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Questions tagged [experimental-physics]

For questions about historical physics experiments, the history of experimental methodology, observations of physical phenomena and related topics.

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What is the origin of “normal” in normal coordinates and normal modes?

I am trying to understand why vibrational modes of polyatomic molecules are called "normal" mode of vibrations and with corresponding normal coordinates. What is the origin of the term normal here? I ...
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When was it first noticed, or demonstrated, that radioactive material became warm?

Perusing the Radioactive Thermoelectric Generator or rtg tag in Space SE will show how important these items are for Space exploration both as a source of heat to ...
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How was the idea of observation error introduced?

The first thing a contemporary student of physics learns is the measurement error. As far as I understand, the idea of imprecision was totally foreign to natural philosophers at least until the end of ...
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How did Milikan know that oil drops would acquire only few electron charges?

In the book of Experiment in Modern Physics, by Melissinos, at page 2, it is given that: 2. The Millikan Oil Drop Experiment In 1909, R. Millikan reported a reliable method for measuring ionic ...
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Whose value of the distance to the Moon did Newton use?

I heard that Newton used the Moon acceleration to come up with his universal law of gravity, but in order to calculate its acceleration you need the distance to the Moon. Whose measurement of this ...
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252 views

Who really discovered/invented the Hooke's law?

According to Wikipedia, The law is named after 17th-century British physicist Robert Hooke. He first stated the law in 1676 as a Latin anagram. He published the solution of his anagram in 1678 as: ...
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Could scientists of Newton's time have explored the limits of his laws of motion?

As noted on this Wikipedia page Newton's laws of motion and of gravity were "verified by experiment and observation for over 200 years" and found to be a "good approximation for macroscopic objects ...
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108 views

Is this the largest delta precision achieved in any Physics measurement?

Recently I read this article in Phys.org that states: edit: providing previous precision value Over the past few months, physicists have made very rapid progress in bounding the speed of ...
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124 views

Did Aristotle suggest that different kinds of sound might travel at different speeds?

In this answer there is an interesting passage: Also, Aristotle posited that the speed of sound was dependent on frequency. Gassendi had religious/philosophical issues with Aristotle's views, and ...
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99 views

History of measuring the mass of the Earth

I am interested in a timeline for the history of measuring the mass of the Earth from the first estimates to the currently accepted value, and in references containing more details.
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137 views

Which problems led Newton to three laws of motion?

How did Newton come up with the three laws of motion? Are these laws are true of newton, or they are of Galileo.
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1answer
149 views

Who is the Westphal behind the Mohr-Westphal specific gravity balance? And how exactly did he improve on Mohr?

I'm a Spanish Physics undergrad, and I was writing a report on an experiment we did on the lab, in which we had to measure a solid's density using the so-called Westphal balance (aka Mohr balance, and ...
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1answer
128 views

What did Millikan expect to find when he tried to disprove the photoelectric effect, but proved it instead?

We know that Millikan ended up proving Einstein's photoelectric equation instead of disproving it. Since he aimed at disproving it, what did he have in mind? In other words, what did he expect to see?
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Who first noticed violation of aufbau principle of elements like Cr, Cu, Pd, Au, and how?

It is often referred to as 'anomalous electron configurations' or 'unusual order of filling of orbitals' of a few elements e.g. Cr, Cu, Nb, Mo, Ru, Rh, Pd, Au etc.
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380 views

How was the spontaneous symmetry breaking introduced and how did it lead to the Higgs mechanism?

I'm looking for the way things were connected. It seems me to that it was like this: Spontaneous symmetry breakdown was detected in condensed matter physics. (I'm not sure of facts here) Later it ...
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Which physicist defended the Superconducting Super Collider?

I remember reading a historical overview of particle accelerators, which had a section devoted to the ill-fated Superconducting Super Collider (SSC). The SSC was partially constructed, in the early ...
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248 views

What did it historically mean in physics for something to “exist”?

What is the history of influential definitions of objective existence --- This Is Real, It Exists --- in physics? Where did they appear in the literature and in what context were they put forward? ...
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287 views

Who first discovered and produced an alternating current?

What physicist first discovered or produced an alternating current and recognized it as such?
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How could John Dalton hypothesised his atomic theory based on his experimental observations?

The key of this question is not simply stating the content of his theory, but telling what results or principles he had at that time and how could they lead to the theory. He was as such the first ...
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1answer
67 views

Lise Meitner's contribution to this experimental apparatus and research effort?

I am reading a NYTimes obituary of Otto Hahn and the discovery of fission, and I've asked in physics SE about the function of the apparatus shown in that article. The system shown demonstrated the ...
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380 views

Was Newton aware his theory of gravity had flaws?

Was Newton aware of the fact that his theory of gravity did not account for the motion of Mercury?
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224 views

Has correlation led to major discoveries?

We like to repeat that correlation does not imply casuation. My gut feeling is however that (source: xkcd): Correlation doesn't imply causation, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and ...
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Galileo's pendulum and any references

In some texts about the simple pendulum we use to see references about some "experiments" Galileo Galilei did realize and whereby he found some important results, including that the period of the ...
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31 views

When is considered the birth of nonlinear optics?

When in our recorded history appear first nonlinear optics thing? I am more interested of first recorded use of nonlinear crystals.
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Classification of experimentally-determined physics laws?

Has anyone classified (or attempted to classify) all the experimentally-determined laws of physics, such as with a simple diagram or even in a full-length book? Doing an "experimental physics" ...
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Why is the Michelson–Morley experiment so much more famous than its rivals?

The first paragraph of Albert Einstein's paper On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, written in 1905, mentions the failure of attempts to detect the earth's motion through the luminiferous aether. ...
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How did Galileo know that objects rolling down a ramp was an accurate model for free fall?

Galileo used balls rolling down ramps to study the relationship between time and distance traveled. However, without any knowledge of physics, it doesn't seem immediately obvious that the time-...
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568 views

How were atomic weights originally measured?

According to the Science Encyclopedia, Because atoms were much too small to be seen or measured by any common methods, absolute weights of atoms could not be determined. Rather, these first ...
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1answer
171 views

Who was first to observe or detect photons in the double slit experiment, and how did they do that?

In the early 1800s Thomas Young introduced (a thought-?) experiment also known as the two slit experiment. He discovered the strange way photons created a interference pattern on a screen. There is ...
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What was the longest delay between prediction and confirmation of a theory?

The recent announcement of the detection of gravitational waves by LIGO comes almost exactly 100 years after Einstein predicted gravitational waves in 1916. Are there other examples (in the era of ...
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1answer
708 views

Who determined the temperature of the Sun first?

It is commonplace that it is about 6000 Kelvin. But who came to this value first? And with what method? Based on the black body radiation theory?
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320 views

Who discovered diamagnetism first?

Ferromagnetism is everyday life. Paramagnetism is not rare. But diamagnetism is rare and weak. So, who first discovered diamagnetism? in which material?
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1answer
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Original paper for Young's double slit experiments [duplicate]

I'm trying to find the original papers describing Young's double slit experiments including his experimental set-ups and findings. I've tried looking and all I can find is http://www....
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Is Millikan's famous oil drop experiment a fraud?

I read in my mechanics textbook written by Goodstein that Robert Millikan cherry-picked his data in his famous oil drop experiment, and now I'm left wondering about the scientific value of his results....
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559 views

How many proven theories have been debunked?

Was watching Dark Matters: Twisted but true the other night. It was about Einstein and how he turned the knowledge of physics up side down and pretty much said that "Newton was wrong", simplified. ...
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Did Hooke's law come from experiments, or was it mathematically derived from Newtonian mechanics?

Was Hooke's law first coming from experiment or from math derivation of which Newtonian mechanical laws are the only prerequisite? Also can the law itself be reinvented in this way, or is it ...
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263 views

Why is Ingenhousz's 1784 study of fine charcoal in uncovered alcohol interpreted as Brownian motion, thus giving him priority over Brown?

I'm puzzled why the noted scientist Jan Ingenhousz's FRS reported study in the title has been almost universally interpreted by modern writers (in books, papers since ca. 1968, and now online ...
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How did Young perform his double slit experiment?

Thomas Young is famous for his double slit experiment, but I can't seem to find his experimental setup (such as how is prepared the light before it went through the apparatus. Does anyone know his ...
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In which paper did the typical textbook diagrams of the Millikan experiment appear the first time?

There are two typical visualizations for one of the results of the Millikan oil-drop experiment to illustrate that only integer multiples of some elementary charge occur in nature. The first one is ...
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Were there serious attempts to model the photoelectric effect classically?

Today we see the photoelectric effect as one of the simplest pieces of empirical evidence that leads to quantum physics. The historical development of the subject, however, seems to have involved much ...
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When was it first realized that sound travels with finite speed?

From what date can we trace the knowledge (or the hypothesis) that sound has a finite speed of transmission through air? Thunder/lightning is the most striking clue, but echoes would be the readiest ...
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How did people react to the realization that Aristotle's ideas had gone without question for way too long?

Recently read the book "Gravity" by George Gamow, in which he says: For centuries Aristotelian philosophy and scholasticism dominated human thought. Scientific questions were answered by dialectic ...
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Significance of the Michelson and Morley experiment?

The Michelson and Morley experiment always seems to be the experiment that caused the dismissal of the aether and that lead to special relativity. I cannot see why this is, granted it contributed to ...
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510 views

What were the early empirical tests of Einstein's mass-energy equivalence $E=mc^2$?

Near the end of Einstein's 1905 paper on $E=mc^2$ he states (in the translation by Perrett and Jeffery): It is not impossible that with bodies whose energy-content is variable to a high degree (e.g....
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Did Galileo perform an experiment at the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

Galileo's pupil Viviani said that Galileo dropped unequal weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa and observed them to take equal times to hit the ground. Galileo's own writings do not describe such an ...
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286 views

Did Galileo bet money on the ship experiment?

Galileo's writings describe two experiments involving ships. These are summarized in the Wikipedia article Galileo's ship. (A lot of the text in the article is mine, and if there are things I'm ...
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Did the pioneers of nuclear physics and radioactivity eventually get sick from their experiments?

We read about nuclear physics and radioactivity in books and we know how to keep safe from their harmful effects, but the physicists who first discovered them didn't have that luxury. Did the pioneers ...
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136 views

Reference needed about history of classical mechanics

Who discovered/ defined momentum and impulse? Please, I want suggestions about materials/ books on the development of Classical mechanics? Something like a history of experiments.
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1answer
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What was the historical importance of the discovery of high-$T_c$ superconductors?

I remember very well from my (only) class in solid state physics how enthusiastically the professor recounted the discovery of high-$T_c$ superconductors. In one particularly vivid anecdote, he ...
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328 views

speed of light measurement

while searching for different methods of speed of light measurement, i came across one of the method of fizeau discussed below which i cannot fully understand. In short,in Fizeau’s apparatus, a beam ...