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The Restless universe
Introduction to The restless Universe

1 The lawful Universe

2 The clockwork Universe

3 The irreversible Universe

4 The intangible Universe

5 The uncertain Universe

6 Closing items

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Other titles in the Physical World series

Describing motion

Predicting motion

Classical physics of matter

Static fields and potentials

Dynamic fields and waves

Quantum physics: an introduction

Quantum physics of matter

Questions, answers and comments

Question 1.1
Answer and comments
When Jesuits first visited China they spoke about the 'laws of science'. The Chinese thought this was a ridiculous notion: people could be persuaded to obey the laws of the Emperor, but sticks and stones have no intelligence so it is absurd to think of them as 'obeying laws'. How would you respond to this?

See Question 1.1 with its relevant text


Question 1.2 Answer and comments
In principle, according to Newtonian mechanics, it is possible to predict the entire future behaviour of the Universe provided the initial positions and velocities of all the particles in it are known, and the laws describing their interactions are known. List at least two reasons why this goal is, in practice, beyond our reach.

See Question 1.2 with its relevant text


Question 1.3
Answer and comments
When a room-temperature object is placed in a refrigerator, heat flows out of the object and its entropy decreases. Indeed, the refrigerator may be said to be a device for sucking entropy out of warm objects. How can such a decrease in entropy be consistent with the second law of thermodynamics?


See Question 1.3 with its relevant text

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Question 1.4
Answer and comments
Describe one way in which Maxwell's theory satisfied Faraday's desire to find evidence that disturbances at one point in the electromagnetic field would take a finite time to reach other points.


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Question 1.5
Answer and comments
Would it be fair to say that special relativity has the effect of leaving each observer completely free to make his or her own decision about what constitutes time?


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Question 1.6 Answer and comments
In Section 1 it was said that the notion of scientific law was based on the fact that identical situations produced identical outcomes. To what extent does this remain true in quantum physics where identical experiments may produce different outcomes?
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Question 1.7
Answer and comments
Does quantum field theory suffer from the same kind of conflict with simple realism that arose in quantum mechanics?

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Question 1.8
Answer and comments
Express the following numbers using scientific (powers of ten) notation:(a) 2.1 million,(b) 36 000,(c) 1/10,(d) 0.000 05.
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Question 1.9
Answer and comments
List the major revolutions in physics that have occurred since 1650. Describe each in one or two sentences, giving only enough detail to distinguish it from the others.
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Question 1.10
Answer and comments
Describe the concept of a field. Briefly outline the history of this concept from the time of Faraday to the present day.
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Question 1.11 Answer and comments
Briefly describe the opposition that exists between reductionism and emergence.

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Question 1.12 Answer and comments
On the basis of dates of birth and death alone, which of the following pairs of physicists might have been able to meet for a discussion about their scientific discoveries?
(a) Galileo and Newton

(b) Newton and Laplace

(c) Laplace and Coulomb

(d) Coulomb and Faraday

(e) Faraday and Maxwell

(f) Maxwell and Einstein

(g) Einstein and Bohr

(h) Bohr and Heisenberg

(i) Heisenberg and Dirac
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A note on powers of ten and significant figures

Some highlights of physics

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» Questions, answers and comments

Acknowledgements

Index

S207 The Physical World
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