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

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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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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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Why the original BB84 paper “Quantum cryptography: Public key distribution and coin tossing” has 'withdrawn' status?

The original paper proposing quantum key distribution protocol (now known as BB84): Charles H. Bennett, Gilles Brassard, Quantum cryptography: Public key distribution and coin tossing seems to ...
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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 ...
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240 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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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. ...
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What experiment disproved single fluid theory of electricity?

I just can't understand how history of electricity goes on. What experiment disproved Benjamin Franklin's fluid theory of electricity?
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Recent missed opportunities à la Freeman Dyson

There is an excellent paper by Freeman Dyson from 1972 (here) and therein the author cites old talks by Hilbert (here) and Minkowski (chapter 2 here) speaking about similar topics, namely how ...
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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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202 views

Who used the concept of symmetries first?

Who "invented" the concept of symmetries? This article is quite extensive, but it blurs the history with the modern understanding. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/symmetry-breaking/ Some of the ...
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Dingle vs. Bondi: Twin Paradox Debate on BBC radio?

Herbert Dingle and H. Bondi debated the twin paradox on BBC radio before 1971. Does anyone have a link to the audio of this debate? thanks
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Helmholtz's “Ueber die Bewegungsgleichungen der Elektricität für ruhende leitende Körper” in English?

Is Helmholtz's 1870 paper "Ueber die Bewegungsgleichungen der Elektricität für ruhende leitende Körper," Journal für die reine und angewandte Mathematik 72:57-129 translated into English anywhere? ...
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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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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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119 views

Why supra-conductivity became super-conductivity?

The original article by the Kamerlingh Onnes team in Leiden does not give a name to the new effect: Kamerlingh Onnes, H. Further experiments with liquid helium. C. On the change of electric ...
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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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Concepts in Gabriel Kron's later papers

Gabriel Kron was an important research electrical engineer known for applying differential geometry and algebraic topology to the study of electrical system. Towards the end of his career he published ...
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Story about a mathematician, a dinner party, and the three-body problem

I remember dimly hearing a story, coincidentally also at a dinner party, and I was trying recently to track the details down with no success. I was hoping someone here might have also heard this story ...
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Difference between action-at-a-distance and a field according to Maxwell?

My question is more on a historical note that involves Maxwell’s equations. Besides the information that I have obtained from textbooks, I am mainly getting it from History of Maxwell's Equations and ...
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Any photon colliders in the past?

People have been thinking about a photon-photon collider (see this and this) as an add-on or to supplement the ILC, the next generation linear collider. My question is, have there been any ...
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Were Maxwell's equations first formulated by McCullough?

Some years ago, I heard a talk about a an Irish or Scottish physicist named McCullough who had formulated Maxwell's equations several years before Maxwell. This fellow was recognized for his work, ...
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58 views

What is the origin of the kinetic theory of temperature?

Count Rumford's experiments with canon barrels are often cited here, but the kinetic theory certainly precedes them. Another candidate is Daniel Bernoulli, who, in his 1738 book Hydrodynamica showed ...
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Phase functions non-existent in original (J. Strutt) Lord Rayleigh's work?

This is related to my previous Phys.SE question on the derivation of the phase function - upon sifting and scanning through 600 pages of John Strutt's collected work, there is absolutely no mention of ...
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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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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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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 ...
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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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106 views

Historical aspect of wave theory of light

Huygens thought light as a wave. Wave is a propagation of physical disturbance. We now know that light is electromagnetic field. Electric and magnetic field fluctuates here. What Huygens really ...
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Nicholas Kollerstrom article on the history of Calculus

Today, Newton´s birthday, I read an article posted in the arXiv by Nicholas Kollerstrom http://www.arxiv.org/abs/1212.2666 That basically claims that Newton did not invent Calculus. The article does ...