62
votes
3answers
90k views

Why can Hiroshima be inhabited when Chernobyl cannot?

There was an atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima, but today there are residents in Hiroshima. However, in Chernobyl, where there was a nuclear reactor meltdown, there are no residents living today (or ...
62
votes
6answers
26k views

Is the universe fundamentally deterministic?

I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask this question. I realise that this maybe a borderline philosophical question at this point in time, therefore feel free to close this question if you ...
61
votes
6answers
14k 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 ...
60
votes
2answers
12k 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 ...
60
votes
7answers
4k views

Why is the detection of gravitational waves so significant?

Since there is to be an announcement by LIGO about this today (11 Feb. 2016), I was wondering why the detection of gravitational waves was so significant? I know it is another confirmation of ...
60
votes
6answers
8k views

Why don't choir voices destructively interfere so that we can't hear them?

Sound is propagated by waves. Waves can interfere. Suppose there are two tenors standing next to each other and each singing a continuous middle-C. Will it be the case that some people in the ...
60
votes
0answers
2k views

Experimental test of the non-statisticality theorem?

Context: The paper On the reality of the quantum state (Nature Physics 8, 475–478 (2012) or arXiv:1111.3328) shows under suitable assumptions that the quantum state cannot be interpreted as a ...
59
votes
3answers
8k views

Why didn't the Big Bang create heavy elements?

In the case of a supernova explosion it is possible to create heavy elements through fusion. Supernovae have a tremendous amount of energy in a very small volume but not as much energy per volume as ...
59
votes
7answers
6k views

Does quantum mechanics play a role in the brain?

I'm interested in whether the scale of processes that occur in the brain is small enough to be affected by quantum mechanics. For instance, we ignore quantum mechanics when we analyze a game of tennis ...
59
votes
8answers
63k views

Why does a remote car key work when held to your head/body?

I was trying to unlock my car, but I was out of range. A friend of mine said that I have to hold the transmitter next to my head. It worked, so I tried the following later that day: Walked away from ...
59
votes
3answers
20k views

Why can we see the dust particles in a narrow beam of light (and not in an all lighted area)?

Let us say that I am sitting in a room with all the drapes open. Bright sunlight is coming through the window. The whole room is brilliantly lighted. I will not be able to see the dust particles ...
59
votes
7answers
22k views

What Is Energy? Where did it come from?

The simplistic undergrad explanation aside. I've never really understood what energy really is. I've been told that it's something when converted from one kind of something to another kind does some ...
58
votes
3answers
7k views

How can ants carry items much heavier than themselves?

This morning I saw an ant and suddenly a question came to my mind: how do ants actually carry items much heavier than themselves? What's the difference (in physics) between us and them?
58
votes
8answers
7k views

Will a blanket warm you if you are underwater?

Suppose a man falls into very cold water and gets their foot stuck under a heavy rock. Fortunately, his head is above water and someone is able to call for help. The paramedics want to keep him warm ...
58
votes
10answers
8k 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 ...
58
votes
4answers
3k 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 ...
57
votes
5answers
10k 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 ...
57
votes
5answers
5k views

Is there a small enough planet or asteroid you can orbit by jumping?

I just had this idea of orbiting a planet just by jumping and then flying upon it on its orbit kind of like superman. So, Would it be theoretically possible or is there a chance of that small body to ...
57
votes
8answers
42k views

Why does the atmosphere rotate along with the earth?

I was reading somewhere about a really cheap way of travelling: using balloons to get ourselves away from the surface of the earth. The idea held that because the earth rotates, we should be ...
56
votes
11answers
21k views

Is it possible that there is a color our human eye can't see?

Is it possible that there's a color that our eye couldn't see? Like all of us are color blind to it. If there is, is it possible to detect/identify it?
56
votes
6answers
6k views

How can we see planets thousands of light years away but don't know if there are more planets in the solar system?

That is basically my question, it arose when I saw an article (here is the scientific paper, which should be free to read) saying two Caltech scientists might have found the 9th planet of the solar ...
56
votes
7answers
16k views

Does gravity exist in a vacuum?

My understanding has always been that it does from conventional science courses, but really thinking about it, I was wondering if this is really the case. To my limited understanding there is a ...
56
votes
3answers
2k views

What causes insects to cast large shadows from where their feet are?

I recently stumbled upon this interesting image of a wasp, floating on water: Assuming this isn't photoshopped, I have a couple of questions: Why do you see its image like that (what's the ...
56
votes
2answers
6k views

Why does dry spaghetti break into three pieces as opposed to only two?

You can try it with your own uncooked spaghetti if you want; it almost always breaks into three when you snap it. I am asking for a good physical theory on why this is along with evidence to back it ...
56
votes
8answers
4k views

Is there a symmetry associated to the conservation of information?

Conservation of information seems to be a deep physical principle. For instance, Unitarity is a key concept in Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Field Theory. We may wonder if there is an underlying ...
55
votes
8answers
11k views

Why is quantum entanglement considered to be an active link between particles?

From everything I've read about quantum mechanics and quantum entanglement phenomena, it's not obvious to me why quantum entanglement is considered to be an active link. That is, it's stated every ...
55
votes
4answers
10k views

Moon's pull causes tides on far side of Earth: why?

I have always wondered and once I even got it, but then completely forgot. I understand that gravity causes high and low tides in oceans, but why does it occur on the other side of Earth?
55
votes
6answers
4k views

Is there a way for an astronaut to rotate?

We know that if an imaginary astronaut is in the intergalactic (no external forces) and has an initial velocity zero, then he has is no way to change the position of his center of mass. The law of ...
55
votes
8answers
21k views

Does centrifugal force exist?

Currently in my last year of high school, and I have always been told that centrifugal force does not exist by my physics teachers. Today my girlfriend in the year below asked me what centrifugal ...
55
votes
3answers
5k views

How to measure the wavelength of a laser pointer?

I'm working on something and I need to know the wavelength of the laser pointer that I'm using. Can you suggest me a way, using some optics formulae, or anything else to calculate the wavelength?
55
votes
9answers
11k views

What's the point of Hamiltonian mechanics?

I've just finished a Classical Mechanics course, and looking back on it some things are not quite clear. In the first half we covered the Lagrangian formalism, which I thought was pretty cool. I ...
55
votes
8answers
5k views

Turbulent spacetime from Einstein equation?

It is well known that the fluid equations (Euler equation, Navier-Stokes, ...), being non-linear, may have highly turbulent solutions. Of course, these solutions are non-analytical. The laminar flow ...
54
votes
5answers
8k views

Why do atomic clocks only use caesium?

Modern atomic clocks only use caesium atoms as oscillators. Why don't we use other atoms for this role?
54
votes
6answers
6k views

Can a Skydiver Land On a Large Slide and Survive?

Please forgive my lack of artistic ability, but here's my question: Consider that a skydiver, without using his parachute, were to fall exactly parallel to a giant curved slide that starts at ...
54
votes
5answers
14k views

How long can you survive 1 million degrees?

I asked my Dad this once when I was about 14, and he said that no matter how short the amount of time you were exposed to such a great temperature, you would surely die. The conversation went ...
54
votes
2answers
6k views

Does the Planck scale imply that spacetime is discrete?

On a quantum scale the smallest unit is the Planck scale, which is a discrete measure. There several question that come to mind: Does that mean that particles can only live in a discrete grid-like ...
53
votes
2answers
6k views

Why did Feynman's thesis almost work?

A bit of background helps frame this question. The question itself is in the last sentence. For his PhD thesis, Richard Feynman and his thesis adviser John Archibald Wheeler devised an astonishingly ...
52
votes
5answers
50k 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 ...
52
votes
2answers
6k views

Why is the Sun almost perfectly spherical?

Relatively recent measurements indicate that the Sun is nearly the roundest object ever measured. If scaled to the size of a beach ball, it would be so round that the difference between the widest ...
52
votes
2answers
3k views

Intuitively, why are bundles so important in Physics?

I've seem the notion of bundles, fiber bundles, connections on bundles and so on being used in many different places on Physics. Now, in mathematics a bundle is introduced to generalize the ...
51
votes
8answers
23k views

Proof that the Earth rotates?

What is the proof, without leaving the Earth, and involving only basic physics, that the earth rotates around its axis? By basic physics I mean the physics that the early physicists must've used to ...
51
votes
8answers
6k views

What justifies dimensional analysis?

Dimensional analysis, and the notion that quantities with different units cannot be equal, is often used to justify very specific arguments, for example, you might use it to argue that a particular ...
51
votes
11answers
11k views

Quantum Field Theory from a mathematical point of view

I'm a student of mathematics with not much background in physics. I'm interested in learning Quantum field theory from a mathematical point of view. Are there any good books or other reference ...
51
votes
4answers
6k views

If dark matter only interacts with gravity, why doesn't it all clump together in a single point?

I'm a complete layperson. As I understand, dark matter theoretically only interacts with the gravitational force, and doesn't interact with the other three fundamental forces: weak nuclear force, ...
51
votes
4answers
5k views

Do solar systems typically spin in the same direction as their galaxy?

Is the net angular momentum vector of our solar system pointing in roughly the same direction as the Milky Way galaxy's net angular momentum vector? If yes or no, is that common for most stars in the ...
51
votes
1answer
13k views

Why does a window become a mirror at night?

In day, when you look in the room through the window out, you can clearly see what happens outside. At night when it's dark outside but there's light inside you can look in the window but it becomes a ...
51
votes
12answers
23k 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 ...
51
votes
3answers
4k views

How small does sand have to be to get wet?

I think of sand as a lot of very small rocks. Suppose I have a pile of rocks, each about 1cm in size, and the pile is a meter tall. If I pour a bucket of water on the rocks, most of the water will ...
51
votes
12answers
14k views

How long a straw could Superman use?

To suck water through a straw, you create a partial vacuum in your lungs. Water rises through the straw until the pressure in the straw at the water level equals atmospheric pressure. This ...
51
votes
4answers
8k views

What is spin as it relates to subatomic particles?

I often hear about subatomic particles having a property called "spin" but also that it doesn't actually relate to spinning about an axis like you would think. Which particles have spin? What does ...

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