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

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How many stars did people think there were in the 11th century (or thereabouts)?

I hope this isn't too off-topic. Someone showed me a reference to a French, 11th century biblical commentator who implied that there were over 600,000 stars. This got me thinking, how many stars did ...
2
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1answer
120 views

Since when the term 'mass' is being used in physics?

I was wondering who used the term 'mass' in physics and in what context? The Online Etymology Dictionary says it is in use since 1704. According to the Wiki article the year is contemporary to the ...
7
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1answer
981 views

Who (and Why) started the “electrons are negative, protons are positive” convention? [duplicate]

For some reason everyone labels electrons using a minus sign and protons using a positive sign, even though the opposite seems more intuitive: Who started the convention that electrons should be ...
6
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2answers
250 views

Examples of “pseudo quantum effects” in history of physics

Are there any examples in the history of physics where a phenomenon was considered by the physics community to be not explainable by classical physics and needed a quantum explanation whereas some ...
3
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1answer
168 views

Where did the concept of energy come from?

Energy seems to me to be a very abstract thing, and while it clearly works out very nicely, I don't understand how anyone would have thought to come up with it. Where does the concept of energy find ...
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1answer
185 views

History of Newtons law of gravitation

I have some questions about the history of Newtons law of universal gravitation. Did Newton discover his three laws of motion before he discovered the universal law of gravitation? I know two ...
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2answers
347 views

Discovery of $E=hf$?

How was the equation $E=hf$ discovered? Was the proportional expression between energy and frequency of light $E\propto f$ discovered only by experiment? Or is there some logical(theoretical) senses ...
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3answers
2k views

Origin of Ladder Operator methods

Ladder operators are found in various contexts (such as calculating the spectra of the harmonic oscillator and angular momentum) in almost all introductory Quantum Mechanics textbooks. And every book ...
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111 views

Historical aspect of wave theory of light

Huygens thought light as a wave. Wave is a propagation of physical disturbance. We now know that light is electromagnetic field. Electric and magnetic field fluctuates here. What Huygens really ...
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2answers
2k views

Why metric system uses kilogram as a basic SI unit?

SI system uses all (that I know) measurement basic units as 1 (single) instance: meter, second, ampere, etc, except the KILOgram. It already defined with 1000 multiplier (kilo). It prevents from ...
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1answer
137 views

Maxwell's Equations-Relativity

How did Maxwell develop the magnetic field without relativity? Was it purely experimental? I don't see how else he would have developed any understanding for the magnetic field.
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211 views

Topological band theory [closed]

Why topological insulators were discovered so late? While the band theory was known long time ago! I mean why the topological properties of electronic bands were not noticed in the past?
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1answer
155 views

recommendation for a physics history/non-fiction book [closed]

I know that there are a lot theses being published on lives of physicists. Is there a history/non-fiction book that tracks the development of a problem chronologically? Like pieces of a puzzle. I ...
5
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1answer
245 views

Michelson–Morley @ Home

The Michelson-Morley experiment seems to have taken many years, resources and a nervous breakdown to complete. Is it possible to recreate a variation of this experiment at home for say, under $1000, ...
6
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1answer
249 views

Earliest example of naturalness/fine-tuning arguments

The notion of naturalness is important in particle physics, especially supersymmetry. I was a little surprised, then, that the idea, or at least the name, is apparently only ~30 years old ('t Hooft, ...
5
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1answer
324 views

How did Newton find out force has something to do with acceleration?

Its about Newton's second law of motion, $$F=ma.$$ It says the acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the net force and is inversely proportional to the object's mass. Yes I can ...
6
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1answer
358 views

English translation of Helmholtz' paper: “On the Physical Significance of the Principle of Least Action”

I am asking about an English translation of a Helmholtz paper: Ueber die physikalische Bedeutung des Princips der kleinsten Wirkung. Journal für die reine und angewandte Mathematik (Crelle's ...
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4answers
1k views

Why there is no “Edison” unit in physics? [closed]

In the popular culture the XIX-XX century competition between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla is well-known. The example could be the Prestige movie, where there are some "Edison's agents" who sabotage ...
2
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1answer
55 views

Why did Otto Hahn use neutrons to generate transuranium?

In physics textbooks with chapters about nuclear fission there is often a historical introduction about Otto Hahn. That he tried to generate transuranium but discovered the nuclear fission. If you ...
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4answers
344 views

Why a day is divided by 12/24 hours? Why the number 12?

Why a day is divided by 12/24 hours? Why the number 12? Why not using 10 or 6 or 14, 16? Who invented this? Any physical reasons behind this?
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1answer
234 views

Difference between nautical and terrestrial miles

Does someone know the historical reason behind the difference in physical units between nautical and terrestrial miles?
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2answers
5k views

Electric field of a negative charge

How was it discovered that the electric field of a negative charge points towards the charge itself? Is it true? (Courtesy of wikipedia)
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3answers
347 views

Results of Statistical Mechanics first obtained by formal mathematical methods

I have a question that seems natural in Physics and Mathematics mainly in Statistical Mechanics of Equilibrium. Results that are proven by formal mathematical methods that were already seem intuitive ...
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3answers
3k views

Did Hilbert publish general relativity field equation before Einstein?

Did Hilbert publish general relativity field equation before Einstein?
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1answer
67 views

What was the first ionization radiation?

While trying to make somewhat of a timeline of the history of ionizatig radiation, i am wondering about the following questions: The first photoelectrical effect was found 1839 by Alexandre ...
3
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1answer
151 views

A Book about the Bohr-Einstein debate?

A book about the Bohr-Einstein debate? Is there any book that details the correspondence between the two? The only books I could find are popular science books, I wonder if there is a book that lists ...
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3answers
611 views

What made us think that Earth moves around the Sun?

Trying to observe the night sky for a few weeks, the motion of the Sun and the stars pretty much fits into the Geocentric Theory i.e. All of them move around the Earth. What then, which particular ...
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2answers
118 views

Was the fractional model of quarks electric charge found before discovery of the $\Delta^{++}$?

From Wikipedia: Existence of the $\Delta^{++}$ , with its unusual +2 electric charge, was a crucial clue in the development of the quark model. the fractional model of Quarks electric charge was ...
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1answer
1k views

Historic derivation of Wien's law

Every book I've read, including a lot of websites, Wikipedia, etc, say that Wien derived this: $$\rho_\nu(T)=\rho(\nu,T)=\nu^3f\left(\frac{\nu}{T}\right)$$ Being $\rho_v(T)$ the spectral enegy ...
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730 views

When and how did the idea of the tensor product originate in the history quantum mechanics?

At some point in the history of quantum mechanics, it was accepted that a single particle is described by a wavefunction which is a function of the position of the particle $\mathbf{r}$, denoted: ...
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0answers
31 views

Phase functions non-existent in original (J. Strutt) Lord Rayleigh's work?

This is related to my previous Phys.SE question on the derivation of the phase function - upon sifting and scanning through 600 pages of John Strutt's collected work, there is absolutely no mention of ...
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2answers
586 views

How did Lord Rayleigh derive/determine the phase function for his scattering model?

I've been researching the question for quite some time, as I understand it the phase function is actually an approximation due to the particle-wave duality inherent in participating media such as the ...
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1answer
126 views

Who first provided a string realization of dual resonance models?

After the $N$-particle generalization of the Veneziano amplitude was written down and studied, who was the first (or who were among the first) to realize that the amplitudes could be understood in ...
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1answer
477 views

Was the choice of red/green colors for traffic lights a happy coincidence?

All of us have learned since secondary school that the reason we use red in the traffic lights for "Stop" is because it travels the furthest without dispersion. According to wikipedia which cites ...
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4answers
172 views

How come vibrations?

We all know that sound sensation is produced only when sound waves reach upto us. We all know that sound waves are disturbances propagating in air, Vibration is necessary for the generation of sound, ...
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2answers
1k views

First experiment which was used to prove existence of Electromagnetic waves

When I was in high school I heard from my physics teacher in the last year of high school when he was starting the chapter of electromagnetic waves that the first person who proved existence of ...
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1answer
216 views

Origin of Laue equations?

The Bragg condition (by Bragg in 1913) can be derived by the Laue equations that is making use of the Miller indices and all the latice/crystal stuff (so basically it's bringing Bragg's law to more ...
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1answer
155 views

Do stars appear to move with uniform motion?

The Ancient Greek astronomers had quite an obsession over uniform circular motion; I was wondering if there was a logical reason for this. Did it develop through actual observations of the stars? Do ...
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0answers
122 views

Nicholas Kollerstrom article on the history of Calculus

Today, Newton´s birthday, I read an article posted in the arXiv by Nicholas Kollerstrom http://www.arxiv.org/abs/1212.2666 That basically claims that Newton did not invent Calculus. The article does ...
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530 views

Was uncertainty principle inferred by Fourier analysis?

I would like to know: did Heisenberg chance upon his Uncertainty Principle by performing Fourier analysis of wavepackets, after assuming that electrons can be treated as wavepackets?
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1answer
271 views

Who used the concept of symmetries first?

Who "invented" the concept of symmetries? This article is quite extensive, but it blurs the history with the modern understanding. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/symmetry-breaking/ Some of the ...
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2answers
628 views

How did pre-Copernican astronomers accurately predict planetary position?

Copernican elements (circular orbital elements) are not very accurate. But Copernicus simplified our understanding a great deal by placing the Sun at the center of the system. Im astonished by the ...
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4answers
366 views

How accurate are Mayan astronomical “ephemerides”?

Because of the hype surrounding the "end" of the Mayan calendar (along with the usual cultural relativism and Western guilt) it is nearly impossible to find an objective quantitative assessment of the ...
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1answer
80 views

The Fraunhofer Measure

In a well known Maxwell paper he uses the units of wavelength which he calls the Fraunhofer Measure. He states it for the Fraunhofer D and F bands as $$\lambda_D = 2175 \text{ crazy units} = 589nm$$ ...
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1answer
253 views

Where did Karl Schwarzschild derived his solution?

Does anyone know more about circumstances of Karl Schwarzschild at the Russian front in 1915 where he allegedly derived his famous solution of the Einstein equations (describing a black hole)? Sources ...
6
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2answers
310 views

The notion called aether

I am trying to learn relativity theory and going through an introductory text on special relativity. I stumbled on the Michelson-Morley experiment. The book claims (accounts) that the result of this ...
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1answer
1k views

What came first, Rice Crispy or “Snap,” “Crackle,” and “Pop”? [closed]

The fourth, fifth, and sixth derivatives of position are called "Snap" "Crackle" and "Pop". What came first, the rice crispy characters, or the physics units?
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257 views

Integrals given by Landau [closed]

Discussion about Landau's "Theoretical Minimum" has already been posted here. Unfortunately I couldn't find much about some examples of questions he gave to students. There are three questions in the ...
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1answer
99 views

Is “Egyptian Year” the same as a modern sidereal year?

Copernicus uses the term "Egyptian Year" throughout his discussions of the movements of the Earth, and of his and other models of the movements of the planets; but is unclear from his text, or from ...
3
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3answers
2k views

How did Einstein derive general relativity?

How did Einstein derive general relativity (GR)? Did he use: the equivalence principle? The principle of least action? Anything else? Note, I'm not looking for a full mathematical derivation of GR! ...