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

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Who invented the term “Coulomb logarithm”?

Who is the author of the term "Coulomb logarithm"? In fact, Coulomb logarithm was computed by Langmuir in his paper of 1928 where the term "plasma" was introduced into physics, but the term "Coulomb ...
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4answers
476 views

Why isn't V. A. Fabricant given the credit for the discovery of the laser?

In another question here I asked for help in finding old Russian papers in physics and as an example I gave the founding papers on the laser by Basov and Prokhorov (from 1945 and 1954). In an answer ...
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1answer
876 views

Natural phenomenon which inspired science? [closed]

I'm looking for a list of natural phenomenon which inspired science and technology like how bat inspired the radar concept....Any idea ? Thx for helping, Stephane
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Lev Landau's “Theoretical Minimum”

The great russian physicist Lev Landau developed a famous entry exam to test his students. This "Theoretical Minimum" contained everything he considered elementary for a young theoretical physicist. ...
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6answers
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How was Avogadro's number first determined?

I read on Wikipedia how the numerical value of Avogadro's number can be found by doing an experiment, provided you have the numerical value of Faraday's constant; but it seems to me that Faraday's ...
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3answers
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What are the details around the origin of the string theory?

It is well-known even among the lay public (thanks to popular books) that string theory first arose in the field of strong interactions where certain scattering amplitudes had properties that could be ...
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History of interpretation of Newton's first law

Nowadays it seems to be popular among physics educators to present Newton's first law as a definition of inertial frames and/or a statement that such frames exist. This is clearly a modern overlay. ...
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1answer
10k views

What did Marie Curie do for atomic theory?

There appears to be a distinct lack of agreement in the physics community on what exactly Marie Curie did for atomic theory. Many journals state that Curie was responsible for shifting scientific ...
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1answer
185 views

Did classical applications of density functional theory precede its use as an electronic structure method?

Density Functional Theory (DFT) is usually considered an electronic structure method, however a paper by Argaman and Makov highlights the applicability of the DFT formalism to classical systems, such ...
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How Did Paul Dirac Predict The Existence of Antiproton?

The existence of the antiproton with -1 electric charge, opposite to the +1 electric charge of the proton, was predicted by Paul Dirac in his 1933 Nobel Prize lecture. Quotation by Wikipedia. ...
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1answer
216 views

Has a human ever perished in space?

Apollo 13 returned safely. The Challenger was leaving when it exploded. The Columbia was coming back when it burned up, as was that Russian guy who was profiled on National Public Radio (NPR) and that ...
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442 views

Accidental benefits of seeking perpetual motion? (Science history)

Newton spent much of his life in the fruitless pursuit of alchemy, but along the way discovered and worked-out much else that was real, practical science. And I was thinking about why it is that we ...
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3answers
258 views

Why did the ancients fail to discover that the Earth orbits the Sun?

The ancients observed that the Sun and the 'fixed' stars rotated about the Earth. They were also aware that the Earth was spherical. They performed many astronomical measurements on the planets - ...
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2answers
433 views

Significance of isolation of radium? [duplicate]

This is an extension of my previous question here. Marie Curie isolated radium in 1903, which paved the way for the development of the theory of radioactivity. In regards to the techniques she used ...
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3answers
1k views

Work of Marie Curie?

I've been reading about the work of Marie Curie recently after a friend filled me in on what she did (never having had much of an idea previously) and it's all very interesting. What I can't ...
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2answers
298 views

History of the use of the concept of phase space in engineering

Engineering textbooks constantly use the concept of 'phase space' (see e.g. http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~baraff/sigcourse/notesc.pdf). That is, they think of the state of a mechanical system as a ...
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1answer
308 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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3answers
717 views

Historical background of wave function collapse

I wonder what were the main experiments that led people to develop the concept of wave function collapse? (I think I am correct in including the Born Rule within the general umbrella of the collapse ...
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4answers
461 views

Video documentaries about physics? [closed]

Does anyone know about good video documentaries about physics, possibly on YouTube? I've seen a couple of them about string theory, but I could not find many others.
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344 views

Supergravity calculation using computer algebra system in early days

I was having a look at the original paper on supergravity by Ferrara, Freedman and van Nieuwenhuizen available here. The abstract has an interesting line saying that Added note: This term has now ...
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484 views

The Superconducting Super Collider: what went wrong?

The Superconducting Super Collider was famously cancelled in 1993 after running enormously over budget. According to the wikipedia page: During the design and the first construction stage, a ...
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2answers
1k views

Einstein's box - unclear about Bohr's retort

I was reading a book on the history of Quantum Mechanics and I got intrigued by the gendankenexperiment proposed by Einstein to Bohr at the 6th Solvay conference in 1930. For context, the thought ...
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2answers
4k views

Is there a good Modern English translation of Newton's “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica” available for free viewing or download?

I have found several nice versions available for purchase, but all of the free ones are either Latin, old English, or pixellated. I searched google and was only able to locate the free ones linked to ...
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Why is the symplectic manifold version of Hamiltonian mechanics used in Newtonian mechanics?

Books such as Mathematical methods of classical mechanics describe an approach to classical (Newtonian/Galilean) mechanics where Hamiltonian mechanics turn into a theory of symplectic forms on ...
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3answers
406 views

How were non-Euclidean manifolds applied to physics before Einstein?

In the letter of introduction to Einstein's 1916 paper on General Relativity, he writes, "The mathematical tool sthat are necessary for general relativity were readily available in the 'absolute ...
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434 views

Julian Schwinger videos, is there any? [closed]

I googled in vain and found nothing. I am surprised. Maybe somebody knows about videos of Julian Schwinger available on Internet?
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4answers
1k 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 ...
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The history and modern understanding of spin

This question was inspired by Abstruse Goose :) http://abstrusegoose.com/342 It's well known that any attempt to describe the spin (of say an electron) in terms of non-internal spatial coordinates is ...
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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 ...
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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
239 views

Interpretation of QM as discrete derivative

In a couple of letters dated 1923, Pauli writes to Sommerfeld and Lande about Zeeman effect, and he describes (a piece of) quantisation in a peculiar way: the substitution of the ...
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11answers
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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 ...
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7answers
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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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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 ...
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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 ...
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310 views

How were noble gases discovered?

Noble gases are chemically neutral. They don't react with anything. So, how were they discovered?
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7answers
881 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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531 views

In interferometry, what is the origin of the name “Airy function”?

In interferometry (specifically, in the domain of Fabry-Perot cavities), the function $$f(\phi) = \frac{1}{1 + F \sin^2 \phi}$$ , which describes the shape of the resonant structure of the cavity, is ...
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509 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 ...