1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Discontinuous processes

  1. Jul 17, 2010 #1
    I am wondering if there are any discontinuous processes in nature and which are they, if any. thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 17, 2010 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Acceleration is often discontinuous. For example starting a car - stepping on the gas changes the acceleration from 0 to something definitely positive.
  4. Jul 17, 2010 #3
    Well if you look at the graphs that's not exactly what seems to happen. You might need to zoom in on time to understand that it's continuous. I don't think acceleration can be considered a discontinuous process.

  5. Jul 18, 2010 #4
    Pretty much everything is discontinuous and quantized.

    Light, momentum, distance, time, etc... are all quantized so its not continuous.
  6. Jul 18, 2010 #5
    My understanding of discontinuous functions would be something like tan theta where it zooms off to infinity as you approach 90 degrees, then returns from the opposite direction.

    I can't think of anything in nature that behaves like that. Even if you found something that appeared to do so, I think that adding another dimension would probably resolve the problem, as it does for tan theta (draw it on a cylinder).
  7. Jul 18, 2010 #6

    Andy Resnick

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I don't know about a *process*, but an oil-water interface is about as discontinuous a phenomenon out there.

    In general, the more fine-grained you model a phenomenon, the smoother things appear. Phase transitions can remain discontinuous, so can a few other effects (caustics, for example).
  8. Jul 18, 2010 #7
    that's really more towards my chemical plate, i never thought of phase trasitions. i am not sure what you mean by caustics but i will look it up.
  9. Jul 18, 2010 #8
    everything you mention does not fit my definition of a process.
  10. Jul 18, 2010 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    His point is that any process involving them (at the quantum level) would be discontinuous.
  11. Jul 18, 2010 #10
    Aha...well I never dragged it one step further. I hope you're right because I will take what you say for granted for now.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook