All Questions

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
367 votes
7 answers
55k views

Did the Big Bang happen at a point?

TV documentaries invariably show the Big Bang as an exploding ball of fire expanding outwards. Did the Big Bang really explode outwards from a point like this? If not, what did happen?
182 votes
13 answers
28k views

Why does space expansion not expand matter?

I have looked at other questions on this site (e.g. "why does space expansion affect matter") but can't find the answer I am looking for. So here is my question: One often hears talk of space ...
user avatar
  • 1,935
96 votes
8 answers
55k views

What is the relation between electromagnetic wave and photon?

At the end of this nice video (https://youtu.be/XiHVe8U5PhU?t=10m27s), she says that electromagnetic wave is a chain reaction of electric and magnetic fields creating each other so the chain of wave ...
user avatar
  • 1,431
172 votes
21 answers
147k views

Given Newton's third law, why are things capable of moving?

Given Newton's third law, why is there motion at all? Should not all forces even themselves out, so nothing moves at all? When I push a table using my finger, the table applies the same force onto my ...
user avatar
  • 1,755
307 votes
1 answer
116k views

Resource recommendations [closed]

Every once in a while, we get a question asking for a book or other educational reference on a particular topic at a particular level. This is a meta-question that collects all those links together. ...
197 votes
13 answers
87k views

Why don't electrons crash into the nuclei they "orbit"?

I'm having trouble understanding the simple "planetary" model of the atom that I'm being taught in my basic chemistry course. In particular, I can't see how a negatively charged electron can stay ...
user avatar
  • 4,872
164 votes
14 answers
71k views

Why does holding something up cost energy while no work is being done?

I read the definition of work as $$W ~=~ \vec{F} \cdot \vec{d}$$ $$\text{ Work = (Force) $\cdot$ (Distance)}.$$ If a book is there on the table, no work is done as no distance is covered. If I ...
user avatar
  • 5,021
93 votes
9 answers
14k views

What is time, does it flow, and if so what defines its direction?

This is an attempt to gather together the various questions about time that have been asked on this site and provide a single set of hopefully authoritative answers. Specifically we attempt to address ...
76 votes
9 answers
15k views

Why is there a controversy on whether mass increases with speed?

Some people say that mass increases with speed while others say that the mass of an object is independent of its speed. I understand how some (though not many) things in physics are a matter of ...
user avatar
  • 1,096
75 votes
6 answers
24k views

Is the total energy of the universe zero?

In popular science books and articles, I keep running into the claim that the total energy of the Universe is zero, "because the positive energy of matter is cancelled out by the negative energy of ...
user avatar
115 votes
16 answers
16k views

Is it possible for information to be transmitted faster than light by using a rigid pole?

Is it possible for information (like 1 and 0s) to be transmitted faster than light? For instance, take a rigid pole of several AU in length. Now say you have a person on each end, and one of them ...
user avatar
  • 6,709
115 votes
14 answers
31k views

How can anything ever fall into a black hole as seen from an outside observer?

The event horizon of a black hole is where gravity is such that not even light can escape. This is also the point I understand that according to Einstein time dilation will be infinite for a far-away-...
user avatar
  • 1,549
113 votes
8 answers
34k views

What is $\Delta t$ in the time-energy uncertainty principle?

In non-relativistic QM, the $\Delta E$ in the time-energy uncertainty principle is the limiting standard deviation of the set of energy measurements of $n$ identically prepared systems as $n$ goes to ...
user avatar
  • 1,155
137 votes
11 answers
19k views

How fast does gravity propagate?

A thought experiment: Imagine the Sun is suddenly removed. We wouldn't notice a difference for 8 minutes, because that's how long light takes to get from the Sun's surface to Earth. However, what ...
user avatar
63 votes
7 answers
12k views

If I run along the aisle of a bus traveling at (almost) the speed of light, can I travel faster than the speed of light?

Let's say I fire a bus through space at (almost) the speed of light in vacuum. If I'm inside the bus (sitting on the back seat) and I run up the aisle of the bus toward the front, does that mean I'm ...
user avatar
  • 773
196 votes
9 answers
254k views

If photons have no mass, how can they have momentum?

As an explanation of why a large gravitational field (such as a black hole) can bend light, I have heard that light has momentum. This is given as a solution to the problem of only massive objects ...
user avatar
  • 2,616
73 votes
4 answers
14k views

If a mass moves close to the speed of light, does it turn into a black hole?

I'm a big fan of the podcast Astronomy Cast and a while back I was listening to a Q&A episode they did. A listener sent in a question that I found fascinating and have been wondering about ever ...
user avatar
  • 841
142 votes
7 answers
27k views

A list of inconveniences between quantum mechanics and (general) relativity?

It is well known that quantum mechanics and (general) relativity do not fit well. I am wondering whether it is possible to make a list of contradictions or problems between them? E.g. relativity ...
user avatar
  • 6,433
127 votes
7 answers
14k views

Calculus of variations -- how does it make sense to vary the position and the velocity independently?

In the calculus of variations, particularly Lagrangian mechanics, people often say we vary the position and the velocity independently. But velocity is the derivative of position, so how can you treat ...
user avatar
  • 1,875
145 votes
2 answers
25k views

Does the Planck scale imply that spacetime is discrete?

On a quantum scale the smallest unit is the Planck scale, which is a discrete measure. There several question that come to mind: Does that mean that particles can only live in a discrete grid-like ...
user avatar
  • 3,601
79 votes
10 answers
12k views

What is time dilation really?

Please will someone explain what time dilation really is and how it occurs? There are lots of questions and answers going into how to calculate time dilation, but none that give an intuitive feel for ...
101 votes
15 answers
15k views

What is the proper way to explain the twin paradox?

The paradox in the twin paradox is that the situation appears symmetrical so each twin should think the other has aged less, which is of course impossible. There are a thousand explanations out there ...
63 votes
5 answers
13k views

Can space expand with unlimited speed?

According to this article on the European Space Agency web site just after the Big Bang and before inflation the currently observable universe was the size of a coin. One millionth of a second later ...
user avatar
  • 733
459 votes
18 answers
48k views

How does gravity escape a black hole?

My understanding is that light can not escape from within a black hole (within the event horizon). I've also heard that information cannot propagate faster than the speed of light. It would seem to ...
user avatar
  • 4,709
259 votes
11 answers
61k views

Don't heavier objects actually fall faster because they exert their own gravity?

The common understanding is that, setting air resistance aside, all objects dropped to Earth fall at the same rate. This is often demonstrated through the thought experiment of cutting a large object ...
user avatar
  • 2,828
71 votes
12 answers
15k views

Is the wave-particle duality a real duality?

I often hear about the wave-particle duality, and how particles exhibit properties of both particles and waves. However, I wonder, is this actually a duality? At the most fundamental level, we 'know' ...
user avatar
  • 1,435
60 votes
2 answers
14k views

How do I construct the $SU(2)$ representation of the Lorentz Group using $SU(2)\times SU(2)\sim SO(3,1)$ ?

This question is based on problem II.3.1 in Anthony Zee's book Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell Show, by explicit calculation, that $(1/2,1/2)$ is the Lorentz Vector. I see that the ...
user avatar
  • 1,447
85 votes
6 answers
17k views

What is spin as it relates to subatomic particles?

I often hear about subatomic particles having a property called "spin" but also that it doesn't actually relate to spinning about an axis like you would think. Which particles have spin? What does ...
user avatar
  • 1,377
84 votes
9 answers
13k views

What really causes light/photons to appear slower in media?

I know that if we solve the Maxwell equation, we will end up with the phase velocity of light being related to the permeability and the permittivity of the material. But this is not what I'm ...
user avatar
  • 2,372
19 votes
2 answers
6k views

Invariance of Lagrangian in Noether's theorem

Often in textbooks Noether's theorem is stated with the assumption that the Lagrangian needs to be invariant $\delta L=0$. However, given a lagrangian $L$, we know that the Lagrangians $\alpha L$ (...
user avatar
  • 2,602
44 votes
4 answers
14k views

Do virtual particles actually physically exist?

I have heard virtual particles pop in and out of existence all the time, most notable being the pairs that pop out beside black holes and while one gets pulled away. But wouldn't this actually violate ...
user avatar
39 votes
5 answers
8k views

Does a photon in vacuum have a rest frame?

Quite a few of the questions given on this site mention a photon in vacuum having a rest frame such as it having a zero mass in its rest frame. I find this contradictory since photons must travel at ...
user avatar
65 votes
10 answers
162k views

Would time freeze if you could travel at the speed of light?

I read with interest about Einstein's Theory of Relativity and his proposition about the speed of light being the universal speed limit. So, if I were to travel in a spacecraft at (practically) the ...
user avatar
287 votes
17 answers
73k views

Why does kinetic energy increase quadratically, not linearly, with speed?

As Wikipedia says: [...] the kinetic energy of a non-rotating object of mass $m$ traveling at a speed $v$ is $\frac{1}{2}mv^2$. Why does this not increase linearly with speed? Why does it take so ...
user avatar
65 votes
8 answers
11k views

Why is the observable universe so big?

The observable universe is approximately 13.7 billion years old. But yet it is 80 billion light years across. Isn't this a contradiction?
user avatar
  • 3,097
271 votes
16 answers
76k views

What really allows airplanes to fly?

What aerodynamic effects actually contribute to producing the lift on an airplane? I know there's a common belief that lift comes from the Bernoulli effect, where air moving over the wings is at ...
user avatar
  • 73.9k
141 votes
7 answers
25k views

Why are there only derivatives to the first order in the Lagrangian?

Why is the Lagrangian a function of the position and velocity (possibly also of time) and why are dependences on higher order derivatives (acceleration, jerk,...) excluded? Is there a good reason for ...
user avatar
  • 2,268
110 votes
9 answers
20k views

Why is quantum entanglement considered to be an active link between particles?

From everything I've read about quantum mechanics and quantum entanglement phenomena, it's not obvious to me why quantum entanglement is considered to be an active link. That is, it's stated every ...
user avatar
60 votes
8 answers
9k views

What are the various physical mechanisms for energy transfer to the photon during blackbody emission?

By conservation of energy, the solid is left in a lower energy state following emission of a photon. Clearly absorption and emission balance at thermal equilibrium, however, thermodynamic equilibrium ...
user avatar
27 votes
3 answers
4k views

How do I show that there exists variational/action principle for a given classical system?

We see variational principles coming into play in different places such as Classical Mechanics (Hamilton's principle which gives rise to the Euler-Lagrange equations), Optics (in the form of Fermat's ...
user avatar
114 votes
7 answers
59k views

Is the universe fundamentally deterministic?

I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask this question. I realise that this maybe a borderline philosophical question at this point in time, therefore feel free to close this question if you ...
user avatar
  • 1,228
27 votes
2 answers
7k views

Deriving the Coulomb force equation from the idea of photon exchange?

Since Newton's law of gravitation can be gotten out of Einstein's field equatons as an approximation, I was wondering whether the same applies for the electromagnetic force being the exchange of ...
user avatar
  • 3,629
92 votes
11 answers
11k views

Why are differential equations for fields in physics of order two?

What is the reason for the observation that across the board fields in physics are generally governed by second order (partial) differential equations? If someone on the street would flat out ask me ...
user avatar
  • 7,897
74 votes
11 answers
52k views

Why is the charge naming convention wrong?

I recently came to know about the Conventional Current vs. Electron Flow issue. Doing some search I found that the reason for this is that Benjamin Franklin made a mistake when naming positive and ...
user avatar
  • 1,211
55 votes
4 answers
136k views

How does gravity work underground?

Would the effect of gravity on me change if I were to dig a very deep hole and stand in it? If so, how would it change? Am I more likely to be pulled downwards, or pulled towards the edges of the hole?...
user avatar
82 votes
9 answers
207k views

Why doesn't the Moon fall onto the Earth?

Why doesn't the Moon fall onto the Earth? For that matter, why doesn't anything rotating a larger body ever fall onto the larger body?
user avatar
74 votes
4 answers
33k views

What is the mechanism behind the slowdown of light/photons in a transparent medium?

So light travels slower in glass (for example) than in a vacuum. What causes light to slow down? Or: How does it slow down? If light passes through the medium, is it not essentially traveling in the "...
user avatar
  • 943
57 votes
12 answers
40k views

Why and how is the speed of light in vacuum constant, i.e., independent of reference frame?

I was told that the Galilean relative velocity rule does not apply to the speed of light. No matter how fast two objects are moving, the speed of light will remain same for both of them. How and why ...
user avatar
  • 5,021
116 votes
10 answers
34k views

Why the Principle of Least Action?

I'll be generous and say it might be reasonable to assume that nature would tend to minimize, or maybe even maximize, the integral over time of $T-V$. Okay, fine. You write down the action ...
user avatar
102 votes
6 answers
10k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 2,885

15 30 50 per page
1
2 3 4 5
606