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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


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    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

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    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


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    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.
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