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

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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
101 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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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
174 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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1answer
141 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 ...
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1k views

Why is the partition function called ''partition function''?

The partition function plays a central role in statistical mechanics. But why is it called ''partition function''?
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942 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 ...
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1answer
374 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 ...
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2answers
217 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 ...
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766 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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546 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
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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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Why did Einstein get credit for formulating the theory of special relativity?

See The Principle of Relativity here: The Principles of Mathematical Physics. This was written by Poincaré in 1904, a year before Einstein published his theory of relativity. It appears from this and ...
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1answer
206 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 ...
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2answers
866 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
1k 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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1answer
150 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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5answers
828 views

Regarding string theory: how to refute the argument “if it cannot be tested experimentally then it is not science”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What differs string theory from philosophy or religion? I find a lot of people disbelieve in string theory, saying that since it cannot be tested experimentally then it ...
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3answers
135 views

When was the earliest understanding that the stars were similar to the Sun?

When did astronomers realise that the stars were similar to the Sun? I'm not asking for when this was established, but when also the hypothesis was first proposed.
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1answer
925 views

Combining Proportions to get Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation

I've read a little on the history of Newton's Law of Gravitation and noticed that the formula can be separated into 3 distinct parts that lead to the end result of $F_g = G \frac{m_1 m_2}{r^2}$; the ...
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2answers
143 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
123 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
101 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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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
307 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
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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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684 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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How many sigma did the discovery of the W boson have?

When the W boson was discovered in the 1980s, nobody spoke of sigmas. How many sigmas was it at that time?
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298 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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3answers
755 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
626 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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624 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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3answers
787 views

What in Newton's three laws of motion is original and not a paraphrasing of his predecessors?

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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243 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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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
4k 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
176 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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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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796 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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196 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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342 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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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 ...
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1answer
551 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
903 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
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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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518 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
7k views

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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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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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 ...