Questions tagged [definition]

The definition tag is used in situations where the question is either about how some term or concept is defined or where the validity of an answer depends on a subtle definition of some term or concept used in the question.

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69
votes
6answers
7k views

Are Newton's “laws” of motion laws or definitions of force and mass?

If you consider them as laws, then there must be independent definitions of force and mass but I don't think there's such definitions. If you consider them as definitions, then why are they still ...
46
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9answers
12k views

What is a tensor?

I have a pretty good knowledge of physics, but couldn't deeply understand what a tensor is and why it is so fundamental.
9
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4answers
7k views

Define Pressure at A point. Why is it a Scalar?

I have a final exam tomorrow for fluid mechanics and I was just looking over the practice exam questions. They do not provide solutions. But pretty much I have to define pressure at a point and also ...
22
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10answers
456k views

What is the difference between weight and mass?

My science teacher is always saying the words "weight of an object" and "mass of an object," but then my physics book (that I read on my own) tells me completely different definitions from the way ...
28
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14answers
21k views

What is entropy really?

On this site, change in entropy is defined as the amount of energy dispersed divided by the absolute temperature. But I want to know: What is the definition of entropy? Here, entropy is defined as ...
4
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2answers
2k views

What is charge actually? How to define it? [closed]

Is charge of something for (e.g.) an electron related to electromagnetic space if it exists due to energy, due to which it may have mass? I don't know about quantum mechanics or advanced particle ...
55
votes
6answers
28k views

Are matrices and second rank tensors the same thing?

Tensors are mathematical objects that are needed in physics to define certain quantities. I have a couple of questions regarding them that need to be clarified: Are matrices and second rank tensors ...
18
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2answers
2k views

What is the Wilsonian definition of renormalizability?

In chapter 23.6, Schwartz's quantum field theory book defines renormalizability as follows, paraphrasing a bit for brevity: Consider a given subset $S$ of the operators and its complement $\bar{S}$....
26
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2answers
5k views

What is the definition of a timelike and spacelike singularity?

What is the definition of a timelike and spacelike singularity? Trying to find, but haven't yet, what the definitions are.
21
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4answers
108k views

What is the difference between center of mass and center of gravity?

What is the difference between center of mass and center of gravity? These terms seem to be used interchangeably. Is there a difference between them for non-moving object on Earth, or moving objects ...
18
votes
1answer
3k views

What is the definition of how to count degrees of freedom?

This question resulted, rather as by-product, the discussion on how to count degrees of freedom (DOF). I extend that question here: Are necessary1 derivatives such as velocities counted as individual ...
3
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5answers
1k views

Mathematical Reasoning for Fluid Pressure as a Scalar

This question from a while ago and answers/comments to this question from earlier today both make heavy mention of the fact that fluid pressure is a scalar. Although this information was surprising ...
29
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6answers
3k views

Is the Big Bang defined as before or after Inflation?

Is the Big Bang defined as before or after Inflation? Seems like a simple enough question to answer right? And if just yesterday I were to encounter this, I'd have given a definite answer. But I've ...
63
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3answers
10k views

Differentiating Propagator, Green's function, Correlation function, etc

For the following quantities respectively, could someone write down the common definitions, their meaning, the field of study in which one would typically find these under their actual name, and most ...
20
votes
1answer
2k views

Operator Ordering Ambiguities

I have been told that $$[\hat x^2,\hat p^2]=2i\hbar (\hat x\hat p+\hat p\hat x)$$ illustrates operator ordering ambiguity. What does that mean? I tried googling but to no avail.
10
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2answers
3k views

How do you define the resonance frequency of a forced damped oscillator?

Consider a forced, damped harmonic oscillator $$\ddot{\phi} + 2\beta \dot{\phi} + \omega_0^2 \phi = j(t) \, .\tag{1}$$ If I pick a sinusoidal driving force $j(t) = A \cos(\Omega t)$, I find $$\phi(...
10
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3answers
3k views

What is quantum entanglement? [closed]

What is quantum entanglement? Please be pedagogical. Edit: I have updated my background under my profile.
13
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4answers
4k views

Definitions and usage of Covariant, Form-invariant & Invariant?

Just wondering about the definitions and usage of these three terms. To my understanding so far, "covariant" and "form-invariant" are used when referring to physical laws, and these words are ...
40
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2answers
1k views

Identification of particles and anti-particles

The identification of an electron as a particle and the positron as an antiparticle is a matter of convention. We see lots of electrons around us so they become the normal particle and the rare and ...
10
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2answers
3k views

In layman's terms, what is a quantum fluctuation?

What causes it and how does it occur? If you do post some mathematics, please explain what each term means too please.
9
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2answers
2k views

Why do we still not have an exact (constants-based) definition for a kilogram?

I read that there is an effort to define a kilogram in terms that can exactly be reproduced in a lab. Why has it taken so long to get this done? It would seem this should be fairly important. Edit: ...
43
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5answers
14k views

What does it mean for a Hamiltonian or system to be gapped or gapless?

I've read some papers recently that talk about gapped Hamiltonians or gapless systems, but what does it mean? Edit: Is an XX spin chain in a magnetic field gapped? Why or why not?
24
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9answers
6k views

Why does work depend on distance?

So the formula for work is$$ \left[\text{work}\right] ~=~ \left[\text{force}\right] \, \times \, \left[\text{distance}\right] \,. $$ I'm trying to get an understanding of how this represents energy. ...
62
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10answers
7k views

Quantum made easy: so what *is* quantum mechanics all about? [closed]

Being a physics grad student, I got used to the weird concepts behind quantum mechanics (used to doesn't mean I fully understand it though). What I mean is that I'm not surprised anymore by the fact ...
3
votes
1answer
837 views

Transpose of (1,1) tensor

When we transpose a (1,1) tensor, shall we simply switch the two indices while keeping their upper/lower positions or switch them and also switch their upper/lower positions? In general, would the ...
5
votes
1answer
913 views

How many degrees of freedom does a spring have?

I'm currently learning about thermodynamics and heat capacities. We were told that the theoretical molar heat capacities of all solids should be $3R$. I was told this is because there are 6 different ...
2
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3answers
33k views

Definition of electric charge and proper explanation

Is there a definition of electric charge and proper explanation of it? It is said "Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when close to other ...
6
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3answers
309 views

Is it always possible to define energy of a system? [closed]

Does the concept of energy always exist for any physical system? If yes is there a proof? If no, any counterexamples?
1
vote
1answer
587 views

How to know if something is a primitive concept, a law, a definition or a theorem

Some basic Physics books are often misguiding in the sense that they don't make clear whether something is a primitive concept, a law, a definition or a theorem. This is often a little confusing. I've ...
1
vote
6answers
3k views

Why is speed defined like it is?

I have a rather basic, maybe even dumb, question. I was wondering why speed is defined as it is: $s = d/t$ Of course, what the equation means is not too difficult to understand. However, there are ...
29
votes
5answers
3k views

Hilbert space vs. Projective Hilbert space

Hilbert space and rays: In a very general sense, we say that quantum states of a quantum mechanical system correspond to rays in the Hilbert space $\mathcal{H}$, such that for any $c∈ℂ$ the state $\...
16
votes
3answers
8k views

Definition of the $Q$ factor?

According to Wikipedia, the $Q$ factor is defined as: $$Q=2\pi\frac{\mathrm{energy \, \, stored}}{\mathrm{energy \, \,dissipated \, \, per \, \, cycle}}.$$ Here are my questions: Does the energy ...
10
votes
3answers
5k views

How was the definition and the formula of work derived? Is it the best possible?

Work done is defined as the dot product of force and displacement. However, intuitively, should it not be the product of force and the time for which the body is acted upon by the force (force * ...
4
votes
2answers
418 views

Can we correctly define momentum operator only by means of position operator and their commutation relation?

In "J.M. Ziman. Electrons and Phonons: The Theory of Transport Phenomena in Solids" the author formally introduces the position (displacement) operator and then defines the momentum operator with the ...
5
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2answers
4k views

What is the difference between thermodynamic and empirical temperature?

When I've studied Thermodynamics I did so in Callen's book and there the author talks about temperature as a single thing, which mathematically is simply defined as: $$T = \dfrac{\partial U}{\partial ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

Why are atoms particles?

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of particle is as follows: "A component of the physical world smaller than the atom." I read an article in NewScientist and it said "...all particles from ...
29
votes
10answers
60k views

What do people actually mean by “rolling without slipping”?

I have never understood what's the meaning of the sentence "rolling without slipping". Let me explain. I'll give an example. Yesterday my mechanics professor introduced some concepts of rotational ...
31
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4answers
3k views

The physical definition of work seems paradoxical [duplicate]

So this is possibly a misunderstanding of the meaning of work, but all the Physics texts, sites, and wiki that I've read don't clear this up for me: In the simplest case with the simplest statement, ...
7
votes
2answers
5k views

Understanding terms Twist and Wrench

In kinematics, physics and especially robotics, we often encounter the terms Twist and Wrench. Twist is (LinearVelocity, AngularVelocity) and Wrench is (Force, Torque). The reason I'm confused is I ...
15
votes
5answers
16k views

Why is the space-time interval squared?

The space-time interval equation is this: $$\Delta s^2=\Delta x^2+\Delta y^2+\Delta z^2-(c\Delta t)^2$$ Where, $\Delta x, \Delta y, \Delta z$ and $\Delta t$ represent the distances along various ...
7
votes
4answers
875 views

What exactly is $F$ in $W = \int_{a}^{b} F dx$?

I am trying to teach myself some basic physics, here is something I do not really understand about the definition of work: When moving from $a$ to $b$ (in one dimension), the work done is defined to ...
10
votes
2answers
466 views

What does it mean for an action to be invariant under $x \to x'$, $\phi \to \phi'$?

I'm suddenly getting very confused about a basic question. Suppose somebody tells you that the action is invariant under the transformation $$x \to x', \quad \phi(x) \to \phi'(x').$$ I realize this ...
7
votes
1answer
940 views

Difference between Fermi and Riemann normal coordinates

What is the difference between Fermi normal coordinates and Riemann normal coordinates? Which one of them is related to the vanishing of the Christoffel symbols?
4
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1answer
2k views

What is “charge discreteness”?

I assume it is some kind of quantity. Google only made things more confusing. I get that it has something to do with circuits. I also get what a discrete charge is. In fact, I thought charges were,...
2
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3answers
6k views

Which one true in First law of thermodynamics: $Q = \Delta U \pm W = \Delta U \pm p\Delta V$ or $\Delta U= \Delta Q + \Delta W $?

Which one true in First law of thermodynamics: $Q = \Delta U \pm W = \Delta U \pm p\Delta V$? (where $\Delta U$ is change of internal energy, $W$ work made by system and $Q=cm\Delta T $ heat made by ...
3
votes
1answer
3k views

Definitions in thermodynamics: temperature, thermal equilibrium, heat

I'm currently reading Fermi's "Thermodynamics" and I'm trying to grasp the (possibly different) right definitions for temperature, thermal equilibrium, heat. To clarify, I'm looking for definitions ...
27
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5answers
4k views

What is the definition of temperature, once and for all? [duplicate]

Can someone please explain to me what the formal definition of temperature is? Neither my textbook, nor my professor, nor any of the online sources I've checked are able to give me a proper ...
23
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3answers
4k views

How is temperature defined, and measured?

In questions like this one, temperatures of millions of degrees (Celsius, Kelvin, it doesn't really matter at that point) are mentioned. But, what does it mean exactly? What is measured, and how? As ...
19
votes
6answers
122k views

What is the difference between stress and pressure?

What is the difference between stress and pressure? Are there any intuitive examples that explain the difference between the two? How about an example of when pressure and stress are not equal?
14
votes
5answers
48k views

What is the exact difference between diffusion, convection and advection?

I have tried to explore the information but still not very clear on the exact difference between diffusion, convection and advection. Can anyone help me out to clear my concept?