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 ...
30
votes
4answers
16k views

What's the difference between the five masses: inertial mass, gravitational mass, rest mass, invariant mass and relativistic mass?

I have learned in my physics classes about five different types of masses and I am confused about the differences between them. What's the difference between the five masses: inertial mass, ...
20
votes
8answers
13k views

Accelerating particles to speeds infinitesimally close to the speed of light?

I'm in a freshmen level physics class now, so I don't know much, but something I heard today intrigued me. My TA was talking about how at the research facility he worked at, they were able to ...
14
votes
1answer
1k views

How does the Hubble parameter change with the age of the universe?

How does the Hubble parameter change with the age of the universe? This question was posted recently, and I had almost finished writing an answer when the question was deleted. Since it's a shame to ...
49
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 ...
33
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 ...
27
votes
8answers
26k 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 ...
26
votes
4answers
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 ...
16
votes
9answers
10k views

Is there a proof of existence of time?

It seems to me that there is no such thing as time. There is only movement in the universe and we compare our own movement to a different object to have a sense of time. It can be a clock or a atomic ...
48
votes
7answers
24k views

Why glass is transparent?

Once I asked this question from my teacher and he replied "because it passes light", "and why it passes light" I asked and he said "because it is transparent". Same question again, Why glass is ...
7
votes
4answers
2k views

Misused physics analogies [closed]

Have you noticed that many questions and misconceptions in physics arise due to misuse of analogies, which were invented to "explain in simple words" some physical phenomena? For example there is a "...
42
votes
11answers
14k views

About the complex nature of the wave function?

1. Why is the wave function complex? I've collected some layman explanations but they are incomplete and unsatisfactory. However in the book by Merzbacher in the initial few pages he provides an ...
21
votes
6answers
6k 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 ...
44
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 ...
54
votes
12answers
29k 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 ...
13
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 ...
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 $...
5
votes
2answers
987 views

Deriving the Coulomb force equation from the idea of photon exchange?

Since Newton's law of gravitation can be gotten out of Einstein's field equatons as an approximation, I was wondering whether the same applies for the electromagnetic force being the exchange of ...
23
votes
5answers
29k 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 ...
16
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 ...
13
votes
6answers
22k 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?
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" ...
21
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
45
votes
7answers
35k 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 ...
42
votes
8answers
4k views

Why $\displaystyle i\hbar\frac{\partial}{\partial t}$ can not be considered as the Hamiltonian operator?

In the time dependent Schrodinger equation $\displaystyle, H\Psi = i\hbar\frac{\partial}{\partial t}\Psi$ , the Hamiltonian operator is given by $\displaystyle H = -\frac{\hbar^2}{2m}\nabla^2+V$ ...
30
votes
3answers
2k views

Idea of Covering Group

$SU(2)$ is the covering group of $SO(3)$. What does it mean and does it have a physical consequence? I heard that this fact is related to the description of bosons and fermions. But how does it ...
32
votes
8answers
4k 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 ...
36
votes
3answers
7k views

Why the galaxies form 2D planes (or spiral-like) instead of 3D balls (or spherical-like)?

Question: As we know, (1) the macroscopic spatial dimension of our universe is 3 dimension, and (2) gravity attracts massive objects together and the gravitational force is isotropic without ...
23
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 ...
14
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
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 "...
45
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 ...
25
votes
3answers
9k views

How does the Higgs mechanism work?

I'm not a particle physicist, but I did manage to get through the Feynman lectures without getting too lost. Is there a way to explain how the Higgs field works, in a way that people like me might ...
51
votes
8answers
7k views

How can Magnets be used to pick up pieces of metal when the force from a magnetic field does no work?

I learned that the force from magnetic fields does no work. However I was wondering how magnets can be used to pick up pieces of metal like small paperclips and stuff. I also was wondering how magnets ...
17
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 ...
44
votes
7answers
3k views

Is 3+1 spacetime as privileged as is claimed?

I've often heard the argument that having 3 spatial dimensions is very special. Such arguments are invariably based on certain assumptions that do not appear to be justifiable at all, at least to me. ...
36
votes
4answers
17k 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 ...
26
votes
2answers
5k views

How are classical optics phenomena explained in QED (Snell's law)?

How is the following classical optics phenomenon explained in quantum electrodynamics? Reflection and Refraction Are they simply due to photons being absorbed and re-emitted? How do we get to ...
20
votes
2answers
2k views

How does one experimentally determine chirality, helicity, spin and angular momentum of a fundamental particle?

If I've got an instance of a fundamental particle, how can I separate out the measurements of these four quantities? (I think) I understand the theory behind them, and why the particles in the ...
17
votes
2answers
3k views

How does a photon experience space and time?

To an an external observer it appears that time has stopped for photon. But this relation is reflexive, so for an observer travelling with the photon it appears the universe has stopped everywhere. ...
13
votes
7answers
2k views

Why do physicists believe that particles are pointlike?

String theory gives physicists reason to believe that particles are 1-dimensional strings because the theory has a purpose - unifying gravity with the gauge theories. So why is it that it's popular ...
21
votes
3answers
6k views

The exchange of photons gives rise to the electromagnetic force

Pardon me for my stubborn classical/semiclassical brain. But I bet I am not the only one finding such description confusing. If EM force is caused by the exchange of photons, does that mean only when ...
6
votes
5answers
56k 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, ...
69
votes
10answers
9k views

Can Maxwell's equations be derived from Coulomb's Law and Special Relativity?

As an exercise I sat down and derived the magnetic field produced by moving charges for a few contrived situations. I started out with Coulomb's Law and Special Relativity. For example, I derived the ...
127
votes
3answers
27k views

Why does Stephen Hawking say black holes don't exist?

Recently, I read in the journal Nature that Stephen Hawking wrote a paper claiming that black holes do not exist. How is this possible? Please explain it to me because I didn't understand what he ...
33
votes
8answers
9k views

How should a physics student study mathematics? [closed]

Note: I will expand this question with more specific points when I have my own internet connection and more time (we're moving in, so I'm at a friend's house). This question is broad, involved, and ...
18
votes
4answers
1k views

Reason for the discreteness arising in quantum mechanics?

What is the most essential reason that actually leads to the quantization. I am reading the book on quantum mechanics by Griffiths. The quanta in the infinite potential well for e.g. arise due to the ...
42
votes
8answers
12k views

Why doesn't a bike/bicycle fall if going with a high speed?

Why does a bike/bicycle fall when its speed is very low or close to zero and is balanced when going with a high speed?
9
votes
2answers
670 views

Are all scattering states un-normalizable?

I am an undergraduate studying quantum physics with the book of Griffiths. in 1-D problems, it said a free particle has un-normalizable states but normalizable states can be obtained by sum up the ...
20
votes
6answers
2k views

Proving that interval preserving transformations are linear

In almost all proofs I've seen of the Lorentz transformations one starts on the assumption that the required transformations are linear. I'm wondering if there is a way to prove the linearity: Prove ...

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