485 posts tagged with physics.
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What's the most efficient non-moving shape for collecting solar energy?

I am working on a solar water heater, and I am trying to figure out this geometry problem. I know a parabola is the most efficient movable shape to collect the sun's energy, but what is the most efficient fixed shape? It will clearly change with date and lattitude, but given an average day, what shape focus the most energy onto a heating tube? [more inside]
posted by juice boo on Jan 9, 2017 - 6 answers

I'm sleeping with my head in a 6 milliGauss AC magnetic field.

So there's a powerline outside my bedroom window, and I thought, huh. Turns out I'm sleeping with my head in a 6mG AC magnetic field. Help me use physics to stop caring. [more inside]
posted by zeek321 on Jan 1, 2017 - 8 answers

Physics Filter: Height of capillary rise

Where can I buy a glass capillary tube so narrow such that I can see the maximum capillary rise for water? [more inside]
posted by SunPower on Dec 6, 2016 - 3 answers

Need an electromagnetism physics textbook. Difficulty level: No calculus

Please recommend an alegbra/trig-based physics textbook to supplement the free textbook used in my college physics class. [more inside]
posted by Snarl Furillo on Oct 20, 2016 - 4 answers

In lieu of quals...

I'm currently in the first year of a PhD program in physics. Right now I am just taking classes. My school does not have a qualifying exam, and there's not much I need to do outside of my classwork. However, I don't want to live from homework to homework -- so I'd like to set aside some extra time for textbook-reading and problem-solving. Have you done this? Tell me about your experience. [more inside]
posted by miniraptor on Oct 7, 2016 - 8 answers

Why do things look darker when they're wet?

Why do things look darker when they're wet?
posted by pompomtom on Sep 21, 2016 - 2 answers

You are not my doctor or my ethnomusicologist

How much physical force is required to play an Anglo concertina? More specifically: if I'm recovering from surgery and not allowed to lift anything heavier than a milk jug, will playing a concertina be kosher or not?
posted by nebulawindphone on Jun 27, 2016 - 4 answers

How Do I PhD in Physics/Astrophysics?

I have recently gotten rejection letters from all of the PhD programs to which I applied for the coming fall. Now I'm back to square one and I think I need to figure out what's wrong with my approach so far. Basically I want the hive mind to tell me exactly what steps it thinks I should take to find the right school and make my application competitive. Can you help? [more inside]
posted by runcibleshaw on May 23, 2016 - 42 answers

Why don't magnets stick to hard drive platters?

Conventional hard drives are magnetic media, so why is it if you disassemble one and stick a magnet to a platter, you don't feel any magnetic attraction at all? I can understand feeling a very weak level of attraction, but it feels like sticking a magnet to a piece of plastic or wood.
posted by Bugbread on May 12, 2016 - 7 answers

Container Gardening, Now With Less Deck Collapse!

When installing a container garden, does the distribution of weight matter for the safety of the deck it's sitting on? [more inside]
posted by shaka_lulu on Apr 21, 2016 - 8 answers

Orbital Mechanics for Dummies

Where can I learn about the physics of spaceflight if I don't know calculus? What books, movies, video games, websites, etc., would you recommend? [more inside]
posted by contemporarySlob on Apr 5, 2016 - 8 answers

help explain how a plumbing snake works in terms of physics

Spouse has been using an electric eel for the past few days and is curious about the physics of how the snake travels through the pipe. He doesn't understand how the machine pushes the snake in to the pipe or how the snake travels through the pipe. We are having a hard time finding good search terms for this. It's easy to find information on how to use a machine auger, but not easy to know what to look up to understand the physics behind it. Does it have to do with springs? How things coil?
posted by bleary on Mar 29, 2016 - 6 answers

Halliday & Resnick Editions

I picked up the first edition of Halliday & Resnick's Physics from my local bookshop. My goal is to work through it (along with a calculus text) for fun and profit. Will I be missing out on anything important by using the original 1960's text, rather than one of the more recent ones (now titled Fundamentals of Physics)?
posted by stinkfoot on Mar 20, 2016 - 12 answers

Sandy Koufax throws a fast ball... perfectly straight and level....

At the same instant, The three year old fan drops the autographed ball Sandy gave him before the game from the same exact height that Sandy released his pitch. Which one will hit the ground first? [more inside]
posted by Jim_Jam on Jan 22, 2016 - 20 answers

Optical fiber transmitting light gained lengthwise?

Having a brainfart about bare optical fiber that is really bothering me. Tried to google this and while I think the answer is yes my google-fu is failing in a big way. [more inside]
posted by Slackermagee on Dec 30, 2015 - 5 answers

Books about physics (or related subjects) for middle school age girls?

I'm looking for books that either explain concepts in physics or encourage an interest in physics topics that are likely to be accessible and interesting for ~13 year old girls who are keen on science. What are the contemporary equivalents of "A Brief History of Time" and "Einstein's Dreams" for kids today? Related fields are welcome. [more inside]
posted by eotvos on Dec 3, 2015 - 25 answers

Water if life. What would life be like with less water?

What would happen to earth if we suddenly had 10% less water? The mass of the planet would change, so would our orbit? Would weather and seasons change? Would it affect tides and the moon? At what point would we begin to suffer? Is it 10% or 20% or 50%? [more inside]
posted by krautland on Nov 7, 2015 - 7 answers

"Floating" grand jeté videos

Are there any good videos of "floating" grand jetés on YouTube (or other online streaming video sites)? [more inside]
posted by Johnny Assay on Oct 26, 2015 - 10 answers

Why no dew on car in the morning?

Why is it that in the morning that a car parked overnight in the garage has no condensation on it but a car parked outside in the driveway is covered with dew? The garage in question is completely open on one end since it's an old horse barn with no doors. I would think the atmosphere in the garage (relative humidity and temp) would be virtually identical to the outside.
posted by Kevin S on Oct 11, 2015 - 8 answers

Physics and Calculus not for Dummies

What are the best resources for a crash course in Calculus and Physics? [more inside]
posted by stormygrey on Oct 1, 2015 - 11 answers

Did I sell myself short?

I'm currently in the very very early research stages of making a career change and I'm starting to think that I sold myself short in regards to my education. I have a Bachelor of Arts in History and, well, I've really been struggling to find "my place" in the career world for the last 5 years. I'm starting to think I sold myself short by not pursuing more math/science related careers. Is it too late for me to maybe find a career in STEM I would enjoy? [more inside]
posted by modesty.blaise on Sep 26, 2015 - 19 answers

Why do some things that can get very hot cool much faster than others?

It makes sense that things being very hot take a long time to cool off, it makes sense that some materials don't get too hot and others hold heat for a very long time, but how is it possible that some material can both get extremely hot while also cooling off very quickly? [more inside]
posted by basehead on Sep 23, 2015 - 9 answers

How can a physics postdoc transition to climate science?

Asking for a friend: I am currently a postdoc who researches black holes, but I'm interested in changing fields. In particular, I'd like to do something in climate science. How can I go about this? [more inside]
posted by rubyrudy on Sep 8, 2015 - 5 answers

What if there were no spoon, Neo?

I sometimes make iced coffee by placing a glass mason jar filled with ice into my single serve coffee maker and letting it brew / fill with hot coffee. I include a metal spoon inside the jar to act as a kind of heat sink and prevent the glass from breaking due to thermal stress. But should I bother? Does that spoon actually do anything?
posted by zarq on Aug 19, 2015 - 8 answers

Are noise-cancelling headphones damaging my hearing?

According to my understanding of how noise-cancelling headphones work, the headphones detect low-frequency ambient noise levels near my ears, and emit a frequency which cancels out the ambient noise, so that instead I hear silence in place of the noise. Although I can't hear these noise-cancelling frequencies, I'm wondering whether they might be having a cumulative negative effect on my hearing. Is it only audible frequencies that have the potential to harm? Or can prolonged exposure to inaudible frequencies have a detrimental physical effect?
posted by paleyellowwithorange on Jul 19, 2015 - 9 answers

How to self-study science from textbooks like a boss?

I'm an (older) grad student doing research in applied physics. I've ticked all my class requirements but have a shortlist of subjects I feel would be useful to my research and my career. I've translated these into a list of reputable, recommended textbooks to read. I've started reading those, usually in the evenings after all daily tasks are complete, and I enjoy it very much - but does anyone have tips to maximize the payoff of those reading hours? [more inside]
posted by Riton on Jul 15, 2015 - 10 answers

Where does the potential energy go?

So, imagine we have a 100 meter tall tower, a 100 kg weight, and a rocket. Consider the following two, very similar scenarios... [more inside]
posted by CustooFintel on Jul 13, 2015 - 22 answers

STEM Mentoring/Educational Resources for a 12-year-old girl?

Hi everyone, My younger sister is 12, very smart, and has expressed interest in becoming a scientist. She loves physics and astronomy, especially, but she may have some untapped interest in other scientific fields as well. [more inside]
posted by themaskedwonder on Jul 7, 2015 - 9 answers

science and art are pretty much the same thing in my eyes

Career-advise me! Fellow mefites who enjoy both the humanities and the sciences: which did you pick for your career, and why? Or: were you able to somehow combine the two? Bonus points if you have experience with the medical field. [more inside]
posted by gemutlichkeit on Jun 19, 2015 - 8 answers

Spontaneous creation out of nothing

I have a physics question, but my googling hasn't been able to provide anything satisfactory tonight. It's about cosmological models of creation in which NO initial conditions whatsoever are assumed. [more inside]
posted by naju on Jun 4, 2015 - 14 answers

Royalty-free space art / photography?

Where can I find royalty free photography and art for science fiction and space? Things like black holes, worm holes, spaceships, and futuristic technology? I'm looking for something with a Weyland Industries vibe to it.
posted by cyrusw8 on May 28, 2015 - 4 answers

What would happen if the moon broke up?

Neal Stephenson's new novel, Seveneves, starts with the moon breaking up into seven pieces (spoilers for the first 50 pages of the book inside). [more inside]
posted by pombe on May 25, 2015 - 12 answers

The Mathematics Of Time

So I have a few years to kill and I'd like to spend them fully understanding what physicists and mathematicians know about time. I'm not looking for any sort of summary, I want to understand the math from the bottom up. I once caught my father going through the Annus Mirabilis papers with a red pen; that's the sort of proficiency I have in mind. [more inside]
posted by Tell Me No Lies on Apr 25, 2015 - 12 answers

Physicist looking to change careers; difficulty level: Rhode Island

I need help evaluating different career paths as I plan a move to Rhode Island; I have a PhD in physics. What careers should I be looking into and what skills should I develop to have a very good chance of landing a job in under a year? [more inside]
posted by geekBird on Apr 22, 2015 - 9 answers

A Furious 7 physics question [spoilers]

After seeing Furious 7 this weekend, a physics question came up about weight and leverage. Spoilers and such below the break. [more inside]
posted by thecjm on Apr 13, 2015 - 11 answers

The Bobcat or the Tiger?

I got accepted to two PhD programs in physics, one at Clemson University, and the other at Ohio University. I have one week to make my decision and I'm frankly terrified of making the wrong one. I don't really know how either school is seen in terms of what a degree from either one would mean for my future career. I know that neither is particularly well known or prestigious (at least I'd never heard of them before I applied). So, can anyone, especially anyone who knows the ins and outs of grad school, and particularly anyone who has attended either (or both!) help me make my decision? [more inside]
posted by runcibleshaw on Apr 7, 2015 - 71 answers

Water physics

Earlier today I was warming up a test tube in chem lab by placing its bottom in a warm stream of water from a faucet and I noticed something peculiar; the stream of water seemed to capture the test tube and hold it in place. [more inside]
posted by aldurtregi on Mar 30, 2015 - 4 answers

Baseball meets tennis racket

Another question from the "things my 9-year-old asked me and Google can't find" file: what would happen if you tried to hit a major league fastball with a tennis racket? Would the ball rip through the strings? Or would you actually be able to hit the ball back with distance? Would you hurt yourself?
posted by escabeche on Mar 24, 2015 - 6 answers

Probability distributions and their practical applications

I am looking for a resource that lists probability distributions and their common real-world applications. For example, I'd expect to see: Lognormal - daily returns in the stock market. Poisson - failure rates for mechanical equipment, ... [more inside]
posted by wivy on Feb 19, 2015 - 6 answers

Water park physics

What happens if your group exceeds the weight limit on a slide at the water park? [more inside]
posted by dontjumplarry on Feb 14, 2015 - 11 answers

Would one drown in a deep pool of baby oil?

If you dove into an 11ft pool of baby oil, would you be able to push yourself to the surface or would you drown? AKA what allows us to float? [more inside]
posted by tunewell on Feb 7, 2015 - 14 answers

Giant numbers (Ex: how many primes are smaller than the largest known?)

Many sites say that the largest known prime is "2^57,885,161 − 1, a number with 17,425,170 digits." Given this and well known research about the density of primes, I think it's at least possible to estimate the number of primes between 1 and 2^57,885,161 − 1. But I don't know how to do this myself. I really want the answer to this one (the order of magnitude at least), but I've got lots of these, and I'd ideally like more cool ones. :) [more inside]
posted by ch3cooh on Feb 7, 2015 - 15 answers

Netherlands Master's in education vs teaching experience in Asia, which?

I have a B.Sc in computer science and have one year of experience English using my CELTA qualification. Looking around, I see a lot of requests for people with North American B.Sc's to teach Math/Physics/CS in Asia. I'm trying to decide whether to go and start teaching, or whether it is better to get a state teaching qualification (2yr) in the Netherlands first... [more inside]
posted by jpziller on Jan 13, 2015 - 4 answers

Gravity fail

I'm sure you've all seen the quite obvious and silly "gravity will fail" hoax. It got me wondering...if all the planets, stars, asteroids, comets, black holes, etc (basically all known physical matter) were to somehow align on one side of the planet would the cumulative gravity exceed Earth's? I asked my dad (a doctor of nuclear chemistry) and he was stumped. Exclude dark matter for these purposes.
posted by karst on Jan 6, 2015 - 24 answers

Calculating radiation received at distance from light source?

How do I calculate the radiation energy that a surface / object receives at distance d from a light source of power W watts? I'm familiar, in theory, with the inverse square law but need help thinking about how to apply it. [more inside]
posted by Joey Buttafoucault on Dec 16, 2014 - 6 answers

How to start a conversation with a physicist

I have been invited to dinner at the home of Russian emigre's who are both physicists. I work administratively at a medical school. The context of the dinner is that the couple are clients of my partner, who is an artist. Other than Putin jokes, or asking them to explain string theory, does anybody have any suggestions for conversation starters that won't make me seem like I failed my "physics for poets" class in undergrad? [more inside]
posted by lolo341 on Nov 14, 2014 - 22 answers

What is a ket

Quantum physicists of MeFi: I want to know all the quantum mechanics I need to know to understand quantum computing. I am mathematically literate and willing to learn more math, but I want to minimize my need to study physical phenomena or experimental results. [more inside]
posted by vogon_poet on Nov 4, 2014 - 10 answers

Convert water measurement into speed measurement?

I have a hose that can put out water at 60 litres per second (16 gallons per second) and I want to know if this hose can roughly replicate a wind speed of 275 kilometres per hour (170mph). We will put an object right in front of the hose - so there will be little pressure fall-off from the hose. Is this conversion measurement at all possible? I don't mind if the answer is a little approxiamate.
posted by meech on Oct 5, 2014 - 22 answers


I need help thinking of cool ways to spend $30k or more for high school physics equipment! If you're a physics teacher, or had a great physics teacher in high school (or college), tell me what equipment makes for inspiring and effective physics education. [more inside]
posted by Salvor Hardin on Sep 27, 2014 - 9 answers

How to commission a scientific illustration?

My co-authors and I recently got a paper accepted to a major scientific journal. If we can provide a striking illustration, I think we have a decent chance to make the cover. That would be really cool and might be worth paying an external illustrator for. I never commissioned any artwork before, so I have questions about how to proceed. [more inside]
posted by Herr Zebrurka on Sep 20, 2014 - 7 answers

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