Questions tagged [physical-chemistry]

Study of macroscopic and microscopic phenomena in chemical systems in terms of physical laws and concepts [thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, kinetic theory, quantum mechanics...].

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116
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6answers
13k views

Why does the humidifier make a stove's flame orange?

Just like this guy's, the color of my stove's flames were affected by the humidifier as well. Why does this happen? Is it a good thing or a bad thing ?
116
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2answers
11k views

Why does ice cream get harder when colder?

What would seem to be a silly question actually does have some depth to it. I was trying to scoop out some of my favorite soft name-brand ice cream when I noticed it was frozen solid, rather than its ...
80
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4answers
7k views

Why doesn't water actually perfectly wet glass?

According to many high school textbook sources, water perfectly wets glass. That is, the adhesion between water and glass is so strong that it is energetically favorable for a drop of water on glass ...
65
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5answers
140k views

Why do grapes in a microwave oven produce plasma?

Some of you may know this experiment (Grape + Microwave oven = Plasma video link): take a grape that you almost split in two parts, letting just a tiny piece of skin making a link between each half-...
58
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6answers
15k views

What enables protons to give new properties to an atom every time one is added?

How does adding one more particle to the nucleus of an atom give that atom new properties? I can see how it changes it's mass, that's obvious... But how does it give that new atom different properties ...
53
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2answers
4k views

Why does sound absorption in oceans depend on the pH?

I was reading "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History", by Elizabeth Kolbert, and there she comments that high level of $CO_{2}$ in the atmosphere lowers the pH of oceans (which makes sense) and, ...
43
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1answer
6k views

Why doesn't soda go flat immediately after opening?

So, soda is under pressure and has gas dissolved in it. But, when you open it, the gas is still dissolved in it. But, if we wait a few hours, the gas has escaped into the atmosphere. What factors ...
41
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2answers
11k views

Why doesn't increasing the temperature of something like wood or paper set them on fire?

Imagine we have paper book. If we put this into a pan and increase its temperature, this book would not catch on fire. If on the other hand the book interacts with this heat source directly, it does ...
33
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10answers
7k views

Are there physical properties that can be used to differentiate stainless steel from copper in a home environment? [closed]

So the backstory is that I purchased a reusable drinking straw that is copper coloured, but is advertised to be stainless steel. That got me thinking about whether I could be sure it was one or the ...
32
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6answers
8k views

Where should a physicist go to learn chemistry?

I took an introductory chemistry course long ago, but the rules seemed arbitrary, and I've forgotten most of what I learned. Now that I have an undergraduate education in physics, I should be able to ...
30
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4answers
8k views

How is it possible that the energy needed to stop a train is the same as the (chemical) energy in a pack of chocolate cookies?

Today my friend told me something that blew my mind completely. He said: The energy necessary to stop a train is equal to the energy in a pack of cookies. How is that possible? Is he right? I'm ...
29
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4answers
10k views

Why does temperature remain constant when water is boiling?

As I understand it, during boiling the input of heat destroys or re-arranges the hydrogen bonds. It is used, in other words, against the potential energy of the intermolecular bonds. But if some ...
28
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6answers
12k views

How is water heavier than petrol, even though its molecular weight is less than petrol?

Molecular weight of petrol is so much higher than water, but when it comes to physical property, weight, one litre of water weighs more than one litre of petrol. How is it possible?
28
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4answers
3k views

Could the Periodic Table have been done using group theory?

These three questions are phrased as alternative-history questions, but my real intent is to understand better how well different modeling approaches fit the phenomena they are used to describe; see 1 ...
28
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3answers
45k views

Why does the water rise?

It's a very popular experiment (eg), from elementary school : put a burning candle on a dish filled with water, cover the candle with an inverted glass: after a little while, the candle flame goes ...
27
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6answers
7k views

When I stretch a rubber band, it breaks. When I hold the broken ends together, why doesn't it join again?

The question is simple. When we join the two broken surfaces, what is it that keeps the surfaces from connecting with each other, while earlier they were attached to each other? Also, would the two ...
26
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2answers
418 views

Why is argon a noble gas but not, say, beryllium or palladium?

Why is argon a noble gas given that the 3d subshell is still empty? More generally, why is it that the filling of a p sub-shell makes an element noble rather than s, d, or f sub-shells, or completed n-...
24
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6answers
41k views

How was Avogadro's number first determined?

I read on Wikipedia how the numerical value of Avogadro's number can be found by doing an experiment, provided you have the numerical value of Faraday's constant; but it seems to me that Faraday's ...
23
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3answers
4k views

Why the distribution of elements on Earth?

I've been wondering exactly why the elements are distributed the way they are on Earth. The heavier elements have their origins in the centers of stars, or in supernovae. After the death of the stars, ...
18
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4answers
89k views

Why does ice have a lower density than water?

Can someone explain me why is ice less dense than water? As I know, all solids are usually denser than the liquids (correct me if I am wrong).
18
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4answers
10k views

Boiling water and salt

I would like to have a good understanding of what is happening when you add salt to boiling water. My understanding is that the boiling point will be higher, thus lengthening the process (obtaining ...
18
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3answers
8k views

What is the quantum mechanical explanation of the octet rule?

What is the quantum mechanical explanation of the octet rule? In other words, what makes the octet rule be true from a quantum mechanical view? How we explain what makes some atoms don't follow the ...
16
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4answers
1k views

Is water really $H_2O$? On a comment concerning the quantum mechanical description of water made by Hilary Putnam [closed]

I wanted to pose a question here (also posted to r/physics a bit earlier) and was hoping the you all might be able to help. I was re-reading a book by the philosopher Hilary Putnam titled Naturalism, ...
16
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2answers
5k views

How is the number of electrons in an atom found?

I was wondering, what type of experiments were held to identify the number of electrons in an atom? (For example, how do we say that carbon has 6 electrons and magnesium 12.) I would like someone to ...
16
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3answers
246 views

Theoretical physics for better batteries?

It is Earth day, so I started thinking about the theoretical physics problems that could help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and fight climate change. We actually have a reasonable range of ways to ...
15
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5answers
714 views

Could you please give an intuitive definition of chemical potential?

Could you please give an intuitive definition of chemical potential? It seems that it is an extremely important notion of physics but definitions are really vague.
15
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5answers
22k views

Conversion of mass to energy in chemical/nuclear reactions

Is mass converted into energy in exothermic chemical/nuclear reactions? My (A Level) knowledge of chemistry suggests that this isn't the case. In a simple burning reaction, e.g. $$\mathrm{C + O_2 \...
15
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4answers
8k views

Why does amount of protons define how matter is?

My question might sound convoluted but my mind is twisting right now so my apologies in advanced. Why is it that when I have one proton and one electron it is Hydrogen a clear flammable gas, and ...
14
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2answers
598 views

Implications of parity violation for molecular biology

In biology, the concept of parity emerges in the context of chiral molecules, where two molecules exist with the same structure but opposite parity. Interestingly, one enantiomer often strongly ...
14
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4answers
16k views

Why do covalent bonds form?

why in a covalent bond are "the bonded electrons are in a lower energy state than if the individual atoms held them at the same proximity"? Also is it correct that " I think when you start pushing ...
14
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3answers
681 views

Chemical reaction as state transition?

When considering diffusion of chemicals, the reaction part is business of chemical kinetics, where the relevant characteristics of different substances come from collision theory together with some ...
14
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1answer
655 views

Does soap repel water?

Yesterday when I was taking my bath, I scratched my soap bar a bit and threw that bit on the shower floor. There was a little amount of water on the floor where that soap bit fell. To my surprise, I ...
14
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3answers
441 views

Fluids with critical point at ordinary temperature and pressure

Are there any fluids with critical point near STP or that are supercritical at STP? If not would it be feasible to design a molecule for a substance with critical point near STP using theoretical/...
14
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7answers
17k views

Explanation of “thermite vs ice” explosion

There are several videos of the reaction, where some amount of burning thermite explodes on a contact with ice. An "original" video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuPjlYxUWc8 A Mythbusters ...
14
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2answers
322 views

Why exactly does molten NaCl explode, when it is poured into water?

Why does molten sodium chloride explode, when it is poured into water? $\mathrm{NaCl}$ has high melting point, $1074\,\rm K$ ($801\,\rm^\circ C$). $\mathrm{NaCl}$ has molar mass $58.44\,\rm g/mol$, ...
13
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2answers
2k views

Burning Fuels and Producing Water

I have a question about Optics and how this links to burning fuels in a combustion reaction. If I have hexane, the following reaction occurs: hexane + oxygen $\rightarrow$ carbon dioxide + water ...
13
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2answers
837 views

What is the source for Osmium's colour?

The majority of metals are known for appearing grey to our eyes, cf. e.g. Why are most metals gray/silver? But the main exceptions to this are the "famous" group eleven metals, where their distinctive ...
13
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5answers
2k views

In a Monte Carlo $NVT $simulation how do I determine equilibration?

I'm running an NVT (constant number of particles, volume and temperature) Monte Carlo simulation (Metropolis algorithm) of particles in two dimensions interacting via Lennard-Jonse potential ($U = 4(\...
12
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2answers
3k views

Why heavy elements don't sink to the core?

If earth assembled out of space dust, how come we find heavy elements like gold, silver, uranium and bunch of others that are heavier than iron on the surface? I mean silicon (Si mass 28.084) being ...
12
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2answers
140k views

How can a salt solution conduct electrical current?

How does a sodium chloride solution conduct electricity? I know that sodium chloride dissociates into sodium and chloride ions in water, so when a voltage is applied, those ions can move. However, if ...
12
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3answers
3k views

Why is salt so hard to remove from water?

Water molecules and various salt molecules are very different. However, it seems very difficult to separate the two. Once a salt is dissolved in water, an energy or chemical intensive method (like ...
12
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2answers
846 views

Explaining valence with quantum mechanics

Can anyone give me a quantum mechanical explanation of the theory of valence? (i.e. why atoms bond just enough to have a complete orbital) EDIT: To clarify, I already have an idea of why atoms bond, ...
12
votes
1answer
207 views

Why do cold chocolate bars crack randomly outside the crevasses when twisted?

Why is it that an ordinary chocolate bar (e.g. 4 x 12 pieces) breaks easily where it is supposed to when the chocolate bar is at room temperature or higher but breaks "randomly" when the chocolate is ...
11
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1answer
4k views

How do candles and wicks work?

The wick of my tea candle was buried in wax. So I lit a piece of paper and stuck it in the wax. Now the wax is burning off the paper, as if that were the wick. The wax itself wouldn't light on fire ...
11
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1answer
696 views

What is the argument for detailed balance in chemistry?

Detailed balance is an important property of many classes of physical systems. It can be written as $$ \frac{p_{i \to j}}{p_{j \to i}} = e^{\frac{\Delta G}{k_B T}},\tag{1} $$ where $i$ and $j$ ...
10
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4answers
7k views

Why is the canonical ($NVT$) ensemble often used for (classical) molecular dynamics (MD) simulations?

Molecular dynamics (MD) simulation is a common approach to the (classical) many-body problem. It relies on integration of Newton's equations of motion to simulate the trajectories of many (e.g., ~1,...
10
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3answers
6k views

What makes the difference between ionic and covalent bonds?

Backstory: When I learned about chemical reactions, there were two types of molecular bonds: Ionic, where an atom or compound molecule with a low valence number loses those valence electron(s) to one ...
10
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2answers
2k views

Can we fully simulate molecular physics?

Is our knowledge of physics complete enough to achieve fully natural simulations of molecular interactions in a computer simulation? How far off are we? Reason for question: I wonder how far we are ...
10
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3answers
2k views

Is mass-energy conversion in chemical reactions experimentally observable

This is a common point of argument on internet forums. I think it is fairly well established theoretically that there is a very small amount of mass converted to energy in an exothermic chemical ...
10
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2answers
293 views

What is the specific source(s) of sliding kinetic friction

In simplistic (K-8) physics classes, it seems to be generally instructed that the friction between two moving surfaces is due to the unevenness of each surface and the microscopic roughness. However, ...