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

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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 ...
3
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1answer
105 views

How did Cook and other astronomers time the 1769 Venus transit?

The 1769 transit of Venus was observed and coordinated by over one hundred astronomers around the world. How did they measure time so accurately, key to the observations having any scientific value? I ...
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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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10answers
4k views

QM without complex numbers

I am trying to understand how complex numbers made their way into QM. Can we have a theory of the same physics without complex numbers? If so, is the theory using complex numbers easier?
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1answer
255 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 ...
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1answer
937 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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2answers
544 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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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
496 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
515 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?
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3answers
470 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
328 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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225 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
2k views

What happened to David John Candlin?

This is an ultra-soft question about relatively recent history. While reading some of Mandelstam's papers, I noticed that he cites David John Candlin consistenly whenever he does anything with ...
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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
163 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
2k views

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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1answer
634 views

Did Galileo offer an explanation why his law of falling bodies is independent of mass?

Naively, (and endorsed by Aristotle) one expects heavier things to fall more quickly, Galileo Galilei showed in fact this is not correct, and that in fact how they fell as independent of mass (if air ...
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2answers
177 views

Were there any efforts made by early physicists to discover and explain how composite bodies fall?

At the dawn of the modern era, Galileo discovered and described how composite bodies fall through the air (or at least the discovery is usually attributed to him). I'm interested in whether this had ...
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2answers
294 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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0answers
306 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
473 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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3answers
613 views

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 ...
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2answers
1k views

“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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1answer
432 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 ...
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6answers
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Who discovered momentum?

I read some text about momentum in Wikipedia, but I didn't find any information who discovered momentum. Is the momentum a philosophic principle?
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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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6answers
2k views

Good book on the history of Quantum Mechanics?

Can anyone recommend a good book on the history of Quantum Mechanics, preferably one that is technical and not afraid to explain the maths (I did a degree in Physics many years ago) and also that ...
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2answers
234 views

Physics history book with some math

I am looking for a book explaining physics from, say, Galileo and Newton till now; the book should be written using some math, similarly to my physics books when I was at the university (Halliday ...
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2answers
672 views

How do formulas get figured out?

Many of the formulas I learn in school are derived from more basic formulas — as long you your math is right and assuming the more basic formulas you used are correct, you are bound to get to a ...
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2answers
798 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
706 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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2answers
55 views

Did physical models of galaxies come before they were actually observed?

Black holes were first predicted by astrophysics, then observed. Was the existence of galaxies first predicted by astrophysics, or first observed by astronomers?
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241 views

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
513 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
941 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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2answers
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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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5answers
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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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2answers
2k views

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
12k 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
189 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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2answers
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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
220 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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2answers
459 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
284 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
466 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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307 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 ...