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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Physics Confession
"You know lightning, right? When electric charge builds up in a cloud and then discharges in a giant spark? Ask me why that happens." "Why does tha--" "No clue. We think it's related to the hair thing."
Title text: "You know lightning, right? When electric charge builds up in a cloud and then discharges in a giant spark? Ask me why that happens." "Why does tha--" "No clue. We think it's related to the hair thing."

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: This is my first contribution it should be looked over by someone before the tag is removed.

A Theory of Everything is a goal of modern physics which would describe the properties of all fundamental particles and all the interactions between them. The current approach to a theory of everything is to describe how at high energies different interactions, such as electromagnetic forces and the strong and weak nuclear interactions merge. It would be possible, in principle to demonstrate how the rest of known physics can be derived from that quantum behavior. This approach, however, leaves many everyday phenomena which are not understood by modern physics. This comic lists several of those phenomena:

The fine detail of how ice skates work is unknown. It is known that they develop a film of water between the skate and the ice that lubricates sliding, but scientists dispute how the film gets there. The commonly held belief is that it is caused by the pressure of the narrow skate; the newer theory that the ice is melted by the friction of movement; but both theories fail to fully explain why skating continues to be possible at temperatures that are significantly below 0 Celsius. Why is ice slippery?

Physicists lack a clear understanding of the interactions involved in the flow of granular materials, such as sand. It is known that the behavior diverges greatly from that of a liquid, but it is unknown exactly how the flow works.PhysicsCentral:Granular Materials

Modern physics also doesn't understand what makes electrons move from one material to another when two materials are rubbed against each other (the triboelectric effect), and why the transfer takes more electrons in one direction than in the other.

The title text mentions another common phenomenon that is poorly understood: the separation of charges in a cumulonimbus cloud. It is thought that interactions between ice and water transfer electrons, and then the different motion of ice (as hail) and water droplets in the cloud separates the charge. NOAA How lightning is created.

Transcript

[Megan is facing Ponytail and Cueball.]
Megan: I'll be honest: We physicists talk a big game about the theory of everything, but the truth is, we don't really understand why ice skates work, how sand flows, or where the static charge comes from when you rub your hair with a balloon.


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