The Twisted Garden Hose and the Myth of the Toilet Flush

If you have wrapped your head around why and how the U-shaped tube in the flow meter (described in my previous post) is twisted by the Coriolis force - here is a video of a simple experiment brought to my attention by the author of the quoted article on gyroscope physics: You could also test it … Continue reading The Twisted Garden Hose and the Myth of the Toilet Flush

Intuition and the Magic of the Gyroscope – Reloaded

I am baffled by the fact that my article The Spinning Gyroscope and Intuition in Physics is the top article on this blog so far. So I believe I owe you, dear readers, an update. In the previous article I have summarized the textbook explanation, some more intuitive comments in Feynman's Physics Lectures, and a new … Continue reading Intuition and the Magic of the Gyroscope – Reloaded

Random Thoughts on Temperature and Intuition in Thermodynamics

Recent we felt a disturbance of the force: It has been demonstrated that the absolute temperature of a real system can be pushed to negative values. The interesting underlying question is: What is temperature really? Temperature seems to be an intuitive everyday concept, yet the explanations of 'negative temperatures' prove that it is not. Actually, atoms have … Continue reading Random Thoughts on Temperature and Intuition in Thermodynamics

Joule, Thomson, and the birth of big science

This is a reblogged post:
https://carnotcycle.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/joule-thomson-and-the-birth-of-big-science/

I know that I might be guilty of putting too much emphasis on the fancy / sci-fi / geeky fields in physics, as demonstrated by my recent post on quantum field theory.

In order to compensate for that I want to reblog this excellent post by carnotcycle in order to demonstrate that I really like thermodynamics. And I mean good, old, phenomenological thermodynamics – pistons, steam engines, and seemingly simple machines (that look like exhibits at a steampunk convention).

Classical thermodynamics is underrated (re geekiness) compared to pondering on entropy and the arrow of time or entropy as it is used in computer science.

It is deceptively simple – you might think it is easy to understand the behavior of ideal gases and steam-powered engines. But isn’t it that type of experiments that often baffles the audience in science shows on TV?
The history of the research done by Joule and Thomson could give you a taste of that. I don’t think it is intuitive why or why not a gas should cool when flowing to a region of lower pressure.

carnotcycle

Historical background

In early May 1852, in the cellar of a house in Acton Square, Salford, Manchester (England), two men began working a mechanical apparatus which consisted of the above hand-operated forcing pump attached to a coiled length of lead piping equipped with a stopcock at its far end to act as a throttle.

The two men were the owner of the house, 33-year-old James Joule, a Manchester brewer who was rapidly making a name for himself as a first-rate experimental scientist, and 27-year-old William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin), a maverick theoretician who was already a professor of natural sciences at Glasgow University. Over a period of 10 days, they were to conduct a series of experiments with this highly original apparatus which would serve to crank experimental research into the modern era and herald the birth of what we would now call big science.

What Joule and Thomson were looking for…

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Quantum Field Theory or: It’s More Than a Marble Turned into a Wiggly Line

I had been trained as an experimental physicist which meant I was good at locating vacuum leaks, adjusting lasers and lenses, telling reasonable data from artefacts, and being the only person that ever replenished the paper feed of the X-ray diffractometer (Yes, at that time we used paper records). Exactly because of that I took pride in the … Continue reading Quantum Field Theory or: It’s More Than a Marble Turned into a Wiggly Line

The Spinning Gyroscope and Intuition in Physics

If we would set this spinning top into motion, it would not fall, even if its axis would not be oriented perpendicular to the floor. Instead, its axis would change its orientation slowly. The spinning motion seems to stabilize the gyroscope, just as the moving bicycle is sort of stabilized by its turning wheels. This sounds … Continue reading The Spinning Gyroscope and Intuition in Physics

Sniffing the Path (On the Fascination of Classical Mechanics)

Newton's law has been superseded by relativity and quantum mechanics, and our universe is strange and compelling from a philosophical perspective. Classical Mechanics is dull. I do not believe that. The fundamentals of Newtonian Mechanics can be represented in a way that is different from well-known Force = Mass Times Acceleration - being mathematically equivalent, … Continue reading Sniffing the Path (On the Fascination of Classical Mechanics)

Stupid Questions and So-Called Intuition

At the beginning of my career, I organized a meeting of a research project team. I was still an undergraduate student. The project was concerned with the development of thin superconducting films for microwave circuits, and my task in the project was the optimization of those films. But I was not an expert in waveguides … Continue reading Stupid Questions and So-Called Intuition

Real Physicists Do Not Read Popular Science Books

At least this is what I believed for quite a while. Now I think I was wrong - not only for the reason that also real scientists might enjoy light entertainment or stay informed about their colleagues' science outreach activities. First of all, I am not even sure if I still qualify as a real … Continue reading Real Physicists Do Not Read Popular Science Books