Hot answers tagged

77

Your intuition is good, but you're mixing up some quantum and classical phenomena. In classical (i.e. non-quantum) physics, a vacuum is a region of space with no matter. You can have electromagnetic fields in a vacuum, so long as the charges creating the fields are in a different region. By the same token you can have gravitational fields in a vacuum, ...


56

By popular demand (considering two to be popular — thanks @Rod Vance and @Love Learning), I'll expand a bit on my comment to @Kieran Hunt's answer: Thermal equilibrium As I said in the comment, the notion of sound in space plays a very significant role in cosmology: When the Universe was very young, dark matter, normal ("baryonic") matter, and light ...


50

I'm not going to address the production mechanism,1 just the nature of the "sound" in this case. What you think of as the hard vacuum of outer space could just as well be seen as a very, very, very diffuse, somewhat ionized gas. That gas can support sound waves as long as the wavelength is considerably longer than the mean free path of the atoms on the ...


41

From the ideal gas law, we know: $$ v_\textrm{sound} = \sqrt{\frac{\gamma k_\textrm{B} T}{m}} $$ Assuming that interstellar space is heated uniformly by the CMB, it will have a temperature of $2.73\textrm{K}$. We know that most of this medium comprises protons and neutral hydrogen atoms at a density of about 1 atom/cc. This means that $\gamma = 5/3$, and ...


38

$$\sin(x) = x-\frac{x^3}{3!} + trigonometric\;fluctuations$$ Above you can see why I don't like the language of "quantum fluctuations" -- what people mean by them is just "terms in perturbation series that we can make classical sense of". Similarly the phrase ... particles pop in and out of existence... Is a yet another naive attempt of describing ...


37

You don't need to throw the ball! At the altitude of the ISS the atmosphere is thick enough that it loses 50-100m of altitude every day due to the drag. At that rate over your ten year timescale the ISS would lose 180 to 360km. When you take into account the increased drag at lower altitudes ten years is enough to bring the ISS crashing to a fiery end. So ...


37

John Rennie already gave the practical answer considering the atmosphere, noting that without doing anything objects near the ISS will deorbit quickly from drag. But that's letting reality get in the way of a good physics problem. I'll show that while a human can't send a ball crashing into the surface in one orbit, they can come close. The ISS is listed as ...


35

As the other guys have already covered most of the topic, I'd like to quote some things. Light can't escape only from the inside of event horizon because it has already fallen into it. But after reading the article now, we could indicate some points. The article specifically says a "supermassive blackhole". They're a way too bulk in size when compared to ...


32

Just want to bring up that most answers seem to be taking "space" to be a nice uniform medium. However, even within our own galaxy, conditions vary wildly. Here are the most common environments in the Milky Way: Molecular Clouds, $\rho\sim 10^4\,{\rm atom}/{\rm cm}^3$, $T\sim 10\,{\rm K}$ Cold Neutral Medium, $\rho\sim 20\,{\rm atom}/{\rm cm}^3$, $T\sim ...


31

There have actually been cases of (accidental!) exposure to near-vacuum conditions. Real life does not conform to what you see in the movies. (Well, it depends on the movie; Dave Bowman's exposure to vacuum in 2001 was pretty accurate.) Long-term exposure, of course, is deadly, but you could recover from an exposure of, say, 15-30 seconds. You don't ...


29

Why is space a vacuum ? Because, given enough time, gravity tends to make matter clump together. Events like supernovae that spread it out again are relatively rare. Also space is big. Maybe someone could calculate the density if visible matter were evenly distributed in visible space. I imagine it would be pretty thin. (Later) Space is big. Really ...


29

When a bell vibrates in air, it pushes air molecules out of the way which will make the vibrations "decay". If you strike a bell in vacuum, this loss mechanism will not be there so the bell will "ring" for longer (but nobody can hear it). This doesn't mean the initial amplitude is significantly greater - just that it persists longer. Obviously if you rang ...


29

The typical speed of an air molecule is a few hundred meters per second, while escape velocity from Earth is over 10,000 meters per second. So almost all the air molecules just fall back down. They're affected by gravity just like everything else! We do lose some air molecules this way, though. In particular, hydrogen and helium are lighter, so they move ...


27

Don't forget that the aeroplane will be moving forward, so it's not relying on a vacuum filling ahead of the propellor to supply the latter with air. Now I daresay there are good engineering reasons why propellors are not efficient and even impracticable for supersonic flight, but I don't think there is a fundamental physics theoretical reason ruling them ...


25

I don't understand the difference between the first and the second question, but the answer is "No, you don't need air for the clothes to dry". In fact, it will dry faster if in vacuum, because the water will start to boil in zero pressure, even if the temperature is not 100º C. In fact, at zero pressure, water cannot exist in liquid, but will evaporate if ...


20

The energy is borrowed from the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to create virtual particles and has to be paid back in a very short time. $\Delta{t} \geq \frac{\hbar}{2\Delta{E}}$ This is why virtual particles live for very short times (i.e pop in and out of existence). We cannot manipulate this energy.


20

You aren't creating a vacuum, but you are reducing the pressure in your lungs when you inhale. In effect your lungs are working as a diaphragm pump. When you pull your diaphragm down, and/or expand your chest, this increases the volume inside your lungs. Boyle's law tells us: $$ P_0V_0 = P_{\rm inhale}V_{\rm inhale} ,$$ where $P_0$ and $V_0$ are ambient ...


19

Yes. That is the operating principle of this device, among many others:


19

In practice, no. In theory, also no. The Universe is filled with photons with an energy distribution corresponding to 2.73 K. Every cm$^3$ of space holds around 400-500 of them. That means that if you place your "stable body" in an ever-so-isolated box, the box itself will never come below 2.73 K, and neither will the body inside. It will asymptotically go ...


18

$|0\rangle$ is just a quantum state that happens to be labeled by the number 0. It's conventional to use that label to denote the ground state (or vacuum state), the one with the lowest energy. But the label you put on a quantum state is actually kind of arbitrary. You could choose a different convention in which you label the ground state with, say, 5, and ...


18

Albert Einstein is often credited (erroneously, it seems) with saying The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once. and John Wheeler added Space is what prevents everything from happening to me! Now, those quotes may sound silly and self-referential, but they are meant to draw you attention to something very, very basic. ...


18

Ever since Newton and the use of mathematics in physics, physics can be defined as a discipline where nature is modeled by mathematics. One should have clear in mind what nature means and what mathematics is. Nature we know by measurements and observations. Mathematics is a self consistent discipline with axioms, theorems and statements having absolute ...


17

Not physically, but practically there are (currently) better alternatives. The limiting issue with propellers is similar to the limiting issue with helicopters: propellers work like wing sections in that they must accelerate flow to work; when you're near the speed of sound, this means you are going to cause shocks to form, and this issue is particularly ...


16

$|0\rangle$ is a particular nonzero vector in the Hilbert space associated with this system. That vector is nonzero -- in fact, it's usually normalized to have magnitude 1. The 0 on the right refers to the zero vector in the Hilbert space. So they're quite different. For one thing, $|0\rangle$ is a possible state for a particle to be in. 0 isn't (since only ...


16

Strictly speaking vacuum is the state of lowest energy. That means no matter or radiation (photons or any other particles). Note that space is not a perfect vacuum. Also note that, technically, a gas of planets and comets etc. has a pressure (there is usually little reason to care about it though). There is also radiation pressure due to the photons. ...


15

The graviton is the hypothetical gauge boson associated with the gravitational field. I say hypothetical because it is far from clear whether gravity can be described by a quantum field theory, so it isn't clear whether gravitons are a useful description. In any case, you should not take the notion of virtual particles like the graviton too seriously. have ...


14

In Physics "nothing" is generally taken to be the lowest energy state of a theory. We wouldn't normally use the word "nothing" but instead describe the lowest energy state as the "vacuum". I can't think of an intuitive way to describe the QM vacuum because all the obvious analogies have "something" instead of nothing "nothing", so I'll do my best but you may ...


14

This answer is basically an argument about why you should treat the terms of a perturbation series as interesting objects under the right circumstances. It doesn't really change the fact that these are just mathematical terms, but it shows that they have explanatory value in addition to simply being part of the sum because each term can be the leading term ...


14

If you simply held a cup upside down in zero gravity, the liquid ought not to pour out. However, things in zero gravity still obey Newton's laws. If you pull away the cup, the water ought to stay behind. In reality, a sudden move of the cup would create a lower pressure behind the water than in front so the air pressure would try to keep it in the cup, but ...



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