Questions tagged [measurements]

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131
votes
28answers
21k views

How can you weigh your own head in an accurate way?

I read some methods but they're not accurate. They use the Archimedes principle and they assume uniform body density which of course is far from true. Others are silly like this one: Take a knife ...
77
votes
5answers
13k views

How do laser “tape measures” work?

There is a device available for about $\$40$, which fits in the palm of the hand, runs on two AA batteries, and can measure distances up to $50\,{\rm ft}$ to an accuracy of $\sim \frac{1}{8}''$ ($\sim ...
75
votes
3answers
8k views

Can photons be detected without being absorbed?

I am thinking about a detector that would beep if light passes through it. Is it possible?
53
votes
12answers
13k views

Home experiments to derive the speed of light?

Are there any experiments I can do to derive the speed of light with only common household tools?
47
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6answers
12k views

What if the universe is rotating as a whole?

Suppose in the milliseconds after the big bang the cosmic egg had aquired some large angular momentum. As it expanded, keeping the momentum constant (not external forces) the rate of rotation would ...
39
votes
4answers
4k views

What is the quantum mechanical definition of a measurement?

I hear the word "measurement" thrown around a lot in quantum mechanics, and I have yet to hear a scientific definition that makes sense. How do we define it?
34
votes
10answers
8k views

Easy to perform quantitative experiments at home [closed]

What are some easy to perform physics experiments that can be done at home (with not too much special equipment) and that allow to actually measure/plot data and draw conclusions from it? My son is ...
32
votes
6answers
1k views

What is the most precise physical measurement ever performed?

Obviously some things, such as the speed of light in a vacuum, are defined to be a precise value. The kilogram was recently defined to have a specific value by fixing Plank's constant to $6.62607015\...
31
votes
3answers
1k views

Why does interaction with a Stern-Gerlach machine, or any other laboratory apparatus, not cause a measurement?

Consider a Stern-Gerlach machine that measures the $z$-component of the spin of an electron. Suppose our electron's initial state is an equal superposition of $$|\text{spin up}, \text{going right} \...
24
votes
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 ...
24
votes
2answers
8k views

How does one measure the mass of a galaxy? And other such large quantities?

Trained as a pure mathematician, I see claims about the mass of a galaxy and other such huge measurements that are arrived at experimentally, and I just have to scratch my head. I know this is a bit ...
24
votes
1answer
5k views

How did Rømer measure the speed of light by observing Jupiter's moons, centuries ago?

I am interested in the practical method and I like to discover if it is cheap enough to be done as an experiment in a high school.
20
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4answers
3k views

If the LHC-calculated mass of the Higgs is wrong, how long will it take to determine this with confidence? [closed]

After I watched "Particle Fever"--the movie about Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and the successful identification of the Higgs boson--I became a bit concerned with that team's handling of various ...
18
votes
1answer
2k views

Is the Uncertainty Principle valid for information about the past?

My layman understanding of the Uncertainty Principle is that you can't determine the both the position and momentum of a particle at the same point in time, because measuring one variable changes the ...
17
votes
2answers
13k views

Why is carbon dating limit only 40,000 years?

For an example, when they tried to get the carbon dating for presence of Aboriginal people in Australia they get to the number 40,000. But it could be much earlier. Why is that 40,000 years limit for ...
17
votes
7answers
2k views

Can a ultracentrifuge be used to test general relativity?

With today's ultracentrifuge technology, they can spin so fast that the sample can be subjected to accelerations of up to 2 millions Gs. That is equivalent to two solar masses. Has someone tried to ...
16
votes
5answers
299 views

How is anything *not* ultimately a position measurement?

Consider measuring the momentum of an electron. You pass it through some kind of electromagnetic field, it strikes a photodetector (e.g. a CCD), and you back-calculate out the momentum of the ...
16
votes
4answers
1k views

Can we measure an electromagnetic field?

As far as I can check, the Aharonov-Bohm effect is not -- contrary to what is claimed in the historical paper -- a demonstration that the vector potential $A$ has an intrinsic existence in quantum ...
15
votes
3answers
12k views

Home experiments to measure the RPM of a pedestal fan without special equipment?

Is it possible to determine to an approximate degree, the revolutions per minute of a fan, for example a pedesal fan pictured below, without using some electronic/mechanical measuring device? One ...
15
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2answers
1k views

Unambiguous distinguishing of quantum states by local measurement

Let's have two orthogonal n-particle quantum states: $|\psi \rangle$ and $|\phi \rangle$. In theory it is always possible to make an unambiguous measurement. However, things get complicated when one ...
14
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3answers
794 views

What does multiplying two real-world values represent? [duplicate]

I totally get what division means in the real world. "dollars / hour", well, that's the number of dollars you will make in one hour. "kilometers / gallon" is the distance you can go with a gallon of ...
14
votes
2answers
431 views

GHz rate single photon counting

The fluorescent lifetimes of molecules used in biological applications tend to be in the sub-ns to a few ns timescale (let's say 0.8-4). The most direct methods to measure lifetimes typically involve ...
13
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5answers
3k views

How do scientists determine when to disregard a model that has a higher correlation to data than another model?

For any set of data points, you can comprise a 100% correlated and fitted curve using a sum of sloped lines all multiplied by their respective Heaviside step functions to form a zig-zag shaped curve. ...
13
votes
3answers
24k views

How to combine measurement error with statistic error

We have to measure a period of an oscillation. We are to take the time it takes for 50 oscillations multiple times. I know that I will have a $\Delta t = 0.1 \, \mathrm s$ because of my reaction time....
13
votes
2answers
1k views

How precise can current technologies measure the mass of an object?

Masses of various objects are listed on this wikipedia page: Orders of magnitude (mass). For example, mass of an HIV-1 virus is on the order of 1 femtogram. Are these data actually measured (which I ...
13
votes
2answers
350 views

Numerical Simulation of Stochastic Master Equation using Stochastic Schrödinger Equation (Wave Function Monte Carlo)

Consider a time independent system coupled to a Markovian bath, the equation of motion for the density matrix of the system has to take the form \begin{equation} \dot{\rho} = - i \left[H,\rho\right] -...
13
votes
1answer
305 views

How does one compute the state of a quantum system following imperfect measurement?

Suppose I have a quantum system $S$ ("system") with Hamiltonian $H_S$ and initial density matrix $\rho_S(0)$. I allow $S$ to interact with another system $P$ ("probe"), which has Hamiltonian $H_P$ and ...
12
votes
5answers
3k views

Has the speed of light ever been measured in vacuum?

According to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_microwave_background the CMB (Cosmic Microwave Background) "is faint cosmic background radiation filling all space" Also, https://en.wikipedia.org/...
12
votes
3answers
24k views

How is a second measured? And why is it measured that way?

The earth's rotation around the sun isn't exactly 24 hours. It off by some seconds which becomes somewhere around 6 hours per year and 1 day in 4 years(leap year), which brings the question why didn't ...
12
votes
3answers
753 views

If time standard clocks and any memories about the time standard are destroyed, can we recover the time standard again?

Assume the time standard clocks and any memories about the time standard are destroyed. Can we recover the time standard again exactly? Recovering the time standard again means we can determine the ...
12
votes
5answers
335 views

Does a measurement always require the exchange of energy?

Can you measure something about something without adding or removing energy from it? This comment has got me wondering if there is a way to measure a property or a quantity of something without some ...
12
votes
4answers
1k views

Energy Measurements in a Two Fermion Double Well System

This question is related but my question here is much more elementary than discussions of the Pauli principle across the universe. There has been a fair amount of discussion around at the moment on ...
12
votes
2answers
231 views

Is there a fundamental limit to the temporal resolution of signals from space?

In Earth-based experiments, we can measure phenomenon very rapidly in an experiment given appropriate equipment. Clearly if something takes a long exposure to see (due to a weak signal), then the ...
11
votes
10answers
590 views

Could one measure a stick to an arbitrary precision by having its length estimated by enough people?

I remember reading somewhere that the problem of exact time-keeping on ships could have been solved a lot earlier than it was if somebody would have had the idea of keeping time with a whole array of ...
11
votes
7answers
3k views

Shouldn't the Uncertainty Principle be intuitively obvious, at least when talking about the position and momentum of an object?

Please forgive me if I'm wrong, as I have no formal physics training (apart from some in high school and personal reading), but there's something about Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle that strikes ...
11
votes
4answers
6k views

Why does an infrared thermometer display very low temperature when being directed to the outer air?

I'm toying with an infrared thermometer - one which you point onto an object, press the button and it instantly measures the temperature by estimating the infrared radiation from the object. It shows ...
11
votes
3answers
22k views

Rough, easy DIY method of measuring magnetic field strength

How to easily, using standard DIY equipment measure the strength of magnetic field generated by a permanent magnet? Narrowing down the "loose language" of the above: strength of magnetic field: ...
10
votes
11answers
4k views

Is it possible for a physical object to have a irrational length?

Suppose I have a caliper that is infinitely precise. Also suppose that this caliper returns not a number, but rather whether the precise length is rational or irrational. If I were to use this ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

Different precision for masses of moon and earth online

The Google search page for "mass of moon" shows a value with nine significant digits of precision. The corresponding page for "mass of earth" shows a value with only four significant digits. (The ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

How hot is the water in the pot?

Question: How hot is the water in the pot? More precisely speaking, how can I get a temperature of the water as a function of time a priori? Background & My attempt: Recently I started spend ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

How can I weigh liquid in a sealed container?

How do you measure the mass and volume of alcohol if it is in a sealed container? Are there clever ways of achieving this? The weight of the container is not known. I can't open the container, I can'...
10
votes
5answers
1k views

How would I go about detecting monopoles?

A question needed for a "solid" sci-fi author: How to detect a strong magnetic monopole? (yes, I know no such thing is to be found on Earth). Think of basic construction details, principles of ...
10
votes
3answers
671 views

Difference between measurement, state and system in quantum mechanics [duplicate]

This question refers to the following point made in Susskind's book Quantum Mechanics- The Theoretical Minimum: In the classical world, the relationship between the state of a system and the result ...
10
votes
1answer
136 views

Why is the measured distance to the Triangulum Galaxy much more uncertain than to the Andromeda Galaxy?

Why is the measured distance uncertainty for M33 (835 ± 105 kiloparsec) six times bigger than the measured distance uncertainty for M31 (778 ± 17 kiloparsec)? They are approximately at the same ...
10
votes
1answer
176 views

Have we measured the rate at which Jupiter is shrinking?

On most websites that I looked at, it says Jupiter is shrinking 2cm/year (for example wikipedia and Quora). However neither of these website say whether this rate is measurable (the latter says it is ...
9
votes
4answers
2k views

Doesn't the use of a thermometer alter the temperature of the system?

If I place a mercury thermometer in hot water, heat energy will transfer from the water to the mercury inside the thermometer. Will this continue until thermal equilibrium is reached and thus the ...
9
votes
4answers
10k views

Measuring the spin of a single electron

Is it possible to measure the spin of a single electron? What papers have been published on answering this question? Would the measurement require a super sensitive SQUID, Superconductive Quantum ...
9
votes
4answers
23k views

Weight on carpet vs. hard floor

Will the scale say I weigh more, less, or the same on a carpet as compared to a hard floor? You can assume the scale works via spring mechanism. Free body diagrams encouraged!
9
votes
1answer
476 views

Is it possible to determine whether distant galaxies are gravitationally bound

In a previous question, one issue was related to the potential energy of cosmic structures. This raised in particular the question of whether these structures are gravitationally bound. If you ...
9
votes
0answers
248 views

What is actually happening when a magnetoresistive magnetometer degausses itself?

I'm trying to understand if anisotropic magnetoresistive devices themselves (not other passive ferromagnetic components) can become magnetized, and if so, how the application of a DC 1.1 gauss field ...