Questions tagged [conservation-laws]

The statement that a property of a system does not change if the system is isolated.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
120
votes
11answers
24k views

Why does Newton's Third Law actually work?

My father explained to me how rockets work and he told me that Newton's Third Law of motion worked here. I asked him why it works and he didn't answer. I have wasted over a week thinking about this ...
112
votes
4answers
15k views

Why do electrons, according to my textbook, exist forever?

Does that mean that electrons are infinitely stable? The neutrinos of the three leptons are also listed as having a mean lifespan of infinity.
90
votes
2answers
17k views

What conservation law corresponds to Lorentz boosts?

Noether's Theorem is used to relate the invariance of the action under certain continuous transformations to conserved currents. A common example is that translations in spacetime correspond to the ...
89
votes
7answers
20k views

Why does a billiard ball stop when it hits another billiard ball head on?

(I'm repeating myself a lot here, but it's because I want to make my confusion clear.) If 2 billiard balls are the same exact mass, and one hits another stationary one head on, I have heard that the ...
82
votes
3answers
5k views

Why do travelling waves continue after amplitude sum = 0?

My professor asked an interesting question at the end of the last class, but I can't figure out the answer. The question is this (recalled from memory): There are two travelling wave pulses moving in ...
80
votes
14answers
21k views

Does throwing a penny at a train stop the train?

If I stand in front of a train and throw a penny at it, the penny will bounce back at me. For the penny to reverse its direction, at some point its velocity must go to zero. This is the point it hits ...
70
votes
6answers
7k 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 ...
62
votes
4answers
33k 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 ...
62
votes
5answers
7k views

Is the converse of Noether's first theorem true: Every conservation law has a symmetry?

Noether's (first) theorem states that any differentiable symmetry of the action of a physical system has a corresponding conservation law. Is the converse true: Any conservation law of a physical ...
62
votes
7answers
10k 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 ...
60
votes
3answers
4k views

In substances where light is slowed down, is its momentum lessened and if so, how does it speed up again when emerging from that substance? [duplicate]

I think in some media, light can be significantly slowed down; but even if only slightly, where would the momentum go when the light slows down and where does it get the extra momentum when it leaves ...
56
votes
17answers
194k views

How can momentum but not energy be conserved in an inelastic collision?

In inelastic collisions, kinetic energy changes, so the velocities of the objects also change. So how is momentum conserved in inelastic collisions?
52
votes
4answers
9k views

Why does the speed of a ping pong ball increase when the space in which it can bounce decreases?

I was playing table tennis the other day when I my ball fell off the table. I placed my paddle above it in order to slow it down, and then I brought the paddle to the ground so that the ball would ...
51
votes
7answers
9k views

Can Noether's theorem be understood intuitively?

Noether's theorem is one of those surprisingly clear results of mathematical calculations, for which I am inclined to think that some kind of intuitive understanding should or must be possible. ...
46
votes
5answers
8k views

Why don't helicopters use reaction wheels to counter the main rotor?

As the main title says. I'm finding myself wondering about helicopters. The tail rotor is a vulnerable and key piece of equipment, especially on military helicopters. I know some helicopters instead ...
43
votes
6answers
21k views

Newton's 3rd law… hitting drywall (which I break) vs hitting a brick (which breaks me)?

According to the Third Newton's law of motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, I understand that if I hit a brick wall with $50\, \mathrm{lbs}$ of force, the brick ...
41
votes
10answers
19k views

When you hit a baseball, does the ball ever travel faster than the bat?

It seems impossible, yet I'm thinking that maybe because the ball compresses against the bat a bit it acts a little like a spring, and DOES travel faster than the bat? EDIT: This is just a ...
40
votes
6answers
8k views

Do all the conservation laws of Physics take no time to propagate?

For instance, conservation of momentum, does it take time to propagate between two or more objects? If it does, then there would be some moment that the momentum is not conserved. If it doesn't take ...
40
votes
5answers
2k views

Intuition as to why the orientation (of a 3D object) is not a conserved quantity?

Say you start off floating in space, in a fixed position and orientation, with zero linear and angular velocity, with no external forces. So you are a closed mechanical system. By twisting your body ...
38
votes
6answers
16k views

Apparent Violation of Newton's $3^{\text{rd}}$ Law and the Conservation of Momentum (and Angular Momentum) For a Pair of Charged Particles

Consider a system of the two identical positive point charges situated in free space (isolated from the influence of any other external fields) as shown in the attached diagram. Particle $1$ is at $(a,...
37
votes
3answers
3k views

Do all Noether theorems have a common mathematical structure?

I know that there are Noether theorems in classical mechanics, electrodynamics, quantum mechanics and even quantum field theory and since this are theories with different underlying formalisms, if was ...
37
votes
6answers
24k views

Newton's cradle

Why, when one releases 2 balls in Newton's cradle, two balls on the opposite side bounce out at approximately the same speed as the 1st pair, rather than one ball at higher speed, or 3 balls at lower ...
37
votes
1answer
3k views

Why was the first discovered neutrino an anti-neutrino?

In the search for neutrinos, Cowan and Reines discovered the electron anti-neutrino and named it as such. Why is the particle they discovered the anti-variety? The reason we call electrons 'electrons'...
34
votes
6answers
9k views

What happens to matter when it is converted into energy?

According to Einstein’s equation $$E=mc^2$$ Matter can be converted into Energy. An example of this is a nuclear reaction. What happens to the matter in the process? Do the atoms/subatomic particles ...
32
votes
5answers
6k views

Is this statement of conservation of charge circular?

According to Wikipedia: A closed system is a physical system that does not allow certain types of transfers (such as transfer of mass and energy transfer) in or out of the system. According to my ...
32
votes
3answers
5k views

Why is Noether's theorem important?

I am just starting to wrap my head around analytical mechanics, so this question might sound weird or trivial to some of you. In class I have been introduced to Noether's theorem, which states that ...
32
votes
4answers
6k views

Where does the extra kinetic energy of the rocket come from?

Consider a rocket in deep space with no external forces. Using the formula for linear kinetic energy $$\text{KE} = mv^2/2$$ we find that adding $100\ \text{m/s}$ while initially travelling at $1000\ \...
30
votes
4answers
10k views

Why don’t astronauts “push” spacecraft?

Perhaps it goes without saying, but according to Newton’s laws “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. How do astronauts, especially those inside small spacecraft like the Crew Dragon, not “...
29
votes
5answers
5k views

Is it possible to conserve the total kinetic energy of a system, but not its momentum?

It is possible to conserve momentum without conserving kinetic energy, as in inelastic collisions. Is it possible to conserve the total kinetic energy of a system, but not its momentum? How? To ...
29
votes
6answers
8k views

Are there any fluids that flow slower in a constricted region, unlike water?

It is well known that when water flows through a tube you can make it flow faster by making the tube narrow. Now consider what happens when a group of people are moving and the space becomes narrower....
28
votes
4answers
6k views

What causes a rotating object to rotate forever without external force—inertia, or something else?

Someone told me that it is not inertia, but I think it is inertia, because it will rotate forever. In my understanding, inertia is the constant motion of an object without external force. Am I wrong?
28
votes
1answer
901 views

Best current bounds on nonconservation of momentum?

It's not straightforward to test conservation of momentum experimentally, and many experiments that seem like tests really aren't. For example, in a Newtonian system of identical particles that ...
27
votes
6answers
11k views

Can a car steer on a frictionless surface?

Do the front tires of a car act like gyroscopes, such that a car could steer on a frictionless surface?
26
votes
5answers
19k views

Is it possible to shoot bullets in space or would the recoil of the gun be too strong?

I've read a few articles that say that astronauts have already brought guns in space and that shooting bullets in space is possible. But won't the recoil of the gun be too strong? Law of ...
26
votes
5answers
4k views

How can there be net linear momentum in a static electromagnetic field (not propagating)?

I understand from basic conservation of energy and momentum considerations, it is clear in classical electrodynamics that the fields should be able to have energy and momentum. This leads to the usual ...
25
votes
6answers
7k views

Why does shooting a handgun accelerate a bullet to deadly speed without injuring the gun user's hand?

Momentum is defined by the product of mass and velocity. Now a projectile out of a gun has to have high velocity to penetrate a human body, as its mass isn't significant. But to reach this velocity, ...
25
votes
15answers
7k views

Which specific law of physics is broken by the “double jump”? [closed]

So, there's a cliche in computer gaming known as a "double jump". This can be described as: A character jumps from a solid surface, and then is able to extend their jump by carrying out the jump ...
25
votes
7answers
4k views

Why didn't the debris collapse back into the Earth at the time of Moon's formation?

The most accurate theory for the formation of our moon is the Giant impact hypothesis, which says that a Mars sized body collided with our early Earth and after this collision all the debris got ...
25
votes
3answers
1k views

What happens to the quantum information of a particle and an antiparticle when they annihilate?

I understand that the quantum no-deleting theorem dictates that it's impossible to delete quantum information, so what happens to the quantum information of a particle and an antiparticle when they ...
25
votes
3answers
3k views

No hair theorem for black holes and the baryon number

The no hair theorem says that a black hole can be characterized by a small number of parameters that are visible from distance - mass, angular momentum and electric charge. For me it is puzzling why ...
25
votes
4answers
5k views

Decay of massless particles

We don't normally consider the possibility that massless particles could undergo radioactive decay. There are elementary arguments that make it sound implausible. (A bunch of the following is ...
24
votes
14answers
24k views

Is it possible to walk in a friction-less world?

Is it possible to walk in a frictionless world. I think you won't be able to walk because walking depends on friction acting on your feet. I think about it like an ice rink because when you try to ...
24
votes
8answers
5k views

If electrons can be created and destroyed, then why can't charges be created or destroyed? [duplicate]

I read on Wikipedia that electrons can be created through beta decay of radioactive isotopes and in high-energy collisions, for instance when cosmic rays enter the atmosphere. Also, that they can be ...
24
votes
1answer
2k views

Neutrino Oscillations and Conservation of Momentum

I would like to better understand how neutrino oscillations are consistent with conservation of momentum because I'm encountering some conceptual difficulties when thinking about it. I do have a ...
23
votes
8answers
24k views

Why can't a single photon produce an electron-positron pair?

In reading through old course material, I found the assignment (my translation): Show that a single photon cannot produce an electron-positron pair, but needs additional matter or light quanta. My ...
23
votes
4answers
9k views

Noether's current expression in Peskin and Schroeder

In the second chapter of Peskin and Schroeder, An Introduction to Quantum Field Theory, it is said that the action is invariant if the Lagrangian density changes by a four-divergence. But if we ...
23
votes
2answers
1k views

What symmetry is associated with conservation of Lipkin's zilch?

The 'zilch' of an electromagnetic field is the tensor $$ Z^{\mu}_{\ \ \ \nu\rho}=^*\!\!F^{\mu\lambda}F_{\lambda\nu,\rho}-F^{\mu\lambda}\,{}^*\!F_{\lambda\nu,\rho} \tag1 $$ given in terms of the ...
22
votes
5answers
5k views

What is the conserved quantity of a scale-invariant universe?

Consider that we have a system described by a wavefunction $\psi(x)$. We then make an exact copy of the system, and anything associated with it, (including the inner cogs and gears of the elementary ...
22
votes
3answers
4k views

What is the symmetry which is responsible for preservation/conservation of electrical charges?

Another Noether's theorem question, this time about electrical charge. According to Noether's theorem, all conservation laws originate from invariance of a system to shifts in a certain space. For ...
21
votes
6answers
8k views

Conservation of momentum when rain pours into a wagon

Suppose a wagon is moving at constant velocity on a friction-less surface, and rain begins to fill the wagon. The net force on the wagon is zero, so momentum is conserved; as the mass of the wagon ...

1
2 3 4 5
48