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

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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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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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2answers
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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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6answers
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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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3answers
517 views

What made us think that Earth moves around the Sun?

Trying to observe the night sky for a few weeks, the motion of the Sun and the stars pretty much fits into the Geocentric Theory i.e. All of them move around the Earth. What then, which particular ...
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1answer
622 views

Who (and Why) started the “electrons are negative, protons are positive” convention? [duplicate]

For some reason everyone labels electrons using a minus sign and protons using a positive sign, even though the opposite seems more intuitive: Who started the convention that electrons should be ...
3
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2answers
329 views

Electromagnetic Momentum

My book says : The fact that electromagnetic radiation of energy carried momentum was known from classical theory and from the experiments of Nichols and Hull in 1903. This relation is also consistent ...
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4answers
94 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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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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1answer
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What came first, Rice Crispy or “Snap,” “Crackle,” and “Pop”? [closed]

The fourth, fifth, and sixth derivatives of position are called "Snap" "Crackle" and "Pop". What came first, the rice crispy characters, or the physics units?
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1answer
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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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2answers
1k 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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5answers
717 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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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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6answers
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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 ...
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3answers
1k views

Origin of Ladder Operator methods

Ladder operators are found in various contexts (such as calculating the spectra of the harmonic oscillator and angular momentum) in almost all introductory Quantum Mechanics textbooks. And every book ...
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3answers
1k 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 ...
5
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4answers
330 views

Infinities in Newtons law of gravity (for point particles)

Newtons law of gravity for two particles of mass $m_1$ and $m_2$ is: $G\frac{m_1.m_2}{r^2}$. Supposing that the particles are point particles then gravitional attraction will bring them closer ...
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2answers
4k views

Electric field of a negative charge

How was it discovered that the electric field of a negative charge points towards the charge itself? Is it true? (Courtesy of wikipedia)
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1answer
436 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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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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4answers
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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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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
580 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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3answers
619 views

Accidental, unplanned breakthroughs in physics [closed]

There is possibly some idioms or saying like this, ``If you try too hard for something, you will never get it. If you do not aim for something, it may fall on you accidentally, not as you originally ...
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8answers
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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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1answer
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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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3answers
254 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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4answers
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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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2answers
242 views

Examples of “pseudo quantum effects” in history of physics

Are there any examples in the history of physics where a phenomenon was considered by the physics community to be not explainable by classical physics and needed a quantum explanation whereas some ...
5
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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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2answers
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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 ...
3
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2answers
223 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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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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Did Hilbert publish general relativity field equation before Einstein?

Did Hilbert publish general relativity field equation before Einstein?
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2answers
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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 ...
5
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1answer
666 views

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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0answers
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Victorian cosmology after the second law of thermodynamics but before relativity?

In the 19th century, most astronomers adopted an island universe model, in which our galaxy was the only object in an infinite space. They didn't know that the "spiral nebulae" were other galaxies. ...
5
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2answers
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How did Lord Rayleigh derive/determine the phase function for his scattering model?

I've been researching the question for quite some time, as I understand it the phase function is actually an approximation due to the particle-wave duality inherent in participating media such as the ...
4
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2answers
417 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? ...
4
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1answer
327 views

Was the choice of red/green colors for traffic lights a happy coincidence?

All of us have learned since secondary school that the reason we use red in the traffic lights for "Stop" is because it travels the furthest without dispersion. According to wikipedia which cites ...
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2answers
456 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 ...
3
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2answers
174 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 ...
2
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1answer
614 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 ...
7
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2answers
86 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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5answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
4
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2answers
276 views

How many stars did people think there were in the 11th century (or thereabouts)?

I hope this isn't too off-topic. Someone showed me a reference to a French, 11th century biblical commentator who implied that there were over 600,000 stars. This got me thinking, how many stars did ...
4
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1answer
167 views

Origin of Laue equations?

The Bragg condition (by Bragg in 1913) can be derived by the Laue equations that is making use of the Miller indices and all the latice/crystal stuff (so basically it's bringing Bragg's law to more ...
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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 ...