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

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Could Charles-Augustin de Coulomb measure the charge in Coulombs?

Did Charles-Augustin de Coulomb know: Coulomb's constant Coulomb (as a unit) if not then what was the first time it was measured?
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2answers
261 views

Where does this term “shell” with prefix “on-/off-” come from?

Is there some historical reasons or is there a specific reason behind it? This question is connected to: Why on-shell vs. off-shell matters?
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1answer
79 views

How is a standard unit divided into equally smaller or fractional units physically/experimentally?

Consider the standard unit of length: meter. How was it divided into decimeter, centimeter, millimeter, etc. when there were no shorter lengths than the standard ? What is the physical/experimental ...
6
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1answer
124 views

Lorentz's Amsterdam Proceedings 12:986 (1904) paper?

I am looking for this paper by H. A. Lorentz: Amsterdam Proceedings 12 (1904) 986. (See also Arch. Neér. Sciences Exactes et Naturelles 25 (1882) 363.) I have also seen it cited using the ...
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1answer
64 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 ...
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1answer
52 views

Why does milli- mean 1/1000 [closed]

I suppose this is also an English question, but I'll ask it here first. Why does the milli- prefix mean 1/1000 when it sounds so much like million? According to the internet, this dates back to the ...
2
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1answer
62 views

Lennard-Jones induced pseudo-molecules

It can be shown that the Lennard-Jones potential - which describes the interaction between particles in non-ideal gases - gives rise to pseudo-molecules: after a triple "collision" of three ...
4
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1answer
39 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 ...
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49 views

What is the event in history where iterated functions became appropriate for modeling physics?

Wolfram as well as Aldrovandi and Freitas 1 maintain that iterated functions $f^t(x)$ are a valid alternative to PDEs for modelling physics. Instead of just citing 1, I want to be able to cite the ...
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1answer
48 views

How big was the first transistor?

The first working point-contact transistor made in 1947 by Bell Labs. I'm looking for specific dimensions, all I've been able to find is "Fits in the palm of your hand".
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4answers
344 views

How accurate are Mayan astronomical “ephemerides”?

Because of the hype surrounding the "end" of the Mayan calendar (along with the usual cultural relativism and Western guilt) it is nearly impossible to find an objective quantitative assessment of the ...
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0answers
36 views

Biographical question on Newton [migrated]

It is said that Isaac Newton, at the age of 23, came home and made his famous discoveries. Who sponsored him? Or did he farm while doing his research?
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1answer
152 views

Why have $n$, $\ell$, $m_\ell$, $m_s$ been picked as quantum number symbols *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 ...
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2answers
273 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 ...
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0answers
91 views

How did the scientific community receive Einstein's theories when he published them? [closed]

By now, we have had multiple indications through observations and experiments that Einstein's theories on general and special relativity are correct. We recently had our second observation of ...
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0answers
47 views

Actions at a distance vs. contact interaction

The ancestors could not imagine an action at a distance (in German: "Fernwirkung"). Today physicists don't take serious its opposite anymore (in German: "Kontaktwechselwirkung"). So my first question ...
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2answers
103 views

Was the fractional model of quarks electric charge found before discovery of the $\Delta^{++}$?

From Wikipedia: Existence of the $\Delta^{++}$ , with its unusual +2 electric charge, was a crucial clue in the development of the quark model. the fractional model of Quarks electric charge was ...
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6answers
2k views

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
209 views

Earliest example of naturalness/fine-tuning arguments

The notion of naturalness is important in particle physics, especially supersymmetry. I was a little surprised, then, that the idea, or at least the name, is apparently only ~30 years old ('t Hooft, ...
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2answers
286 views

The notion called aether

I am trying to learn relativity theory and going through an introductory text on special relativity. I stumbled on the Michelson-Morley experiment. The book claims (accounts) that the result of this ...
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1answer
77 views

How did Kepler arrive at his laws?

How did Kepler arrive at his laws? If one already knows the distances to the planets (and the eccentricity of the orbits etc.) it is understandable how one might proceed to establish the second and ...
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4answers
80 views

Newtonian physics vs Special relativity - what is the most “relative”?

This might be a question purely of words and the meaning of them but isn't Newtonian physics more "relative" than Einstein's Special relativity? Newtonian physics predicts that laws of momentum & ...
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0answers
18 views

Why does Leyden jars have a high breakdown voltage

I have often heared, that Leyden jars are used because they have a high breakdown voltage. For that reason the are used for example in Whimshurst machines. But what is the physical reason that they ...
6
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2answers
207 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
52 views

How do you know which atoms are in a specific piece of matter?

If you have a piece of matter in front of you, how can you know of which atoms it consists? And starting from nothing, how can I discover all the elements (or just a lot of them) of the periodic ...
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3answers
237 views

On the theoretical aspects of the development of the first nuclear bombs

I've just read that 68 years ago Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima, which made me wonder about some rather historical facts about the development of the first nuclear bombs; they seem to be several ...
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1answer
93 views

Electrostatics-Coulomb's Law

Coulomb's Law is an experimental result $$F=k_e\frac{q_1 q_2}{d}.$$ How did or What did Coulomb do to verify this law as it is applicable for point charges at rest and in reality charges won't be at ...
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1answer
89 views

How Hamilton's Principle was found?

Hamilton's principle states that the actual path a particle follows from points $p_1$ and $p_2$ in the configuration space between times $t_1$ and $t_2$ is such that the integral $$S = ...
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4answers
542 views

Hilbert, Gödel, and “God equations” - a 19th century lesson for 21st century physicists?

It seems there are a lot of respected physicists appearing on pop-sci programs (discovery channel, science channel, etc.) these days spreading the gospel of "we can know, we must know." Three ...
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3answers
1k views

Schrödinger's cat; why was it necessary?

Could someone please explain to me the idea that Schrödinger was trying to illustrate by the cat in his box? I understand that he was trying to introduce the notion of the cat being both alive and ...
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1answer
145 views

Who popularized $E=mc^2$?

When asking a layman for a mathematical or physical equation you will almost certainly get the answer "$E$ equals $m$ $c$ squared". In fact, $E=mc^2$ is something like a symbol of physics in popular ...
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0answers
21 views

Origin of the names for the decay chains

Is there any reason for the names of the decay chains? As shown in this chart (larger version here): only the Thorium chain starts on an isotope of the element it takes its name from, and it can ...
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0answers
33 views

James Joule's Conservation of Energy

Is there a manifest or documentation of the original Conservation of Energy as stated by James Joule word for word? Edit 1.1: I found Joule's Memoir on google, skimming through to find any conclusive ...
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1answer
128 views

Are there correct physical predictions made only from thought experiments other than in General Relativity? [closed]

When Einstein started to think about gravitation, he completely created a new theory that no experiment supported. He based his reasoning, as he explained it later, on small thought experiments ...
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1answer
79 views

Obtaining a measurement very indirectly [closed]

While answering a question I came to reflect on the fact that in science experimental setups measure things indirectly. Example: the setup of the Pound-Rebka experiment. The amount of absorption was ...
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0answers
410 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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0answers
75 views

How did gunsmiths create revolver cylinders in 1850's without the use of electrical drill? [closed]

How did gunsmiths create revolver cylinders holes in 1850's without the use of electrical drill? Which referces/ books specialize providing knowledge in similar molding method?
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2answers
97 views

Is Galilei's reasoning on free fall valid?

Galileo Galilei discovered by experiments that all bodies tend to fall with the same rapidity (I use it in an intuitive sense, you can replace it by 'acceleration' used in today's physics language), ...
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2answers
166 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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1answer
509 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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1answer
155 views

How would a physicist measure temperature of molten metals in 1850-1920s?

How would a physicist measure temperature of molten metals in 1850-1920s? What equipment would be used?
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37 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 ...
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0answers
86 views

Why the letter $B$ for magnetic fields? [closed]

Is there a reason behind the usage of this letter to represent magnetic fields, or is it a randomly made choice?
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3answers
309 views

Did Einstein know about Michelson-Morley experiment?

The second postulate of special relativity deals with constancy of light in inertial reference frames. But, how did Einstein came to this conclusion? Did he knew about the Michelson-Morley experiment? ...
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2answers
94 views

Who first verified Coulomb's Law for electron+proton interaction?

Who first verified Coulomb's Law for the interaction of a proton and electron? Was it Rutherford? Bohr?
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2answers
209 views

Planck's distribution and Bose-Einstein distribution?

If the application of the Bose-Einstein distribution is in blackbody radiation, then what is Planck's distribution? Are they same? How did Planck know that he should use a Bose-Einstein distribution ...
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3answers
924 views

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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2answers
160 views

Goodwins “proof” and space time

I read about Goodwin's "proof" that $\pi = 3.20$, it's BS and I know that. What I am wondering is whether his technique may have stumbled on something ( a warped space) years before Einstein. So I ...
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0answers
21 views

What were the immediate consequences Yang-Lee work on Weak Interaction?

I am studying the history of Modern Physics and Yang-Lee earned their Nobel the next year after the Cobalt experiments. I am familiar with the chronology, but am not clear what those findings meant to ...
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269 views

Who is usually credited for the creation of QFT?

I read in a book just now that says: [...] but it was not explained until the invention of quantum field theory by Richard Feynmann [sic] and others in the 1940's. I have been under the ...