# Discontinuous processes

1. Jul 17, 2010

### acherentia

I am wondering if there are any discontinuous processes in nature and which are they, if any. thank you.

2. Jul 17, 2010

### mathman

Acceleration is often discontinuous. For example starting a car - stepping on the gas changes the acceleration from 0 to something definitely positive.

3. Jul 17, 2010

### acherentia

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.

4. Jul 18, 2010

### Curl

Pretty much everything is discontinuous and quantized.

Light, momentum, distance, time, etc... are all quantized so its not continuous.

5. Jul 18, 2010

### AJ Bentley

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).

6. Jul 18, 2010

### Andy Resnick

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).

7. Jul 18, 2010

### acherentia

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.

8. Jul 18, 2010

### acherentia

everything you mention does not fit my definition of a process.

9. Jul 18, 2010

### HallsofIvy

His point is that any process involving them (at the quantum level) would be discontinuous.

10. Jul 18, 2010

### acherentia

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.