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Questions tagged [soft-question]

Questions that ask about some aspect of physics research or study which doesn't involve the actual physics. In general, soft questions can be answered without using physical reasoning.

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67
votes
5answers
10k views

What is more fundamental, fields or particles?

My confusion about quantum theory is twofold: I lack an adequate understanding of how the mathematics of quantum theory is supposed to correspond to phenomena in the physical world I still have an ...
10
votes
4answers
3k views

Misused physics analogies [closed]

Have you noticed that many questions and misconceptions in physics arise due to misuse of analogies, which were invented to "explain in simple words" some physical phenomena? For example there is a "...
67
votes
5answers
16k views

Why is the harmonic oscillator so important?

I've been wondering what makes the harmonic oscillator such an important model. What I came up with: It is a (relatively) simple system, making it a perfect example for physics students to learn ...
24
votes
11answers
25k views

Graduate Physics Problems Books

Need to brush up on my late-undergrad and early-grad physics and was wondering if anyone can recommend books or lecture notes (hard copy, or on-line) that also have solutions. Two that I have come ...
17
votes
8answers
22k views

Which Mechanics book is the best for beginner in math major?

I'm a bachelor student majoring in math, and pretty interested in physics. I would like a book to study for classical mechanics, that will prepare me to work through Goldstein's Classical Mechanics. ...
46
votes
8answers
16k views

How should a physics student study mathematics? [closed]

Note: I will expand this question with more specific points when I have my own internet connection and more time (we're moving in, so I'm at a friend's house). This question is broad, involved, and ...
28
votes
5answers
77k views

What is the math knowledge necessary for starting Quantum Mechanics?

Could someone experienced in the field tell me what the minimal math knowledge one must obtain in order to grasp the introductory Quantum Mechanics book/course? I do have math knowledge but I must ...
39
votes
8answers
62k views

What are the prerequisites to studying general relativity? [closed]

This question recently appeared on Slashdot: Slashdot posts a fair number of physics stories. Many of us, myself included, don't have the background to understand them. So I'd like to ask the ...
53
votes
49answers
12k views

Common false beliefs in Physics [closed]

Well, in Mathematics there are somethings, which appear true but they aren't true. Naive students often get fooled by these results. Let me consider a very simple example. As a child one learns this ...
3
votes
6answers
1k views

Laws and theories

What is a physical law, a theory, and what is the relationship among them? I know this is a very basic question, so any reference to epistemology will be greatly appreciated :)
27
votes
7answers
17k views

How to learn physics effectively and efficiently [closed]

How do you effectively study physics? How does one read a physics book instead or just staring at it for hours? (Apologies in advance if the question is ill-posed or too subjective in its current ...
18
votes
12answers
7k views

Physics the Why vs. How question?

I've been told that a physicist never asks why and must always ask how. Is this true? Have all discoveries in physics been due to asking how? or have some been discovered by asking why?
11
votes
3answers
3k views

Study Quantum Physics

I'm an aspiring physicist who wants to self study some Quantum Physics. My thirst for knowledge is unquenchable and I can not wait 2 more years until I get my first quantum physics class in university,...
13
votes
8answers
2k views

Why beauty is a good guide in physics? [closed]

Dirac once said that he was mainly guided by mathematical beauty more than anything else in his discovery of the famous Dirac equation. Most of the deepest equations of physics are also the most ...
7
votes
6answers
2k views

Physical intuition for higher order derivatives

Could somebody give me an intuitive physical interpretation of higher order derivatives (from 2 and so on), that is not related to position - velocity - acceleration - jerk - etc?
92
votes
20answers
149k views

What software programs are used to draw physics diagrams, and what are their relative merits?

Undoubtedly, people use a variety of programs to draw diagrams for physics, but I am not familiar with many of them. I usually hand-draw things in GIMP which is powerful in some regards, but it is ...
121
votes
2answers
27k views

Reading the Feynman lectures in 2012

The Feynman lectures are universally admired, it seems, but also a half-century old. Taking them as a source for self-study, what compensation for their age, if any, should today's reader undertake? ...
15
votes
9answers
4k views

Is physics rigorous in the mathematical sense?

I am a student studying Mathematics with no prior knowledge of Physics whatsoever except for very simple equations. I would like to ask, due to my experience with Mathematics: Is there a set of ...
2
votes
2answers
337 views

Is escape velocity really a velocity (rather than a speed)?

The term escape velocity is quite common to us. But we know velocity is a dimension dependent on the direction. But the escape velocity has same value irrespective of from where it is thrown from the ...
33
votes
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 ...
7
votes
1answer
661 views

How and why will the Milky Way collide with the Andromeda galaxy?

Hubble's law says that the universe is expanding. How come the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxies are on a collision course? How will they end up colliding with each other?
1
vote
1answer
599 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 ...
29
votes
24answers
40k views

Books that every physicist should read

Inspired by How should a physics student study mathematics? and in the same vein as Best books for mathematical background?, although in a more general fashion, I'd like to know if anyone is ...
28
votes
8answers
7k views

Why is there a size limitation on animals?

Why is there a size limitation on human/animal growth? Assuming the technology exists for man to grow to 200 feet high, it's pretty much a given that the stress on the skeletal structure and joints ...
9
votes
4answers
2k views

Entropy as an arrow of time

From what I understand, entropy is a concept defined by the experimentalist due to his ignorance of the exact microstate of a system. To say the number of accessible microstates $W$ of the universe is ...
17
votes
7answers
13k views

Linear algebra for quantum physics

A week ago I asked people on this site what mathematical background was needed for understanding Quantum Physics, and most of you mentioned Linear Algebra, so I decided to conduct a self-study of ...
17
votes
4answers
10k views

What happens when we cut objects?

What is the role of the molecular bonds in the process of cutting something? What is the role of the Pauli exclusion principle, responsible for the "hardness" of matter? Moreover, is all the energy ...
2
votes
0answers
1k views

Mathematical Prerequisites for QFT [closed]

I am curious about which areas of mathematics one should be comfortable with before learning QFT. I am familiar with the "learn-it-as-you-go" approach often advocated in physics, but would like to ...
19
votes
16answers
5k views

Can pure maths create new theories in physics or does the “idea” ALWAYS come before the math?

I am in a debate with a friend about the value of string theory in physics. He is concerned that we are wasting valuable intellectual and financial resources on a path that is fanciful and can't ever ...
20
votes
2answers
4k views

Are we living in a false vacuum? Is there any way to tell?

I was thinking of the noted 1980 paper by Sidney Coleman and Frank de Luccia--"Gravitational effects of and on vacuum decay"-- about metastable vacuum states that could tunnel to a lower energy "true ...
9
votes
3answers
2k views

What should a physics undergrad aspiring to be a string theorist learn before grad school?

The question I guess is pretty clear. I am a physics undergrad wishing to pursue research in quantum gravity(string theory?). What are the subjects I should learn other than the usual compulsory ...
2
votes
3answers
2k views

Mathematics for Quantum Mechanics [duplicate]

What math should I study if I want to get a basic understanding of quantum mechanics and especially to be able to use the Schrodinger's equation.
1
vote
1answer
760 views

How can you test what color different people perceive? [closed]

If I would show someone a yellow object and ask them, "is this object yellow?" That person would say "yes". But I could never know if my perception of the color yellow is the same as that other ...
2
votes
4answers
380 views

Expansion of the universe and strain

From cosmological models that involve expansion of the universe, can we not say that there are ever increasing tidal forces felt by solid bodies? If so, the material in solid bodies like metal blocks,...
0
votes
1answer
196 views

Is everything in the physical world composite?

In philosophy there is a principle that anything composite cannot have existed eternally, since it is preceded by its parts and whatever forces assembled it. Is everything in the physical world ...
16
votes
6answers
4k views

Do Category Theory and/or Quantum Logic add value in physics?

I know they have their adherents, but do more or less esoteric branches of mathematics such as Category Theory and/or Quantum Logic provide powerful tools for new theory development or are they just ...
31
votes
6answers
4k views

Canonical everyday-life example of a technology that could not work without humans mastering QM in analogy to the application of GR in GPS?

The GPS is a very handy example in explaining to a broad audience why it is useful for humanity to know the laws of general relativity. It nicely bridges the abstract theory with daily life ...
49
votes
8answers
8k views

What technology can result from such expensive experiment as undertaken in CERN?

I wonder what technology can be obtained from such very expensive experiments/institutes as e.g. undertaken in CERN? I understand that e.g. the discovery of the Higgs Boson confirms our understanding ...
25
votes
8answers
7k views

Starting a physics Ph.D. at 60? [closed]

Decades ago I was in a physics Ph.D. program, made a hash of things, and quite rightly was dropped from the program. Since then I've had a very satisfying career as a computer programmer, and picked ...
38
votes
8answers
8k views

Will we ever be able to view the past?

By analogy with the sun, whose light is apparently reaching us in 8 minutes, it means that we are only viewing the sun 8 minutes ago when we look up at it. However, what if we were eventually able to ...
17
votes
3answers
3k views

Is classical electromagnetism a dead research field?

Is classical electromagnetism a dead research field? Are there any phenomena within classical electromagnetism that we have no explanation for?
19
votes
3answers
3k views

Can we tell when an established theory is wrong?

I was reading the following answer from this question: In physics, you cannot ask / answer why without ambiguity. Now, we observe that the speed of light is finite and that it seems to be the ...
19
votes
1answer
4k views

What came first, Rice Crispy or “Snap,” “Crackle,” and “Pop”? [closed]

The fourth, fifth, and sixth derivatives of position are called "Snap" "Crackle" and "Pop". What came first, the rice crispy characters, or the physics units?
7
votes
2answers
8k views

Differences between classical, analytical, rational and theoretical mechanics

Can you explain me what are the differences between the four following subjects? analytical mechanics rational mechanics classical mechanics theoretical mechanics
8
votes
4answers
1k views

Church-Turing hypothesis as a fundamental law of physics

The Church-Turing hypothesis says one can not build a computing device which has more computing power (in terms of computability) than the abstract model of Turing machine. So, there is something in ...
8
votes
3answers
8k views

Equation of everything

Is this equation in the image true? Can you give some topics that I can cover the equation? Similar equation from http://www.preposterousuniverse.com:
20
votes
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 ...
17
votes
3answers
52k views

Is time a Scalar or a Vector?

In Wikipedia it's said that time is a scalar quantity. But its hard to understand that how? As stated that we consider only the magnitude of time then its a scalar. But on basis of time we define ...
5
votes
4answers
5k views

Are quantum mechanics calculations useful for engineering?

I heard it's is pretty tough to get results for more than a few quantum particles. Are quantum mechanical calculations useful at all for any technology that is being sold? Or do they use quasi-...
11
votes
3answers
1k views

Why is the $dx$ right next to the integral sign in QFT literature?

I've noticed that in QFT literature, integrals are usually written as $\int \!dx ~f(x)$ instead of $\int f(x) dx$. Why?