits and fire extinguishers here in Germany. I ...
84
votes
24answers
74k views

List of freely available physics books

I'm trying to amass a list of physics books with open-source licenses, like Creative Commons, GPL, etc. The books can be about a particular field in physics or about physics in general. What are ...
84
votes
7answers
14k views

How can a black hole produce sound?

I was reading this article from NASA -- it's NASA -- and literally found myself perplexed. The article describes the discovery that black holes emit a "note" that has physical ramifications on the ...
83
votes
11answers
13k views

Why is filling a balloon from your mouth much harder initially?

Why is it that when you first fill up a balloon, it's hard to get air through, but after inflating it a bit, it becomes much easier to further inflate the balloon?
83
votes
5answers
21k views

What does it mean for two objects to “touch”?

If you've ever been annoyingly poked by a geek, you might be familiar with the semi-nerdy obnoxious response of "I'm not actually touching you! The electrons in the atoms of my skin are just ...
81
votes
10answers
14k views

If gravity isn't a force, then why do we learn in school that it is?

I have studied some of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, and I understand that it states that gravity isn't a force but rather the effects of objects curving space-time. If this is true, then ...
81
votes
6answers
10k views

Why is oil a better lubricant than water?

How come mineral oil is a better lubricant than water, even though water has a lower viscosity? When two surfaces slide over each other with a gap filled with a fluid, the different layers of the ...
81
votes
7answers
10k views

Why is there a scarcity of lithium?

One of the major impediments to the widespread adoption of electric cars is a shortage of lithium for the batteries. I read an article a while back that says that there is simply not enough lithium ...
81
votes
11answers
15k views

If all motion is relative, how does light have a finite speed?

I've often heard that Einstein shattered the notion of absolute motion (i.e. all things move relative to one another) and that he established the speed of light as being absolute. That sounds ...
81
votes
14answers
8k views

Superluminal neutrinos

I was quite surprised to read this all over the news today: Elusive, nearly massive subatomic particles called neutrinos appear to travel just faster than light, a team of physicists in Europe ...
80
votes
16answers
11k views

Can the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle be explained intuitively?

I have heard several pseudoscientific explanations about the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and find them hard to believe. As a mathematician mainly focusing on functional analysis, I have a ...
80
votes
10answers
34k views

Why don't electrons crash into the nuclei they “orbit”?

I'm having trouble understanding the simple "planetary" model of the atom that I'm being taught in my basic chemistry course. In particular, I can't see how a negatively charged electron can stay ...
80
votes
1answer
5k views

Is there such thing as imaginary time dilation?

When I was doing research on General Relativity, I found Einstein's equation for Gravitational Time Dilation. I discovered that when you plugged in a large enough value for $M$ (around $10^{19}$ ...
79
votes
2answers
15k views

Why don't fluorescent lights produce shadows?

I have watched light sources such as incandescent lamps and other lamp sources; they have always made shadows. But a fluorescent lamp doesn't make any shadow. What is the reason behind the non-...
79
votes
18answers
11k views

Why do most formulas in physics have integer and rational exponents?

I mean, why is $F=ma$? Why not $m^{0.123}$, $a^{1.43}$ or some random non-integers or irrational? I hope you understand that my question isn't limited just to force, energy, velocity, etc.; it also ...
79
votes
6answers
9k views

Does a gun exert enough gravity on the bullet it fired to stop it?

My question is set in the following situation: You have a completely empty universe without boundaries. In this universe is a single gun which holds one bullet. The gun fires the bullet and the ...
79
votes
9answers
15k views

What is a field, really?

There was a reason why I constantly failed physics at school and university, and that reason was, apart from the fact I was immensely lazy, that I mentally refused to "believe" more advanced stuff ...
79
votes
2answers
4k views

Why does my wooden door disperse light into a rainbow color spectrum?

On a clear morning, light comes through this window (viewed from the inside) It then hits the door on the opposite side (so viewing from the outside the door straight on the other side) There is ...
79
votes
3answers
5k views

Where is the flaw in this machine that decreases the entropy of a closed system?

I was thinking about a completely unrelated problem (Quantum Field Theory Peskin & Schroeder kind of unrelated!) when the diagram below sprang into my mind for no apparent reason. After some ...
79
votes
2answers
17k views

Reading the Feynman lectures in 2012

The Feynman lectures are universally admired, it seems, but also a half-century old. Taking them as a source for self-study, what compensation for their age, if any, should today's reader undertake? ...
78
votes
5answers
9k views

Does someone falling into a black hole see the end of the universe?

This question was prompted by Can matter really fall through an event horizon?. Notoriously, if you calculate the Schwarzschild coordinate time for anything, matter or light, to reach the event ...
78
votes
6answers
9k 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 ...
77
votes
9answers
14k views

Why does matter exist in 3 states (liquids, solid, gas)?

Why does matter on the earth exist in three states? Why cannot all matter exist in only one state (i.e. solid/liquid/gas)?
77
votes
8answers
9k views

Could a “living planet” alter its own trajectory only by changing its shape?

In Stanislaw Lem's novel Solaris the planet is able to correct its own trajectory by some unspecified means. Assuming its momentum and angular momentum is conserved (it doesn't eject or absorb any ...
77
votes
5answers
6k views

What was the major discovery on gravitational waves made March 17th, 2014, in the BICEP2 experiment?

The Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics held a press conference today to announce a major discovery relating to gravitational waves. What was their announcement, and what are the implications? ...
76
votes
12answers
26k 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 ...
76
votes
8answers
21k views

Why does holding something up cost energy while no work is being done?

I read the definition of work as $$W ~=~ \vec{F} \cdot \vec{d}$$ $$\text{ Work = (Force) $\cdot$ (Distance)}.$$ If a book is there on the table, no work is done as no distance is covered. If I ...
76
votes
5answers
12k views

Why wet is dark?

When something gets wet, it usually appears darker. This can be observed with soil, sand, cloth, paper, concrete, bricks ... What is the reason for this? How does water soaking into the material ...
75
votes
17answers
8k views

Is it possible for information to be transmitted faster than light by using a rigid pole?

Is it possible for information (like 1 and 0s) to be transmitted faster than light? For instance, take a rigid pole of several AU in length. Now say you have a person on each end, and one of them ...
75
votes
4answers
13k views

Can tin foil hats block anything?

This is joked about all the time, but... Can tin foil hats actually block anything? If they can, what frequencies? Is there any research into tin or aluminum foil and radio blocking or amplifying ...
75
votes
12answers
26k views

Best books for mathematical background?

What are the best textbooks to read for the mathematical background you need for modern physics, such as, string theory? Some subjects off the top of my head that probably need covering: ...
75
votes
10answers
13k views

Is time continuous or discrete?

While working on physical system simulation software, I noticed that I had implemented discrete time, which means that there was an update mechanism advancing the simulation for a fixed amount of time ...
74
votes
9answers
12k views

Can we theoretically balance a perfectly symmetrical pencil on its one-atom tip?

I was asked by an undergrad student about this question. I think if we were to take away air molecules around the pencil and cool it to absolute zero, that pencil would theoretically balance. Am I ...
74
votes
6answers
4k views

Thought experiment - would you notice if you fell into a black hole?

I've heard many scientists, when giving interviews and the like, state that if one were falling into a black hole massive enough that the tidal forces at the event horizon weren't too extreme, that ...
73
votes
6answers
15k views

Am I attracting Pluto?

My question is simple: as the title says, am I exerting a force over for example Pluto, although it is a very small force, it is there, right? Or maybe let's go further: Am I exerting a gravity force ...
73
votes
8answers
25k views

Why does hot water clean better than cold water?

I had a left over coffee cup this morning, and I tried to wash it out. I realized I always instinctively use hot water to clean things, as it seems to work better. A Google search showed that other ...
73
votes
4answers
5k views

The Role of Rigor

The purpose of this question is to ask about the role of mathematical rigor in physics. In order to formulate a question that can be answered, and not just discussed, I divided this large issue into ...
73
votes
10answers
9k views

How can I stand on the ground? EM or/and Pauli?

There is this famous example about the order difference between gravitational force and EM force. All the gravitational force of Earth is just countered by the electromagnetic force between the ...
72
votes
6answers
69k views

How do moving charges produce magnetic fields?

I'm tutoring high school students. I've always taught them that: A charged particle moving without acceleration produces an electric as well as a magnetic field. It produces an electric field ...
72
votes
10answers
7k views

Is Angular Momentum truly fundamental?

This may seem like a slightly trite question, but it is one that has long intrigued me. Since I formally learned classical (Newtonian) mechanics, it has often struck me that angular momentum (and ...
72
votes
6answers
4k views

What is known about the topological structure of spacetime?

General relativity says that spacetime is a Lorentzian 4-manifold $M$ whose metric satisfies Einstein's field equations. I have two questions: What topological restrictions do Einstein's equations ...
71
votes
7answers
6k views

Does juggling balls reduce the total weight of the juggler and balls?

A friend offered me a brain teaser to which the solution involves a $195$ pound man juggling two $3$-pound balls to traverse a bridge having a maximum capacity of only $200$ pounds. He explained that ...
71
votes
5answers
11k views

A list of inconveniences between quantum mechanics and (general) relativity?

It is well known that quantum mechanics and (general) relativity do not fit well. I am wondering whether it is possible to make a list of contradictions or problems between them? E.g. relativity ...
71
votes
6answers
19k views

Why are most metals gray/silver?

Why do most metals (iron, tin, aluminum, lead, zinc, tungsten, nickel, etc.) appear silver or gray in color? (What atomic characteristics determine the color?) What makes copper and gold have ...
69
votes
11answers
8k views

Why must a physical theory be mathematically self-consistent?

I always read in modern physics textbooks and articles about the need for physical theories to be mathematically self-consistent, which implies that the theories must not produce contradictions or ...
69
votes
7answers
16k 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 ...
69
votes
4answers
8k views

Where does the extra kinetic energy come from in a gravitational slingshot?

I read in this answer in this site that the KE a free-falling ball acquires is not originated by the attracting body but that energy was actually stored in the ball when it had been lifted to the ...

15 30 50 per page