The physics tag has no usage guidance.

**81**

votes

**25**answers

17k views

### A soft introduction to physics for mathematicians who don't know the first thing about physics

There have been similar questions on mathoverflow, but the answers always gave some advanced introduction to the mathematics of quantum field theory, or string theory and so forth. While those may be ...

**81**

votes

**3**answers

6k views

### Has the Lie group E8 really been detected experimentally?

A few months ago there were several math talks about how the Lie group E8 had been detected in some physics experiment. I recently looked up the original paper where this was announced,
"Quantum ...

**74**

votes

**2**answers

108k views

### Perfectly centered break of a perfectly aligned pool ball rack

Imagine the beginning of a game of pool, you have 16 balls, 15 of them in a triangle <| and 1 of them being the cue ball off to the left of that triangle. Imagine that the rack (the 15 balls in a ...

**35**

votes

**6**answers

7k views

### Mathematical explanation of the failure to quantize gravity naively

One often hears in popular explanations of the failure to find a "Grand Unified Theory" that "Gravity goes off to infinity, but cutting off the edges gives us wrong answers", and other similar ...

**33**

votes

**7**answers

4k views

### Companion to theoretical physics for working mathematicians

In the Princeton Companion to Mathematics one reads that even pure mathematicians should know some theoretical physics and applied mathematics. What are some well-organized comprehensive companions to ...

**26**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### When exactly and why matrix multiplication became a part of undergraduate curriculum?

The story about Heisenberg inventing matrices and matrix multiplication in 1925 is very well known and well documented. Few weeks later Born and Jordan picked this and recognized the matrix ...

**25**

votes

**6**answers

4k views

### Explanations for mathematicians, about the falsifiability (or not) of string theory [closed]

Like many other mathematicians, I think string theory very attractive. This theory has wonderfully influenced many new topics in mathematics (I myself have worked on one of them), but it's not the ...

**25**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### How can simple physical “proofs” of mathematical facts be made rigorous?

Mark Levi's The Mathematical Mechanic is a book of examples of how physical reasoning can be used to solve mathematical problems; another couple of examples is in this blog post at Concrete Nonsense. ...

**22**

votes

**11**answers

2k views

### What kind of Lagrangians can we have?

In any physics book I've read the Lagrangian is introuced as as a functional whose critical points govern the dynamics of the system. It is then usually shown that a finite collection of ...

**21**

votes

**5**answers

2k views

### Is symplectic reduction interesting from a physical point of view?

Do you think that symplectic reduction (Marsden Weinstein reduction) is interesting from a physical point of view? If so, why? Does it give you some new physical insights?
There are some possible ...

**20**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### Particle Physics and Representations of Groups

This question is asked from a point of complete ignorance of physics and the standard model.
Every so often I hear that particles correspond to representations of certain Lie groups. For a person ...

**19**

votes

**6**answers

3k views

### Perpetuum Mobile

In 2 hours after posting this, I realized that preserving Liouville measure solves the problem completely. Sorry for disturbing...
Construction of perpetuum mobile:
Consider room with mirror walls ...

**16**

votes

**6**answers

5k views

### Angle Maximizing the Distance of a Projectile

It is well-known that to maximize the horizontal distance traveled by a projectile fired from the ground at a given speed, one should fire it at a $45^\circ$ angle. What's less-known, though not too ...

**15**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### Flux through a Mobius strip

A friend of mine asked me what is the flux of the electric field (or any vector field like
$$
\vec r=(x,y,z)\mapsto \frac{\vec r}{|r|^3}
$$ where $|r|=(x^2+y^2+z^2)^{1/2}$) through a Mobius strip. It ...

**15**

votes

**3**answers

515 views

### An algebraic approach to the thermodynamic limit $N\rightarrow\infty$?

In physics one studies quite often the thermodynamic limit or what we call the $N\rightarrow \infty$ behavior of a system of $N\rightarrow\infty$ particles. This is of particular relevance in the ...

**14**

votes

**5**answers

1k views

### Can the equation of motion with friction be written as Euler-Lagrange equation, and does it have a quantum version?

My (non-expert) impression is that many physically important equations of motion can be obtained as Euler-Lagrange equations. For example in quantum fields theories and in quantum mechanics quantum ...

**13**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### Applications of set theory in physics

In the introduction of the paper "Links between physics and set theory", the following quote of Eris Chric is stated:
"Set theory perhaps is too important to be left just to ...

**12**

votes

**9**answers

2k views

### Newton equations, second order equation and (im)possible motions

I am am currently studying Newtonian mechanics from a conceptional and axiomatic point of view. Now, if I am not mistaken, one (but surely not all) statement of Newtons second law about nature is, ...

**12**

votes

**2**answers

727 views

### What do correlation functions compute in CFT?

I would like to understand what correlation functions compute in Conformal Field Theory in mathematics. Let me begin with basic definitions. We define a free boson field $\phi(z)$ as a formal power ...

**10**

votes

**2**answers

899 views

### Cone shaped solutions to wave equation

When I studied physics, we learned how to write down planar waves and spherical waves. But, when I turn on my flashlight, I see a cone of light. How can I see that there is a solution to the wave ...

**10**

votes

**1**answer

925 views

### What is the “Physically Consistent” proper subset of arithmetic?

Suppose 1st-order arithmetic is inconsistent along with Voevodsky http://video.ias.edu/voevodsky-80th.
It nevertheless remains true that when you have 2 apples and 2 apples, you have 4 apples. ...

**9**

votes

**4**answers

2k views

### Topology of black holes

I've asked this question of some physicist friends of mine and I've never gotten a satisfactory answer: What is topologically possible for a neighborhood of a black hole? To clarify, I'm curious about ...

**9**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### Why do Physicists need unitary representation of Kac-Moody algebra?

My advisor mentioned to me that he talked to Witten last summer on representation theory, and Witten told him that unitary representations of Kac-Moody algebra are important to working physicists. But ...

**9**

votes

**1**answer

3k views

### What is the meaning of symplectic structure? [closed]

Answers can come in mathematical, physical, and philosophical flavors.
Edit: There seems to be a consensus that this question is not formulated well. I must respectfully disagree. My interest in the ...

**9**

votes

**3**answers

892 views

### Is there an observer dependent mathematics? [closed]

Is there any field of mathematics that deals with the role of the observer? E.g., some formulation in which a set is changed, in some unspecified way, when it is observed? Or maybe some philosophy of ...

**9**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### Self-tightening knot

Is there a way, for some finite L>1, to tie two pieces of rope together, such that any finite force is not enough to pull them apart?
The type of rope I have in mind is something like cylindrical ...

**8**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### Derived Physics

Hello to all,
This question will probably be closed down as being off-topic faster than one can say "string theory", but here it goes: I've noticed that the problems I'm working on -the structure of ...

**8**

votes

**2**answers

368 views

### What is the BRST-anti-BRST formalism?

What is the BRST-anti-BRST formalism?
Is the Sp(2) doublet the ghost, antighost pair?
Introductory accounts of this subject seem to be hard to find. I would appreciate a reference for someone who ...

**8**

votes

**1**answer

522 views

### Dimensional regularization in odd dimensions

I am not quite sure that my question below is appropriate for this site, probably it should be addressed to the physical commutity. But I hope that some (mathematical) physicists do attend MO. I have ...

**7**

votes

**1**answer

2k views

### What is the current state of the mathematics of Higgs fields?

Topical. I know there are good mathematical theories in which "Higgs" is used, in a geometrical sense. Would someone care to explain?
To clarify, I'd like to know about Higgs bundles on Riemann ...

**7**

votes

**1**answer

379 views

### Two interacting bodies in an external field

Hope, MO is the right place for this question (if not so: where would you pose it?).
Consider a two-body system in classical mechanics. As long as the interaction depends only on the distance of the ...

**7**

votes

**1**answer

389 views

### A question on chiral rings and geometry of the vacuum bundle

I am reading "Mirror Symmetry" by Hori et al, and have a question on Chap.17 (Chiral rings and geometry of the vacuum bundle). On p.425 the authors say
Consider the path-integral on the ...

**7**

votes

**0**answers

68 views

### Approximation of the effective resistance on Cayley graph

Let $\Gamma$ be a finitely generated group, and denote by $G$ the Cayley graph of $\Gamma$. Denote by $d_R$ the resistance distance metric on this graph. The resistance distance metric between the ...

**6**

votes

**5**answers

2k views

### Optical methods for number theory?

I found a paper: 'A New Method of Finding the Distribution of Prime Number', saying
We stack discs and annuluses with certain rules then turn on the light to illuminate. The projection of ...

**6**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### Homotopy $\pi_4(SU(2))=Z_2$

I am a physics student, recently I read a paper using Homotopy $\pi_4(SU(2))=Z_2$, I guess mathematicians have some visualization or explanation of this result. So I come here ask for help.
...

**6**

votes

**2**answers

719 views

### Quantum mechanics basics [closed]

Hello. I'm thinking about where does the basic quantum mechanics things comes from. I mean the forms of operators and a Shroedinger equation. The more intuitive explanation is better.
To get forms of ...

**6**

votes

**3**answers

539 views

### Literature for gauge field theory on the lattice in geometrical formulation

I have found an article by Huebschmann, Rudolph and Schmidt: http://www.springerlink.com/content/b8v216v0m8h16264/ about "A Gauge Model for Quantum Mechanics on a Stratified Space" and I am very ...

**6**

votes

**1**answer

240 views

### Orbits for homogenous complex polynomials under unitary rotation of variables

Let's have two complex homogeneous polynomials of degree $k$: $f(z_1,\cdots,z_n)$ and $g(z_1,\cdots,z_n)$. We consider rotations of variables in the form of $\vec{z}' = U \vec{z}$, where $U\in SU(n)$.
...

**5**

votes

**2**answers

486 views

### Permuting Racked Pool Balls with a Single Break

Given reasonable physical assumptions (on friction, collisions, etc.), would it be possible to "break" in a pool game such that when all the balls come to rest, the only difference is that the racked ...

**5**

votes

**2**answers

811 views

### Singular K3 — mathematical meaning?

There's a very interesting text by Cumrun Vafa called Geometric Physics.
Here I'm particularly interested in Chapter 4, where we take a Calabi-Yau manifold presented as a degenerating fibration:
...

**4**

votes

**2**answers

3k views

### Something like mathoverflow in other sciences [closed]

Are the sites similar to mathoverflow in other sciences related to mathematics? statistics, computer science, physics, economics, etc?
Let me explain what I mean by "similar": those are sites devoted ...

**4**

votes

**1**answer

466 views

### Impact of LHC on math ? [closed]

LHC (Large Hadron Collider) "... remains one of the largest and most complex experimental facilities ever built". May be it is even the most complex project in humankind's history(?).
Such projects ...

**4**

votes

**1**answer

854 views

### Is there an analogue of mathscinet for physics?

I've been looking recently at some papers in physics, from journals that are not listed in mathscinet. Is there is a similar database for physics, with reviews and citation links? I'd like to see ...

**4**

votes

**2**answers

417 views

### Analytic solution of a system of linear, hyperbolic, first order, partial differential equations

In a try to solve a physical problem, I've faced a system of first-order partial differential equations of the form
...

**4**

votes

**1**answer

802 views

### Minimize Energy for Charge Distributions

I am considering [positive] charge distributions $\rho:M\rightarrow\mathbb{R}_+$ (nonnegative reals) with unit charge $\int_M\rho=1$ for convenience. Here $M$ is a nice-enough region, say a ...

**4**

votes

**1**answer

189 views

### Sites for seeking possible collaborations

As a material scientist, I have recently constructed algorithms for solving ground state of arbitrary cluster interactions models and prepared publications in the field of physics and material ...

**4**

votes

**1**answer

342 views

### About using the character formula for $SO(2n)$.

I have known of the following equation for characters of a $SO(2n)$ representation with highest weights $(h_1,...,h_n)$ and for $(t_1,t_2,..,t_n,t_1^{-1},t_2^{-1},..,t_n^{-1})$ being the eigenvalues ...

**4**

votes

**1**answer

154 views

### reference for higher spin - not gravitational nor stringy

Other than the papers of Berends, Burgers and van Dam, are there any papers that study the general case of deforming a free field theory with higher spin fields to be interactive?

**4**

votes

**1**answer

130 views

### Interpretation for a condition in fluid dynamics

I have been working with some mathematical models in biology and fluid mechanics. My problem is about
the interpretation of a condition that I found for a vector
representing the velocity of a fluid. ...

**3**

votes

**1**answer

575 views

### Which motion is exclusive in 3D or higher dimensions?

Hi guys,
I have a simple question
Linear movement can be found in 1D, 2D and 3D world objects
Rotation can be found in 2D and 3D world objects.
Now, are there any kind of motion can only be found ...