20
votes
6answers
5k views

What is a tensor?

I have a pretty good knowledge of physics but couldn't understand what a tensor is. I just couldn't understand it, and the wiki page is very hard to understand as well. Can someone refer me to a good ...
30
votes
8answers
3k views

What are the reasons to expect that gravity should be quantized?

What I am interested to see are specific examples/reasons why gravity should be quantized. Something more than "well, everything else is, so why not gravity too". For example, isn't it possible that a ...
20
votes
2answers
4k views

Time as a Hermitian operator in QM?

In non-relativistic QM, on one hand we have the following relations: $$\langle x | P | \psi \rangle ~=~ -i \hbar \frac{\partial}{\partial x} \psi(x),$$ $$\langle p | X | \psi \rangle ~=~ i \hbar ...
20
votes
4answers
2k views

Validity of naively computing the de Broglie wavelength of a macroscopic object

Many introductory quantum mechanics textbooks include simple exercises on computing the de Broglie wavelength of macroscopic objects, often contrasting the results with that of a proton, etc. For ...
26
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the mass density distribution of an electron?

I am wondering if the mass density profile $\rho(\vec{r})$ has been characterized for atomic particles such as quarks and electrons. I am currently taking an intro class in quantum mechanics, and I ...
7
votes
2answers
759 views

How do I show that there exists variational/action principle for a given classical system?

We see variational principles coming into play in different places such as Classical Mechanics (Hamilton's principle which gives rise to the Euler-Lagrange equations), Optics (in the form of Fermat's ...
54
votes
12answers
27k views

What happens to the energy when waves perfectly cancel each other?

What happens to the energy when waves perfectly cancel each other (destructive interference)? It appears that the energy "disappear" but the law of conservation of energy states that it can't be ...
23
votes
5answers
4k views

Why is there a controversy on whether mass increases with speed?

Some people say that mass increases with speed, some people say that the mass of an object is independent of its speed. I understand how some (though not many) things in physics are a matter of ...
23
votes
5answers
26k views

Phase shift of 180 degrees on reflection from optically denser medium

Can anyone please provide an intuitive explanation of why phase shift of 180 degrees occurs in the Electric Field of a EM wave,when reflected from an optically denser medium? I tried searching for it ...
13
votes
6answers
21k views

Is the universe finite or infinite?

I thought the universe was finite, but then I read this: How can something finite become infinite? And they seem to assume it is infinite. So which is it?
19
votes
4answers
1k views

$\lambda=\frac{2h}{p}$ instead of $\lambda=\frac{h}{p}$?

I am studying quantum physics and there is something I don't understand: I know that for any particle $E=hf$ (Einstein relation) and $v=\lambda f$ ($v$ is the speed of the particle). I also know ...
68
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 ...
31
votes
5answers
5k views

Hamilton's Principle

Hamilton's principle states that a dynamic system always follows a path such that its action integral is stationary (that is, maximum or minimum). Why should the action integral be stationary? On ...
43
votes
6answers
3k views

What keeps mass from turning into energy?

I understand the energy and mass can change back and forth according to Einstein. It is fluid; it can go from one to the other. So, what keeps mass from just turning into energy? Is there some force ...
12
votes
5answers
2k views

Is there a proof from the first principle that the Lagrangian L = T - V?

Is there a proof from the first principle that for the Lagrangian $L$, $$L = T\text{(kinetic energy)} - V\text{(potential energy)}$$ in classical mechanics? Assume that Cartesian coordinates are ...
9
votes
3answers
5k views

Is a photon “fixed in spacetime”?

From what I've read, according to relativity, a photon does not "experience" the passage of time. (Can we say there is no past/present/future for a photon?) Would it be better to say a photon is ...
43
votes
7answers
33k views

Is anti-matter matter going backwards in time?

Or: can it be proved that anti-matter definitely is nót matter going backwards in time? From wikipedia: There is considerable speculation as to why the observable universe is apparently almost ...
47
votes
5answers
5k views

Which is more fundamental, Fields or Particles?

I hope that I am using appropriate terminology. My confusion about quantum theory (beyond my obvious unfamiliarity with its terminology) is basically twofold: I lack an adequate understanding of ...
25
votes
8answers
24k views

Why is the charge naming convention wrong?

I recently came to know about the Conventional Current vs. Electron Flow issue. Doing some search I found that the reason for this is that Benjamin Franklin made a mistake when naming positive and ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

How can we interpret polarization and frequency when we are dealing with one single photon?

If polarization is interpreted as a pattern/direction of the electric-field in an electromagnetic wave and the frequency as the frequency of oscillation, how can we interpret polarization and ...
13
votes
3answers
7k views

What is the relation between electromagnetic wave and photon?

At the end of this nice video, she says that electromagnetic wave is a chain reaction of electric and magnetic fields creating each other so the chain of wave moves forward. I wonder where the photon ...
8
votes
6answers
6k views

Why are objects at rest in motion through spacetime at the speed of light?

I read that an object at rest has such a stupendous amount of energy, $E=mc^2$ because it's effectively in motion through space-time at the speed of light and it's traveling through the time dimension ...
5
votes
8answers
2k views

Does the (relativistic) mass change? Why?

I learned recently that when an object moves with a velocity comparable to the velocity of light the (relativistic) mass changes. How does this alteration take place?
39
votes
8answers
4k views

Does Gödel preclude a workable ToE?

Gödel's incompleteness theorem prevents a universal axiomatic system for math. Is there any reason to believe that it also prevents a theory of everything for physics? Edit: I haven't before seen ...
42
votes
13answers
3k views

Lagrangians not of the form $T-U$

My Physics teacher was reluctant to define Lagrangian as Kinetic Energy minus Potential Energy because he said that there were cases where a system's Lagrangian did not take this form. Are you are ...
16
votes
3answers
5k views

Energy conservation in General Relativity

I understand that energy conservation is not a rule in general relativity, but I'd like to know under what circumstances it can still be possible. In other words, when is it possible to associate a ...
14
votes
1answer
2k views

Rigged Hilbert space and QM

Are there any comprehensive texts that discuss QM using the notion of rigged Hilbert spaces? It would be nice if there were a text that went through the standard QM examples using this structure.
13
votes
8answers
14k views

Which Mechanics book is the best for beginner in math major?

I'm a bachelor student majoring in math, and pretty interested in physics. I would like a book to study for classical mechanics, that will prepare me to work through Goldstein's Classical Mechanics. ...
20
votes
5answers
7k views

How to get Planck length

I know that what Planck length equals to. The first question is, how do you get the formula $$\ell_P~=~\sqrt\frac{\hbar G}{c^3}$$ that describes the Planck length? The second question is, will any ...
13
votes
6answers
9k views

Why I think tension should be twice the force in a tug of war

I'm going to provide my argument for why I think the tension in a rope should be twice the force exerted on either side of it. First, let's consider a different example. Say, there is a person named ...
12
votes
2answers
1k views

What does the Canonical Commutation Relation (CCR) tell me about the overlap between Position and Momentum bases?

I'm curious whether I can find the overlap $\langle q | p \rangle$ knowing only the following: $|q\rangle$ is an eigenvector of an operator $Q$ with eigenvalue $q$. $|p\rangle$ is an eigenvector of ...
15
votes
3answers
35k views

Can magnets rotate infinitely?

There are many videos on youtube in which people arranged magnets in circle and rotated one placing in middle of that circle on a shaft, and the magnet (magnet motor) starts madly and continues its ...
15
votes
3answers
2k views

Do mankind and manmade activities/constructions have any effect on the rotation of the Earth?

We walk or ride on our vehicles to our destinations daily. Does our movement have any effect on the rotation of the earth according to Newton's law? What will be the effect if we move all the peoples ...
9
votes
5answers
9k views

Does matter with negative mass exist?

Or does it exist mathematically? Is it really inconsistent with a common-sense, mathematics or known physical laws? As far as I understand, if it exists, it must be far away from the "positive" ...
13
votes
4answers
12k views

Quantum entanglement faster than speed of light?

recently i was watching a video on quantum computing where the narrators describes that quantum entanglement information travels faster than light! Is it really possible for anything to move faster ...
478
votes
19answers
181k 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 ...
71
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 ...
42
votes
4answers
42k views

Why do same/opposite electric charges repel/attract each other, respectively?

I know plus pushes another plus away, but why, really, do they do that? On the other hand, molecules of the same type are attracted to each other. I find that weird. I do know some stuff about four ...
24
votes
6answers
63k views

What is the physical significance of dot & cross product of vectors? Why is division not defined for vectors?

I get the physical significance of vector addition & subtraction. But I don't understand what do dot & cross products mean? More specifically, why is it that dot product of vectors ...
22
votes
3answers
2k views

How general is the Lagrangian quantization approach to field theory?

It is an usual practice that any quantum field theory starts with a suitable Lagrangian density. It has been proved enormously successful. I understand, it automatically ensures valuable symmetries of ...
20
votes
7answers
3k views

What determines which frames are inertial frames?

I understand that you can (in principle) measure whether "free particles" (no forces) experience accelerations in order to tell whether a frame is inertial. But fundamentally, what determines which ...
34
votes
4answers
16k views

Why can't energy be created or destroyed?

My physics instructor told the class, when lecturing about energy, that it can't be created or destroyed. Why is that? Is there a theory or scientific evidence that proves his statement true or ...
10
votes
6answers
9k views

Why can't photons have a mass?

Why can't photons have a mass? Could you explain this to me in a short and mathematical way?
13
votes
5answers
2k views

Is it possible to recover Classical Mechanics from Schrödinger's equation?

Let me explain in details. Let $\Psi=\Psi(x,t)$ be the wave function of a particle moving in a unidimensional space. Is there a way of writing $\Psi(x,t)$ so that $|\Psi(x,t)|^2$ represents the ...
27
votes
10answers
30k views

What determines color — wavelength or frequency?

What determines the color of light -- is it the wavelength of the light or the frequency? (i.e. If you put light through a medium other than air, in order to keep its color the same, which one would ...
7
votes
1answer
2k views

How do I derive the Lorentz contraction from the invariant interval?

Reviewing some basic special relativity, and I stumbled upon this problem: From the definition of the proper time: $$c^2d\tau^2=c^2dt^2-dx^2$$ I was able to derive the time dilation formula by using ...
10
votes
4answers
1k views

Do virtual particles actually physically exist?

I have heard virtual particles pop in and out of existence all the time, most notable being the pairs that pop out beside black holes and while one gets pulled away. But wouldn't this actually violate ...
15
votes
2answers
4k views

Does $E = mc^2$ apply to photons?

Photons are massless, but if $m = 0$ and $E=mc^2$, then $E = 0c^2 = 0$. This would say that photons have no energy, which is not true. However, given the formula $E = ℎf$, a photon does have energy ...
6
votes
5answers
49k views

Why do two bodies of different masses fall at the same rate (in the absence of air resistance)?

I'm far from being a physics expert and figured this would be a good place to ask a beginner question that has been confusing me for some time. According to Galileo, two bodies of different masses, ...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

Invariance of Lagrangian in Noether's theorem

Often in textbooks Noether's theorem is stated with the assumption that the Lagrangian needs to be invariant $\delta L=0$. However, given a lagrangian $L$, we know that the Lagrangians $\alpha L$ ...

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