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

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Tesla's theory of gravity

I was reading up on Tesla's Wikipedia page last night, and I came across this: When he was 81, Tesla stated he had completed a "dynamic theory of gravity". He stated that it was "worked out ...
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1answer
228 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 ...
5
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1answer
775 views

The origin of femto, atto and zepto SI prefixes

Do you know why the SI prefixes: femto, atto, zepto have been accepted by Scientific Community, if this triad of metric units, is neither greek nor latin?
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1answer
196 views

Aharonov-Bohm vs de Witt

dewitt claimed in his paper Bryce S. DeWitt. Quantum theory without electromagnetic potentials, Phys. Rev. 125 no. 6 (1962), pp. 2189-2191, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRev.125.2189, that the discovery ...
3
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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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2answers
425 views

Was Jupiter's mass “guessed at” by Kepler or Galileo?

Following Kepler's publication of his 3rd law of planetary motion1, $$p^2 / r^3 = 1$$ in 1619, it would have been possible to use telescopic observations to arrive at an estimate of the orbital ...
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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 ...
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3answers
449 views

Is the historical method of teaching physics a “legitimate, sure and fruitful method of preparing a student to receive a physical hypothesis”? [closed]

The French physicist, historian, and philosopher of physics, Pierre Duhem, wrote:The legitimate, sure and fruitful method of preparing a student to receive a physical hypothesis is the historical ...
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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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0answers
248 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 ...
3
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3answers
1k 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! ...
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1answer
144 views

What are “cycles of anomaly” and “cycles of longitude”?

In several early (pre-1600) astronomical texts I read about "cycles of anomaly" and "cycles of longitude", but it us unclear to me what these terms mean. They were clearly familiar to authors at the ...
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0answers
132 views

What is the angular distance between Ptolemaic perigees of Mercury?

In his excellent treatment of the history of the science of astronomical distances and sizes, Albert van Helden says (p.29) that The complicated [Ptolemaic] model of Mercury has the curious ...
5
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1answer
514 views

When and how were relative distances to the planets first measured?

I understand that the absolute distance to a planet can be measured using earth-baseline (e.g., diurnal) parallax, and that the first reasonably accurate such measurement was made for Mars by Cassini ...
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1answer
717 views

How did Copernicus establish the relative distance to the superior planets?

I understand that the relative distances to the planets had been calculated using various methods since ancient times, and, in particular, that the assumptions of the Copernican model of the Solar ...
2
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1answer
304 views

Did Aristarchus take the radius of the Earth into account in calculating the distance to the Moon?

My text says that Aristarchus (310 BC – ~230 BC) measured the "angle subtended by the Earth-Moon distance at the Sun" ($\theta$ in the figure below) to establish the relative Earth-Moon and Earth-Sun ...
4
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2answers
197 views

How could Horrocks have measured the AU?

I have always understood that the great historical significance of the transits of Venus, and the reason for the expeditions mounted to observe it, were that, by observing it simultaneously from two ...
5
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2answers
640 views

How Did Newton's Second Law Get Its Definition?

If I've read Newton's Laws of Motion correctly in the Principia, it seems that Newton attributed the "change in motion" (momentum) to the "impressed force". Mathematically this would be read as ...
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2answers
671 views

What were the intention/conclusions for Michelson-Morley experiment?

Which of the following were the intentions of M&M? to disprove the existence of aether. to show that the aether has no effect on matter and energy and therefore is as good as non-existent. ...
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2answers
293 views

Did anyone claim that quantum theory meant lasers would never work

I've been reading 'How the Hippies saved Physics', which describes a design for a superluminal communication device, of which the crucial part was a laser which duplicated an incoming photon many ...
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1answer
146 views

What is the quantity in physics that is advanced from speed? [closed]

What is the quantity in physics that is advance from speed? i know one is velocity, one is speed, one is acceleration.
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4answers
2k views

History of Electromagnetic Field Tensor

I'm curious to learn how people discovered that electric and magnetic fields could be nicely put into one simple tensor. It's clear that the tensor provides many beautiful simplifications to the ...
2
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2answers
134 views

What is the history behind the factors of 3 in the classification of electromagnetic radiation?

What is the history behind the factors of 3 in the classification of electromagnetic radiation? See e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_spectrum#By_frequency Is this (just) inherited from the ...
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1answer
96 views

Is this claim from historician true for physicist point of view?

"The original Naxos I had a vertically polarized antenna, with poor results as the British radars initially used horizontal polarisation. (This seems to have been a case of the German designers being ...
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2answers
2k views

What was Einsteins reasons for the work on Viscosity/Brownian Motion

About 1905 Einstein published a work about diffusion of hard spheres and brownian motion. One effluence of that is the so called "Viscosity Equation" which was/is very important for dertermining ...
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1answer
248 views

What does anthropic mean as in Anthropic principle? [closed]

I'm reading a book about string theory, and it describes anthropic principle. Idea is clear to me, I understand this principle describes certain constants in modern physics that are so fine tuned as ...
3
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2answers
538 views

Where do the terms microcanonical, canonical and grand canonical (ensemble) come from?

Where do the terms microcanonical, canonical and grand canonical (ensemble) come from? When were they coined and by whom? Is there any reason for the names or are they historical accidents?
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1answer
920 views

The possibility of free electrical energy?

Please excuse my lack of knowledge/understanding. Question: Why Nikola Tesla's Free Energy concept was never worked upon? Even today. Context: Now that we know Nikola Tesla was a genius and did ...
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5answers
529 views

Why were the SI base quantities chosen as such?

The reasons for choosing length, mass, time, temperature, and amount as base quantities look (at least to me) obvious. What I'm puzzling about is why current (as opposed to resistance, electromotive ...
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3answers
263 views

Quantum experiments in the pre-industrial era

Could an 18th century or earlier scientist have come across phenomena which require quantum theories to explain them, given the apparatus available at the time? I'll choose 1805 as the cut-off date, ...
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2answers
485 views

Why didn't Newton just propose the 2nd Law and leave it at that?

Why didn't Newton just propose the 2nd Law ($F=\dot{p}$) and leave it at that? The 2nd Law implicitly contains the first, doesn't it? If so, it seems he wasn't following his own Rule #1 of Book 3 of ...
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4answers
503 views

Why don't most physics programs study the primary sources?

Why don't most physics programs study the primary sources? In other words: Why don't they include Newton's Principia, Lagrange's Analytical Mechanics, etc., in the curricula?
5
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1answer
322 views

What in Newtons three laws of motion original to himself and not a paraphrasing of his predecssors

The three laws are: First law: The velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force. Second law: The acceleration a of a body is parallel[disambiguation needed ...
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2answers
224 views

How did ancient physicists around 500 BC decide that the earth is spherical?

One of the standard stories that is given for this (and is mentioned in Aristotle) is that the hull of a ship disappears first as it sails towards the horizon on a calm sunny day. Is this a myth, or ...
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1answer
317 views

Historical and philosophical reflexions about the concept of energy? [closed]

Perhaps you know the books: Concepts of Mass in Contemporary Physics and Philosophy Concepts of Force: A Study in the Foundations of Dynamics by Max Jammer, which discusses mass and force from a ...
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2answers
2k views

How did Halley calculate the distance to the Sun by measuring the transit of Venus?

What numbers did Halley, Cook, et al. have? What was the strategy by which they calculated the AU?
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1answer
162 views

How was Dorsey able to measure speed of light with 3 significant digits?

How was Dorsey able to measure speed of light with 3 significant digits in the year of 1907?
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1answer
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Gabriele Veneziano, strong nuclear force and beta-function

Background to the question: From The History of String Theory: Gabriele Veneziano, a research fellow at CERN (a European particle accelerator lab) in 1968, observed a strange coincidence - many ...
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0answers
305 views

Why is Werner Heisenberg smiling? [closed]

This is not a joke. It is something I have wondered about for a long time. Nearly every picture of Werner Heisenberg shows him smiling. This is unusual. The difference between Heisenberg and ...
3
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1answer
471 views

The most challenging physical phenomena [closed]

What are examples of endeavors, in the history of mankind, to understand physical phenomena with models which were proved to be incorrect later, reformed significantly, or are still under ...
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2answers
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“Dear radioactive ladies and gentlemen” - Letter by Wolfgang Pauli

In 1930, Wolfgang Pauli wrote a letter to Lise Meitner for a convention in Tübingen, considering the problem of beta decay. Does anybody know, where to find the original letter online ?
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Is it correct to say that electromagnetic waves does not require a medium?

I can conceive of a particle existing in empty spacetime, but not a wave. A wave appears to me at least, to insist upon a medium for its very definition. I understand that the 19C physicists ...
5
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1answer
429 views

Lorentz force law in Newtonian relativity

I know that in special relativity Electric and Magnetic fields mix together in different reference frames, but my question is about classical mechanics. It seems weird to me is that the Lorentz Force ...
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3answers
2k views

Newton's corpuscular theory

Where did Newton get the idea that light had a particle nature and not a wave nature? At those times, AFAICT there were no phenomena that showed particle nature. But wave nature is much easier to ...
6
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1answer
3k views

What inspired Schrödinger to derive his equation?

I have almost no background in physics and I had a question related to Schrodinger's Equation. I think, it is not really research level so feel free to close it, but I would request you to kindly ...
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7answers
901 views

Evolution in the interpretation of the Dirac equation

As I understand, Dirac equation was first interpreted as a wave equation following the ideas of non relativistic quantum mechanics, but this lead to different problems. The equation was then ...
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6answers
2k views

Did Einstein prove $E=mc^2$ correctly? [closed]

In his book "Einstein's mistakes" H. C. Ohanian, the author, holds that Einstein delivered 7 proofs for $E=mc^2$ in his life that all were in some way incorrect. This despite the fact that correct ...
3
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2answers
791 views

Who first realized the uncertainty principle allows for virtual particle pair production?

For all I've read about Quantum Field Theory I've never seen the concept of the living vacuum accredited to someone in particular. Given the importance of this very application of the uncertainty ...
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2answers
694 views

Why did Schrodinger never budge on the meaning of $|\Psi|^2$

Schrodinger believed that the phisical interpretation of the wavefunction $\Psi$ was the vibration amplitude and $ |\Psi|^2 $ was the electric charge density. While no-one disagrees with his ...
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Myths in the history of Physics

As an example of such a historical myth that we all learned, there is the story that in his confrontation with Cardinal Bellarmine in 1632, Galileo had all the evidence on his side, won the ...