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56

Velocity is a vector. Speed is its magnitude. Position is a vector. Length (or distance) is its magnitude. A vector points in a direction in space. A negative vector (or more precisely "the negative of a vector") simply points the opposite way. If I drive from my home to my workplace (and then defining my positive direction in that way), then my velocity ...


34

There is a consistent definition, but it involves a couple of arbitrary thresholds, so I doubt you'd consider it rigorous. The construction $X \gg Y$ means that the ratio $\frac{Y}{X}$ is small enough that subleading terms in the series expansion for $f\bigl(\frac{Y}{X}\bigr) - f(0)$ can be neglected, where $f$ is some relevant function involved in the ...


32

A second-order tensor can be represented by a matrix, just as a first-order tensor can be represented by an array. But there is more to the tensor than just its arrangement of components; we also need to include how the array transforms upon a change of basis. So tensor is an n-dimensional array satisfying a particular transformation law. So, yes, a ...


31

The main distinction you want to make is between the Green function and the kernel. (I prefer the terminology "Green function" without the 's. Imagine a different name, say, Feynman. People would definitely say the Feynman function, not the Feynman's function. But I digress...) Start with a differential operator, call it $L$. E.g., in the case of ...


30

Which year? The sidereal year? The tropical year? The anomalistic year? The calendar year (and whose calendar)? The sidereal year is the average amount of time it takes the Earth to make one complete orbit about the Sun with respect to the fixed stars. The tropical year is the amount of average amount of time between successive spring equinoxes. The ...


28

They're variants, different kinds of quantum field theory, but they're not mutually exclusive. The different adjectives you mention separate quantum field theory to "pieces" in different ways. The different sorts of variants you mention are being used and studied by different people, the classification has different purposes, the degree of usefulness and ...


26

Theoretical physics is the field that develops theories about how nature operates. It is fundamentally physics, in that the ultimate goal is to describe reality. It is informed by experiment, and at the same time it extends the results of experiments, making predictions about what has not been physically tested. This is accomplished using the language of ...


26

Our physics prof once put it informally that way: A state is a set of variables describing a system which does not include anything about its history. The set of variables (position, velocity vector) describes the state of a point mass in classical mechanics, while the path how the point mass got from point $A$ to point $B$ is not a state.


24

In classical mechanics "kinematics" generally refers to the study of properties of motion-- position, velocity, acceleration, etc.-- without any consideration of why those quantities have the values they do. "Dynamics" means a study of the rules governing the interactions of these particles, which allow you to determine why the quantities have the values ...


23

"A state of rest" is a relative term. Relative means - measured in comparison to the things around it. When you sit in a train and sip from a cup of coffee, you can do so because the cup is still relative to you even though both of you might be hurtling through the countryside at 200 km/h. For most experiments, objects can be considered "at rest" if they ...


22

The definition of a state of a system, in physics, strongly depends on the area of physics one is dealing with and it comes as one of the initial definitions once such underlying theory has to be set up. In particular one has: classical mechanics: a state of a system is a point $m\in TQ$ (or equivalently $T^*Q)$ in the tangent bundle of the configuration ...


21

If I ruled the world, I would ban the phrase "pure energy" in contexts like this. There's no such thing as pure energy! When particles and antiparticles annihilate, the resulting energy can take many different forms -- one of the basic principles of quantum physics is that any process that's not forbidden (say, because of violation of some sort of ...


21

Matrices are often first introduced to students to represent linear transformations taking vectors from $\mathbb{R}^n$ and mapping them to vectors in $\mathbb{R}^m$. A given linear transformation may be represented by infinitely many different matrices depending on the basis vectors chosen for $\mathbb{R}^n$ and $\mathbb{R}^m$, and a well-defined ...


20

Those code names all come from certain catalog. For example, NGC means 'New General Catalogue'. There are various catalogs aiming at different objects, like stars, nebulae, galaxies, etc, but not for the Earth, at least not yet. You can find almost all known astronomical catalogs and tables at CDS


20

From here: Higgs is an atheist, and is displeased that the Higgs particle is nicknamed the "God particle", because the term "might offend people who are religious".Usually this inappropriate nickname for the Higgs boson is attributed to Leon Lederman, the author of the book The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?, but the ...


19

To pick up on twistor59's point, time is not a vector but a time interval is. The confusion arises because you have to define carefully what you mean by the word time. In special relativity we label spacetime points by their co-ordinates $(t, x, y, z)$, where $t$ is the time co-ordinate. The numbers $t$, $x$, etc are not themselves vectors because they just ...


18

The Wilsonian effective action is an action with a given scale, where all short wavelength fluctuations (up to the scale) are integrated out. Thus the theory describes the effective dynamics of the long wavelength physics, but it is still a quantum theory and you still have an path integral to perform. So separating the fields into long and short wavelength ...


17

A "Trojan" object is any smaller object that shares the same orbit as a larger body but leads or trails it by about 60 degrees in the orbit. These positions are the L4 and L5 Lagrange points (respectively) in the larger body's orbit about its parent object. The L4 and L5 Lagrange points are locations of stable gravitational equallibrium between the larger ...


17

In physics101, scalar quantities are defined to be ones which have magnitude only, and no direction, where "direction" in this context means a direction in three dimensional space. Time clearly has no such direction. However, in slightly more advanced physics, where special relativity is applied "scalar" is used as a shorthand for "Lorentz scalar" - a ...


17

Actually there are terminological subtleties when you are talking about that. Particles in the accelerator's tube are gathered in a sequence of little "bunches". For the proton-proton mode there was roughly ~3000 bunches per beam. And each bunch contained roughly $\simeq 10^{11}$ protons. So, at the largest level what you actually have during the ...


17

The definition of a wave is not that it is the oscillation of a medium. Waves are called waves because they are solutions to a wave equation, which is, for a generic "excitation" $A(t,x)$ depending on the time $t$ and some spatial coordinate $x\in\mathbb{R}^n$, of the general form $$ \frac{\partial^2 A}{\partial t^2} = c^2\Delta A$$ where $\Delta$ is the ...


15

A fermion is any particle, elementary or composite, that obeys Fermi-Dirac (as opposed to Bose-Einstein) statistics relating to how identical particles behave when you swap two of them. Due to an important but complicated result, this is taken to amount to having half-integer spin. A lepton is one type of elementary particle with spin 1/2. The only leptons ...


15

Statics: Study of forces in equilibrium without consideration of changes over time. Kinematics: Study of motions (position, velocity, acceleration) Kineto-statics: Study of forces in equilibrium, with the addition of motion related forces (like inertia forces via D'Alembert's principe) one instant at the time. Results from one time frame do not affect the ...


15

It's not really a single principle - it's a philosophy and in the context of philosophical discussions about science, it is usually known as positivism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positivism As any philosophy, it cripples the penetrating power of science if it is extended too far - and every philosophy ultimately fails. The thought experiment about ...


15

The dual of a tensor you refer to is the Hodge dual, and has nothing to do with the dual of a vector. The word "dual" is used in too many different contexts, and in this case it is even used the same $*$ symbol. One usually specifies "Hodge dual", or "Hodge star operator", to avoid confusion. Both these "duals" are isomorphisms between vector spaces endowed ...


14

OP wrote (v1): What does "the ${\bf N}$ of a group" mean? 1) Physicists are referring to an irreducible representation (irrep) for whatever group $G$ we are talking about. The number ${\bf N}$ refers to the dimension of the irrep. The point is that irreps are so rare that irreps are often uniquely specified by their dimension (modulo isomorphisms). ...


13

If you consider a typical metal the highest energy band (i.e. the conduction band) is partially filled. The conduction band is effectively continuous, so thermal energy can excite electrons within this band leaving holes lower in the band. At absolute zero there is no thermal energy, so electrons fill the band starting from the bottom and there is a sharp ...



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