185
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1answer
27k views

Book recommendations [closed]

Every once in a while, we get a question asking for a book or other educational reference on a particular topic at a particular level. This is a meta-question that collects all those links together. ...
93
votes
4answers
11k views

Did the Big Bang happen at a point?

TV documentaries invariably show the Big Bang as an exploding ball of fire expanding outwards. Did the Big Bang really explode outwards from a point like this? If not, what did happen?
75
votes
8answers
8k 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 ...
39
votes
6answers
5k views

If I walk along the aisle of a bus traveling at the speed of light, can I travel faster than it?

Let's say I fire a bus through space at (almost) the speed of light. If I'm inside the bus (sitting on the back seat) and I run up the aisle of the bus toward the front, does that mean I'm traveling ...
80
votes
9answers
9k views

How fast does gravity propagate?

A thought experiment: Imagine the Sun is suddenly removed. We wouldn't notice a difference for 8 minutes, because that's how long light takes to get from the Sun's surface to Earth. However, what ...
69
votes
17answers
7k 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 ...
78
votes
9answers
79k views

If photons have no mass, how can they have momentum?

As an explanation of why a large gravitational field (such as a black hole) can bend light, I have heard that light has momentum. This is given as a solution to the problem of only massive objects ...
66
votes
10answers
29k 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 ...
19
votes
8answers
74k views

Would time freeze if you could travel at the speed of light?

I read with interest about Einstein's Theory of Relativity and his proposition about the speed of light being the universal speed limit. So, if I were to travel in a spacecraft at (practically) the ...
30
votes
6answers
7k views

Total energy of the Universe

In popular science books and articles, I keep running into the claim that the total energy of the Universe is zero, "because the positive energy of matter is cancelled out by the negative energy of ...
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 ...
132
votes
8answers
34k views

Don't heavier objects actually fall faster because they exert their own gravity?

The common understanding is that, setting air resistance aside, all objects dropped to Earth fall at the same rate. This is often demonstrated through the thought experiment of cutting a large object ...
22
votes
3answers
3k views

Can space expand with unlimited speed?

At the beginning, right after the Big Bang, the universe was the size of a coin. One millionth of a second after the universe was the size of the Solar System (acording to ...
66
votes
8answers
17k 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 ...
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 ...
50
votes
8answers
45k views

With Newton's third law, why are things capable of moving?

I've got a rather humiliating question considering newton's third law "If an object A exterts a force on object B, then object B exerts an equal but opposite force on object A" -> $F_1=-F_2$ ...
43
votes
12answers
9k views

How can anything ever fall into a black hole as seen from an outside observer?

The event horizon of a black hole is where gravity is such that not even light can escape. This is also the point I understand that according to Einstein time dilation will be infinite for a ...
26
votes
5answers
6k views

How is the classical twin paradox resolved?

I read a lot about the classical twin paradox recently. What confuses me is that some authors claim that it can be resolved within SRT, others say that you need GRT. Now, what is true (and why)?
29
votes
10answers
18k views

Why and how is the speed of light in vacuum constant, i.e., independent of reference frame?

I was told that the Galilean relative velocity rule does not apply to the speed of light. No matter how fast two objects are moving, the speed of light will remain same for both of them. How and why ...
15
votes
4answers
22k views

How does gravity work underground?

Would the effect of gravity on me change if I were to dig a very deep hole and stand in it? If so, how would it change? Am I more likely to be pulled downwards, or pulled towards the edges of the ...
42
votes
15answers
71k views

What is a good introductory book on quantum mechanics?

I'm really interested in quantum theory and would like to learn all that I can about it. I've followed a few tutorials and read a few books but none satisfied me completely. I'm looking for ...
34
votes
6answers
7k views

Why are there only derivatives to the first order in the Lagrangian?

Why is the Lagrangian a function of the position and velocity (possibly also of time) and why are dependences on higher order derivatives (acceleration, jerk,...) excluded? Is there a good reason for ...
12
votes
17answers
31k views

Recommendations for good Newtonian mechanics and kinematics books

What are some good books for learning the concepts of Kinematics, Newton laws, 2D Motion of Object etc.?
159
votes
10answers
34k views

What really allows airplanes to fly?

What aerodynamic effects actually contribute to producing the lift on an airplane? I know there's a common belief that lift comes from the Bernoulli effect, where air moving over the wings is at ...
68
votes
12answers
22k 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: ...
39
votes
7answers
5k views

Why does everything spin?

The origin of spin is some what a puzzle to me, everything spin from galaxies to planets to weather to electrons. Where has all the angular momentum come from? Why is it so natural? I was also ...
25
votes
4answers
5k views

If a 1kg mass was accelerated close to the speed of light would it turn into a black hole?

I'm a big fan of the podcast Astronomy Cast and a while back I was listening to a Q&A episode they did. A listener sent in a question that I found fascinating and have been wondering about ever ...
33
votes
4answers
4k views

What really cause light/photons to appear slower in media?

I know that if we solve the Maxwell equation, we will end up with the phase velocity of light being related to the permeability and the permittivity of the material. But this is not what I'm ...
16
votes
6answers
2k views

Double light speed

Let's say we have $2$ particles facing each other and traveling at speed of light Let's say I'm sitting on #$1$ particle so in my point of view #$2$ particle's speed is $c+c=2c$, double light speed? ...
204
votes
14answers
19k views

How does gravity escape a black hole?

My understanding is that light can not escape from within a black hole (within the event horizon). I've also heard that information cannot propagate faster than the speed of light. It would seem to ...
42
votes
6answers
4k views

Why does calculus of variations work?

How does it make sense to vary the position and the velocity independently? Edit: Velocity is the derivative of position, so how can you treat them as independent variables? Doesn't every physics ...
32
votes
9answers
5k views

Is the wave-particle duality a real duality?

I often hear about the wave-particle duality, and how particles exhibit properties of both particles and waves. I most recently heard this in this video. However, I wonder; is this actually a duality? ...
29
votes
7answers
6k views

Why is the observable universe so big?

The observable universe is approximately 13.7 billion years old. But yet it is 80 billion light years across. Isn't this a contradiction?
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 ...
9
votes
11answers
2k views

understanding time: Is time simply the rate change?

Is time simply the rate of change? If this is the case and time was created during the big bang would it be the case that the closer you get to the start of the big bang the "slower" things change ...
32
votes
5answers
16k views

Would you be weightless at the center of the Earth?

If you could travel to the center of the Earth (or any planet), would you be weightless there?
56
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 ...
70
votes
10answers
11k 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 ...
13
votes
9answers
8k 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 ...
31
votes
8answers
5k views

What is $\Delta t$ in the time-energy uncertainty principle?

In non-relativistic QM, the $\Delta E$ in the time-energy uncertainty principle is the limiting standard deviation of the set of energy measurements of $n$ identically prepared systems as $n$ goes to ...
20
votes
5answers
3k views

Does the curvature of spacetime theory assume gravity?

Whenever I read about the curvature of spacetime as an explanation for gravity, I see pictures of a sheet (spacetime) with various masses indenting the sheet to form "gravity wells." Objects which are ...
107
votes
17answers
29k views

Why does kinetic energy increase quadratically, not linearly, with speed?

As Wikipedia says: [...] the kinetic energy of a non-rotating object of mass $m$ traveling at a speed $v$ is $mv^2/2$. Why does this not increase linearly with speed? Why does it take so much ...
28
votes
4answers
18k views

Why do electrons occupy the space around nuclei, and not collide with them?

We all learn in grade school that electrons are negatively-charged particles that inhabit the space around the nucleus of an atom, that protons are positively-charged and are embedded within the ...
28
votes
4answers
5k views

What is the mechanism behind the slowdown of light/photons in a transparent medium?

So light travels slower in glass (for example) than in a vacuum. What causes light to slow down? Or: How does it slow down? If light passes through the medium, is it not essentially traveling in the ...
18
votes
4answers
3k views

Does a photon in vacuum have a rest frame?

Quite a few of the questions given on this site mention a photon in vacuum having a rest frame such as it having a zero mass in its rest frame. I find this contradictory since photons must travel at ...
15
votes
8answers
4k views

Is time travel possible? Is it possible to go back in time?

I read somewhere that according to relativity, black holes and other space related stuff it is possible to jump into past. Is it possible for anything to go back in time either continuously or by ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

If it was possible to dig a hole that went from one side of the Earth to the other…

...And you jumped in. What would happen when you got to the middle of the Earth? Would you gradually slow down, until you got to the middle and once you were in middle would every direction feel like ...
79
votes
5answers
19k 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 ...
41
votes
9answers
3k views

Why are differential equations for fields in physics of order two?

What is the reason for the observation that across the board fields in physics are generally governed by second order (partial) differential equations? If someone on the street would flat out ask ...
33
votes
9answers
31k views

How can a photon have no mass and still travel at the speed of light?

I've read a number of the helpful Q&As on photons that mention the mass/mass-less issue. Do I understand correctly that the idea of mass-less (a rest mass of 0) may be just a convention to make ...

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