The historical development of physics concepts: who did what and when.

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How did Newton establish his famous third law of motion?

For every action,there is equal and opposite reaction . This is the famous Newton's third law of motion. But how did he come to this conclusion? We can prove 2nd law using calculus. But how did Newton ...
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Which scientists have managed to name their laws/terms after themselves? [closed]

It would be pretty vain for someone to name a scientific law, unit, or term after themselves. "Newtons" as the name for the measurement of force, for example, was adopted in 1948, so I don't expect ...
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46 views

Why is the specific notation used for term symbols useful?

This has bugged me for a long time. Term symbols describe electronic states of atoms which have well-defined total electronic angular momentum $J$ as well as total spin and orbital angular momenta ...
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How did Isaac Newton figure out how the law of gravity worked? [duplicate]

There are this and this similar Phys.SE questions, but I didn't find what I'm looking for, nor was the person's question specific enough. How did Newton figure out $$F=GMm/ r^2~?$$ What was his ...
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78 views

How did Newton discover the universal law of gravitation?

I am having trouble comprehending how anyone could come up with this formula: $F = \frac{GMm}{d^2}$ Could someone walk me through this?
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Formulas for Haitz's law?

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2014 is for LED. There is a related Haitz's law: ...every decade, the cost per lumen (unit of useful light emitted) falls by a factor of 10, and the amount of light ...
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339 views

Who discovered that electromagnetic wave doesn't need a medium?

I have read that physicists in 19 century searching for the aether. They thought that light must have some medium to carry. When did they know that light and other electromagnetic wave doesn't need ...
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191 views

How Reynolds number was derived?

I'm studying fluid dynamics and recently the formula $Re=\frac{\rho vd}{\eta}$ was presented to me. I'm curious to know how Reynolds came up with this relations between this different variables. Did ...
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Magnesium Diboride - why was it missed?

In 2001 it was found to superconduct at 39K, which is about twice the record for materials up until the 1980s when the cuprate high temp superconductors were discovered/invented. My question is ...
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Why do we use kilograms instead of newtons to measure weight in everyday life?

What was the reason to use kilograms to measure weight (e.g. body weight, market vegetables etc.) instead of using newtons?
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What experiment disproved single fluid theory of electricity?

I just can't understand how history of electricity goes on. What experiment disproved Benjamin Franklin's fluid theory of electricity?
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Deriving Ampère's Circuital Law from Ampère's Force Law?

Ampère's force $d^2\vec{F_{21}}$ of current element $i_2d\vec{\ell_2}$ on $i_1d\vec{\ell_1}$ is$$d^2\vec{F_{21}}=-\frac{\mu_0}{4\pi}i_1i_2\frac{\hat{r}}{r^2}\left[2(d\vec{\ell_1}\cdot ...
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Was Tesla familiar with Helmholtz, Maxwell, and Hertz (or vice versa)? [closed]

Was Tesla familiar with the theories or experiments of Helmholtz, Maxwell, and Hertz (or vice versa)?
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184 views

A James Clerk Maxwell Disproof

One of my favorite physicists to learn about was James Clerk Maxwell, for the fact that he unified the study of E&M in physics and he would often disprove theories that did not work as a ...
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116 views

Was Max Born the first to notice a connection between quantum mechanics and randomness?

Max Born introduced the Born Rule in a paper from 1926. But was this really the first time that a connection between quantum mechanics and randomness was noticed? Today, quantum mechanics and ...
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400 views

Newton's first law: is his concept of (force of ) inertia still useful and used?

The force of inertia is the property common to all bodies that remain in their state, either at rest or in motion, unless some external cause is introduced to make them alter this state. That ...
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Who developed the phase space path integral?

The original path integral introducted by Feynman is $$ \lim_{N\to +\infty} \int \left\{\prod_{n=1}^{N-1} \frac{\mathrm{d}q_n}{\sqrt{2 \pi i \hslash \varepsilon}} \right\} ...
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291 views

Why isn't the quark charge taken as primitive?

Why are electrons taken implicitly to be the elementary charge? It would save a lot of fractions in particle physics problems.
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130 views

Dirac's remark that inspired Feynman when formulating path integral

When Feynman was trying to formulate path integral of quantum mechanics, he was inspired by Dirac's remark which roughly states that $e^{i\frac{S}{\hbar}}$corresponds to the transition amplitude, ...
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What problems with Electromagnetism led Einstein to the Special Theory of Relativity?

I have often heard it said that several problems in the theory of electromagnetism as described by Maxwell's equations led Einstein to his theory of Special Relativity. What exactly were these ...
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How was the formula for kinetic energy found, and who found it?

My questions mostly concern the history of physics. Who found the formula for kinetic energy $E_k =\frac{1}{2}mv^{2}$ and how was this formula actually discovered? I've recently watched Leonard ...
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Who invented the perfume bottle thought experiment?

A common thought experiment used to explain the second law of thermodynamics, the "arrow of time", etc. is perfume escaping from an opened perfume bottle; the perfume is likely to diffuse into the ...
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71 views

Norsk Hydro and heavy water - what was the perceived threat?

Through various raids and acts of sabotage during WWII, the Allies succeeded in preventing Germany from coming into possession of large quantities of heavy water produced by the Norsk Hydro plant in ...
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Concepts in Gabriel Kron's later papers

Gabriel Kron was an important research electrical engineer known for applying differential geometry and algebraic topology to the study of electrical system. Towards the end of his career he published ...
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How did Fizeau make his famous speed-of-light experiment?

I heard once in a TED talk how Fizeau measured the speed of light in the 19th century. Here is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8UFGu2M2gM You can read about it here in Wikipedia: ...
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Story about a mathematician, a dinner party, and the three-body problem

I remember dimly hearing a story, coincidentally also at a dinner party, and I was trying recently to track the details down with no success. I was hoping someone here might have also heard this story ...
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Physics classics [closed]

I would like some help to find good and detailed books on the history of physics. Which are the classics in this domain? Which are your favorite?
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Where does either Bohr or Heisenberg mention the idea of the wave function collapsing?

Could someone reference a paragraph written either by Heisenberg or Bohr where they mention the idea of the wave function collapsing?
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Who proposed the bulk-edge correspondence principle?

Who proposed the bulk-edge correspondence principle? The principle is often quoted in counting the number of zero energy states localized on the interface between two insulators with distinct band ...
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How was Newton able to guess that gravitational force is inversely proportional to distance squared?

This question is puzzling me since I learnt about the gravitation law in school. Why did Newton guess/assume that gravitational force is inversely proportional to the square of distance? Did he ...
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Recent missed opportunities à la Freeman Dyson

There is an excellent paper by Freeman Dyson from 1972 (here) and therein the author cites old talks by Hilbert (here) and Minkowski (chapter 2 here) speaking about similar topics, namely how ...
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Why the original BB84 paper “Quantum cryptography: Public key distribution and coin tossing” has 'withdrawn' status?

The original paper proposing quantum key distribution protocol (now known as BB84): Charles H. Bennett, Gilles Brassard, Quantum cryptography: Public key distribution and coin tossing seems to ...
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Is a “shift in the meaning” of Accuracy and Precision occurring?

Accuracy and precision are among the most fundamental concepts in experimental physics, and, I always believed, completely unambiguous. Recently I found that the Wikipedia article on Accuracy and ...
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Is fission reaction considered natural or artificial? [closed]

As I learned, nuclear fission doesn't occur without the control of a human made nuclear reactor, by hitting a neutron to a fissile isotope. Thus, the fission reaction is considedred as a part of ...
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E&M and geometry - a historical perspective

Recently, I was contemplating the beautiful formulation of electromagnetism (specifically Maxwell's equations) in terms of differential forms: $$F=\mathrm{d} A\implies \mathrm{d}F=0 ...
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510 views

Why is the second the SI base unit for time?

Specifically, during the moves towards Le Système international d'unités in the 18th and 19th centuries, why didn't anyone attempt to move us away from the definition of there being 24 hours in a day? ...
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87 views

George Green's definition of Green's function

This is a curious question about the way George Green could have defined his Green's function. All the definitions I see have only Dirac-delta $\delta(x−x′)$ function as their source on the RHS. But ...
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History of the names “Feynman-gauge” & “Landau-gauge”. How arised & how settled?

Warning: Students, stay away from antiquities. The aim to learn is to survive. Hi. Today the nomenclatures Feynman gauge and Landau gauge seem established, but could you explain the history? It's ...
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Special relativity and imaginary coefficient of the time coordinate

I read somewhere that part of Minkowski's inspiration for his formulation of Minkowski space was Poincare's observation that time could be understood as a fourth spatial dimension with an imaginary ...
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Newton and the change of mass with time [duplicate]

I always thought that $force$ is $mass * acceleration$. Well, that's what I learnt at school a while back. Now, I have been enlightened that force is in fact the rate of change of momentum. What ...
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Is there is a specific original source where the “quantum operator ordering issue” is stated?

During my research, when the quantum operator ordering ambiguity is mentioned is deemed usually in the likes of "the well-known problem of ordering in quantum mechanics". However, could anybody point ...
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Difference between action-at-a-distance and a field according to Maxwell?

My question is more on a historical note that involves Maxwell’s equations. Besides the information that I have obtained from textbooks, I am mainly getting it from History of Maxwell's Equations and ...
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148 views

Didn't anybody see an apple falling before Isaac Newton? [closed]

We all know that Isaac Newton developed the gravitational theory (as is often told) when an apple fell on his head. But my question is, didn't anyone before him notice it?
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Newton's original proof of gravitation for non-point-mass objects

Suppose we have two bodies, one very large (Earth), and one very small (a cannon ball). If the cannon ball is some distance away from the Earth, to find out the force produced on the cannot ball, we ...
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645 views

The path integral and Feynman diagrams

This question is somewhat of a historical one, but it also contains some physics. I am curious to find how exactly the concept of Feynman diagrams arose (I assume from Feynman's path integral)? The ...
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Predicting Faraday's law, Changing Fields

Are there other equations that we can predict Faraday's law from? I know that each of Maxwell's equations are 'fundamental', but I feel like Gauss's law and Ampere's Law are very "nice", and for some ...
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94 views

Velocity distribution in ion source (electron bombardment) for Bainbridge mass spectrometer

Consider the following schematics of a Bainbridge mass spectrometer (Source: ...
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How was physics taught in the past? [closed]

Were there physics teaching aids used in the past? Or did professors just basically follow the textbook the students read? In other words: How was physics was taught in the past?
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Infinities in Newtons law of gravity (for point particles)

Newtons law of gravity for two particles of mass $m_1$ and $m_2$ is: $G\frac{m_1.m_2}{r^2}$. Supposing that the particles are point particles then gravitional attraction will bring them closer ...