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

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The History of Dark Matter

I'm wondering if someone can give a more detailed history of Dark Matter. How did Fritz Zwicky determine that a galaxy was in 'equilibrium' given the uncertainty of a line-of-sight measurement of ...
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1answer
270 views

What was Feynman's famous formula?

In Welton(1983), Memories of Feynman, Welton mentions two formulas which he denotes as Feynman's Famous Formula (FFF) and FFF #2. Which famous formulas is he talking about? Is he maybe talking about ...
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668 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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15 views

How did each Base Quantity get it's name? [on hold]

I've tried searching everywhere, but I can't seem to find anything related to how the quantities got named! Base Quantities: 1.Mass 2.Distance 3.Time 4.Temperature 5.Electric Current 6. Quantity of a ...
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285 views

Was Leverrier-Adams prediction of Neptune a lucky coincidence?

According to historians both Adams and Leverrier used Bode's law to guess the distance to Neptune, which led to a vast overestimation of its orbital period (Adams - 227 years, Le Verrier - 218 years, ...
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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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68 views

What was the motivation behind the work formula?

Surely there must be a reason we decided to use this as a metric for mechanical energy.How was it developed and what made it more acceptable than other work formula candidates (Like force over time, ...
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Medieval counterweight trebuchet [closed]

Is a medieval counterweight trebuchet capable of launching multiple projectiles in one swing? For example, ten stones of five pound in stead of one of fifty. Many historians pretend this was never ...
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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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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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109 views

Why Newton wanted lines to be generated by continued motion of points rather than by apposition of parts?

The following passage has been extracted from the Newton's (John Stewart's English translated version) "Sir Issac Newton's two Treatises: Of the Quadrature of Curves, and Analysis by equations of an ...
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24 views

History of delta barrier in QM [migrated]

I'm interested in finding something out about the history of the problem of the delta potential barrier in QM. Which was the first study to propose this problem, and perhaps any particular motivation ...
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55 views

Why was the Stark effect discovered much later than the Zeeman effect?

This is strange. The Zeeman effect involves the magnetic field. The Stark effect involves the electric field. In the course of classical electrodynamics, we get the impression that for many physical ...
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4k views

Why metric system uses kilogram as a basic SI unit?

SI system uses all (that I know) measurement basic units as 1 (single) instance: meter, second, ampere, etc, except the KILOgram. It already defined with 1000 multiplier (kilo). It prevents from ...
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132 views

Do we have a deeper understanding of Fermat's Principle?

Fermat's principle says that light travels between two points along the path that requires least time as compared to other nearby paths. But why this is so? Why can't light follow other paths? How ...
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1k 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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43 views

How did people discover the conservation of mechanical energy?

I want to write about the history of energy, and am focusing on mechanical energy at the moment. My question is: Can I attribute the conservation of mechanical energy to the power of maths, ...
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What was Feynman's “much better way of presenting the electrodynamics” — which did **not** appear in the Feynman lectures?

Does anyone know what Feynman was referring to in this interview which appears at the beginning of The Feynman Tips on Physics? Note that he is referring to something that did not appear in the ...
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English translation of Helmholtz' paper: “On the Physical Significance of the Principle of Least Action”

I am asking about an English translation of a Helmholtz paper: Ueber die physikalische Bedeutung des Princips der kleinsten Wirkung. Journal für die reine und angewandte Mathematik (Crelle's ...
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3answers
6k views

Why do we use kilograms instead of newtons to measure weight in everyday life?

What was the reason to use kilograms to measure weight (e.g. body weight, market vegetables etc.) instead of using newtons?
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Why Aristotle made mistake about motions law? [closed]

Hi I was studying Aristotle motions law and comparing them with Newton. He states that heavier body fall faster than slow ones. I really can't understand how he could committed such a mistake...I mean ...
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1answer
118 views

Was quantum mechanics made to fit the Bell violations or they just happen to fit them?

Entangled bipartite states can violate the CHSH inequality upto $2\sqrt{2}$ with suitable measurements. Is it that in nature we don't witness violation of CHSH more than this and quantum mechanics ...
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57 views

Books on Faraday, Maxwell

Can you recommend a/some good book(s) on Faraday for the lay person? In particular, in relation to his 'Experimental Researches in Electricity'. Also, any books explaining how Maxwell explained ...
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726 views

How did Newton establish his famous third law of motion?

For every action,there is equal and opposite reaction . This is the famous Newton's third law of motion. But how did he come to this conclusion? We can prove 2nd law using calculus. But how did Newton ...
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281 views

Is John Nash's “Interesting Equation” really interesting?

As recently mentioned in the news, before his passing, John Nash worked on general relativity. According to the linked article John Nash's work is available online from his webpage. His work is ...
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Differences between empiric laws of Galileo and Kepler

Although in both cases we encounter empiric laws, as far as I know Galileo's laws of motion differ in some way from Kepler's laws of planetary movements. In what way?
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593 views

How did Newton discover the universal law of gravitation?

I am having trouble comprehending how anyone could come up with this formula: $$F = \frac{GMm}{d^2}.$$ Could someone walk me through this?
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49 views

How did Newton figure out the law of gravity? [duplicate]

How did Newton figure out the law of gravity? I know there are two other questions answering the same question but I did not understand anything from the answers Is there a third way of knowing how ...
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1answer
142 views

How did Schrödinger come up with his equation? [duplicate]

So all of the people who studied QM know the famous Schrödinger equation. I have read that it was not derived, but it is a postulate; something that is just real. Some people have tried to explain ...
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422 views

Is a “shift in the meaning” of Accuracy and Precision occurring?

Accuracy and precision are among the most fundamental concepts in experimental physics, and, I always believed, completely unambiguous. Recently I found that the Wikipedia article on Accuracy and ...
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1k views

How did Newton find out gravity is proportional to the product of two masses? [duplicate]

I am going to ask a really stupid question here. It is a very well known fact that gravity is inversely proportional to the distance squared between two masses. I understand how he arrived at this ...
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1answer
53 views

Maxwell, speed of light and the electric permittivity and magnetic constants

When Maxwell found that the already-measured speed of light could also be derived from the already-measured electric and magnetic constants, what were the electric and magnetic constants measured to ...
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1answer
142 views

Understanding Millikan's oil-drop experiment

This is quoted from A.P. French's Newtonian Mechanicsabout Millikan's oil-drop experiment: The droplets randomly produced in a mist of oil vapor are of various sizes. The ones that Millikan found ...
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71 views

Alternatives to the neutrino in the beta spectrum?

It is well known that the neutrino appeared to explain the power distribution in the beta decay spectrum. (see PSE) What other explanations candidates were available? It is stated that the ...
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29 views

Franck-Hertz experiment what transition takes place?

For the Franck-Hertz experiment there is a voltage drop at $4.9\rm\,V$. What transition does this represent in the mercury? Looking at the energy levels it seems to be from the ground to the 2nd ...
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645 views

What is the logic behind the Fahrenheit scale?

The Fahrenheit scale is defined by fixed points on the scale. What interests me is the apparent arbitrary chosen numbers in these fix-points. First wikipedia wites from 32 to 212. -and later in the ...
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120 views

Resource on history of acoustics

Shortly: I am looking for a good resource (article, book, chapter in a book, introduction in an article...) about history of acoustics, I will be glad for any recommendations. By acoustics I mean the ...
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179 views

Mass and distance of the bodies of the solar system?

This might be a bit of a historical question in nature. Obviously given that we know the constant G, the mass of the sun, and the distance between a solar body and the sun we can calculate it's mass. ...
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94 views

What was the improvement that Maxwell did to the electromagnetic field equations and why?

What was the improvement that Maxwell did to the electromagnetic field equations and why? I understand that he combined the main equations so that you could get a wave equation for the vectors of ...
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1answer
129 views

Blackbody cavity relationship between energy of oscillators and EM radiation

This question is based on Planck's view of blackbody radiation in a cavity. Here is a quote from here: ...where $\langle E \rangle$ is the average energy of the oscillators present on the walls of ...
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285 views

How were the ratios of distances between planets and the Sun first calculated?

I was reading some literature and I found that long before the actual distances between other planets and Earth or distance between Sun and Earth were known, physicists had calculated the ratios ...
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66 views

Planck's postulate for oscillators or for light?

I know that Planck originally postulated that the energy of an oscillator in a black body was quantised to $E=nh\nu$ but did he know at the time that this meant the energy of light was also quantised ...
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1answer
121 views

Gauss's Law of Electric Field how it actually works? & How Gauss derived it?

I want to know how Gauss derived his equation of Electric Field. Did he derive it from Coulomb's law? I don't think so. Please tell me some details about how this law works? inside a Gaussian ...
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Deriving Ampère's Circuital Law from Ampère's Force Law?

Ampère's force $d^2\vec{F_{21}}$ of current element $i_2d\vec{\ell_2}$ on $i_1d\vec{\ell_1}$ is$$d^2\vec{F_{21}}=-\frac{\mu_0}{4\pi}i_1i_2\frac{\hat{r}}{r^2}\left[2(d\vec{\ell_1}\cdot ...
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4answers
86 views

Why is charge of the electron negative?

How did scientists figure out that the charge of the electron was indeed negative? I know how the cathode ray tube experiment works, but how did Thompson know that the plate that the cathode ray beam ...
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2answers
194 views

How did Planck derive his formula $E=hf$?

Some time ago I asked my quantum physics lecturer the question: How did Planck derive his formula, the Planck–Einstein relation $$E=hf$$ with constant of proportionality $h$, the Planck ...
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1answer
125 views

When was the first time that superconducting quasiparticles were called Majorana fermions?

Since a number of years, the field of superconductivity has a growing obsession with Majorana fermions. I wonder how far back we can go: When was the first time that superconducting quasiparticles ...
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118 views

How do we know that the Law of Cooling is true?

According to James Stewart's Calculus book (exercise 14, page 609), Newton’s Law of Cooling states that the rate of cooling of an object is proportional to the temperature difference between the ...
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97 views

How did the concept of energy evolve with the years?

The concept of energy is quite common today but this was not the case before. As far as I know, even Newton, for example, didn't use this concept and Liebnitz just noticed that $mv^2$ was conserved ...