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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

4
votes
1answer
70 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 $...
3
votes
2answers
5k views

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 ...
2
votes
0answers
136 views

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 ...
3
votes
2answers
721 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 ...
0
votes
0answers
49 views

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 ...
6
votes
1answer
87 views

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 ...
2
votes
0answers
83 views

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)?
2
votes
1answer
203 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
163 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
362 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.
5
votes
1answer
532 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, ...
6
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
1
vote
2answers
129 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 ...
2
votes
2answers
325 views

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 ...
3
votes
1answer
262 views

Electrons skip randomly around their orbits

I read where the electron (as well as a few other particles) skips around in its orbit randomly rather than move around the orbit smoothly. This effect has been repeatedly observed in the laboratory ...
2
votes
0answers
340 views

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 ...
5
votes
1answer
1k views

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: http://...
6
votes
5answers
514 views

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 ...
2
votes
0answers
187 views

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 ...
2
votes
0answers
90 views

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?
4
votes
1answer
99 views

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?
2
votes
2answers
641 views

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 ...
2
votes
3answers
948 views

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 ...
4
votes
1answer
150 views

Development/history of Mesoscopic Physics/quantum transport

I am studying mesoscopic physics/quantum transport. Now I am wondering (out of interest): how did this field emerge and what made it such a huge field? I couldn't find this somewhere clear on the web ...
2
votes
0answers
249 views

Why supra-conductivity became super-conductivity?

The original article by the Kamerlingh Onnes team in Leiden does not give a name to the new effect: Kamerlingh Onnes, H. Further experiments with liquid helium. C. On the change of electric ...
-1
votes
2answers
247 views

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 '...
41
votes
11answers
23k views

How did Newton discover his second law?

I've always assumed/been told that Newton's 2nd law is an empirical law — it must be discovered by experiment. If this is the case, what experiments did Newton do to discover this? Is it related to ...
7
votes
1answer
304 views

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 \hspace{1cm}\text{...
3
votes
4answers
3k views

Historically, how do we know that Earth moves around Sun? And it does so in an elliptical orbit?

I know the basics of solar system like how Earth moves around Sun, and that we have so many planets, elliptical orbit of earth, and how far is sun from earth etc etc. I want to take a step back and ...
2
votes
0answers
32 views

Helmholtz's “Ueber die Bewegungsgleichungen der Elektricität für ruhende leitende Körper” in English?

Is Helmholtz's 1870 paper "Ueber die Bewegungsgleichungen der Elektricität für ruhende leitende Körper," Journal für die reine und angewandte Mathematik 72:57-129 translated into English anywhere? ...
4
votes
1answer
196 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 ...
6
votes
3answers
469 views

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 ...
7
votes
2answers
464 views

How were noble gases discovered?

Noble gases are chemically neutral. They don't react with anything. So, how were they discovered?
2
votes
0answers
43 views

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 ...
-1
votes
3answers
260 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?
1
vote
0answers
65 views

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 ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

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 ...
1
vote
1answer
61 views

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 ...
1
vote
2answers
92 views

Origin of the word Permittivity

Who coined the word "permittivity"? It appears that first usage was in 1887. Please cite your source.
17
votes
6answers
2k views

Which experiment gave scientists reason to believe nuclear fission/fusion produced energy?

Every piece of knowledge in science has a beginning lying in someone's experiment. I would like to know which experiment gave scientists the reason to believe nuclear fission/fusion existed and was ...
3
votes
1answer
278 views

Why have $n$, $\ell$, $m_\ell$, $m_s$ been picked as quantum number symbols $\mathbf{\text{in this order}}$?

I’m learning about electron configurations and don’t quite understand why $n$, $\ell$, $m_\ell$, $m_s$ have been picked as symbols for the quantum numbers. As far as I understand it, the principal ...
2
votes
0answers
95 views

History of Physics books [closed]

I would like some book reference regarding the history of physics. I'm a civil engineering student, and I want to have some basics on the type of developments regarding my field of specialization (...
3
votes
0answers
88 views

Dingle vs. Bondi: Twin Paradox Debate on BBC radio?

Herbert Dingle and H. Bondi debated the twin paradox on BBC radio before 1971. Does anyone have a link to the audio of this debate? thanks
1
vote
0answers
44 views

Any photon colliders in the past?

People have been thinking about a photon-photon collider (see this and this) as an add-on or to supplement the ILC, the next generation linear collider. My question is, have there been any photon-...
0
votes
1answer
389 views

Definition of metre

We know that 1 meter is the distance travelled by light in vacuum within a time interval of 1/299,792,458 second. My question is why we didn't take a simpler number like 1/300,000.000 or why not just ...
4
votes
3answers
790 views

Why didn't we replace our SI units with a better system? [closed]

Intro It seems to me that the SI units we use today are nothing but the result of a historical 'coincidence'. I recently began researching about natural (absolute) systems of units, which are ...
5
votes
2answers
853 views

Alpha particle deflection by 180 degree in Rutherford's gold foil experiment

Did some of the aplha particles back trace their path after hitting the gold foil ? (Turn by 180 degrees.) If so, how were they detected ?
6
votes
1answer
110 views

How did Lyman discover his series?

How did Lyman discover his series in hydrogen atom? How did he know that the final energy level is the first level and not the second or the third or etc.? Or how did the other scientists know which ...
4
votes
1answer
342 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 ...
18
votes
2answers
723 views

Why isn't general relativity the obvious thing to try after special relativity?

To preface my question, I ask this as a mathematics student, so I don't have a very good sense of how physicists think. Here is the historical context I'm imagining (in particular taking into account ...