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Questions tagged [physics]

For questions about the scientific discipline that concerns itself with analyzing the laws of nature in full generality. It is one of the largest branches of natural science. Before applying this tag to a question, please consider using the "theoretical-physics" or "experimental-physics" tags instead, as they are more descriptive.

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How did the early chemists determine the atomic weight of hydrogen?

In early history, the relative atomic weight of hydrogen was assigned as 1 (exactly) and all other elements were compared against hydrogen. What is difficult to find who determined the absolute atomic ...
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1answer
142 views

What new physics was discovered or needed as a result of the Manhattan Project?

I originally asked this question on the Physics StackExchange and was told to migrate it here. I've tightened up the question a bit. I recently got into a discussion with colleagues regarding ...
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3answers
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How did Huygens derive the conservation law for of kinetic energy?

In the book 'Energy - The Subtle Concept' by Energy, the Subtle Concept by Jennifer Coopersmith the author says that Huygens was the first to use the term $mv^2$ in physics. He was considering elastic ...
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1answer
78 views

How close was Hooke to developing a comprehensive system of gravity?

Was Hooke close to developing a physical system of gravity on the same level as Newton. looking at Luka Trkanjec's post on Quora, he insists that Newton was quite overrated in this regard, and that ...
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1answer
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What was Newton's view of theory of matter?

Did Newton believe in infinitely small particle theory of matter? Because when he talks about axis of rotation, which is locus of the centers of the circles of the rotating body and particle on the ...
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0answers
29 views

Rocket & drag equation?

i'm writing an assignment on firework rockets and their trajectory. Now of course im doing this with a lot of limitation as a realistic rocket calculation would be impossible to execute, at least for ...
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2answers
118 views

If John Michell was more well known, would he rank above Isaac Newton in the history of science? [closed]

John Michell proposed black holes in the 18th century, hundreds of years before Schwarzschild and Einstein. His ideas were said to to be away head of his time, that he died in obscurity. I assume ...
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1answer
72 views

How was the historical definition of the meter used in practice?

The meter was initially defined as $10^{-7}$ times the distance of the north pole to the equator. How exactly was this definition used to fabricate the actual meter sticks from which the standard ...
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1answer
46 views

How did people measure electric charge at the time of Coulomb?

Around the time that Coulomb gave Coulomb's law, how did people measure electric charge?
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3answers
201 views

How was gravity explained in Ancient Greek and Roman times?

Gravity is of course something that we can all observe. Stuff falls towards the ground. But not everything: some things like steam or smoke defy this force and instead float up. During Ancient Greek ...
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3answers
199 views

What are some good references elucidating the discovery/creation of Fourier Series?

I've always grappled with the topic of anything Fourier during my undergrad days. Until recently when revisiting why I learned what I did, I discovered how Fourier's desire to understand the flow of ...
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3answers
60 views

Origin of the coulomb and ampere

What is the historical origin of the size of the coulomb (and in turn, ampere)? Currently (pardon the pun), the coulomb is defined in terms of the ampere. The ampere is in turn effectively defined by ...
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2answers
117 views

Was Newton's successful calculation of precession of equinoxes a fluke?

I have looked at several sources, and Newton was right about the fact that the Earth is not a perfect sphere, but an ellipsoid caused the precession of equinoxes, as the Moon's gravitational ...
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0answers
42 views

How was the term speed treated in the 16 and 17 century?

What do the the people in 16 an 17 century meant by the term speed? Were they having the relation speed=distance/time back then or were they having some other notion for it and this relation came into ...
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1answer
37 views

Metre definition using a seconds pendulum

I have always heard that the first and most prominent definition of the metre was to use the length of the seconds pendulum - pendulum with the period of exactly 2 seconds. However, in the end it was ...
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1answer
158 views

Where is the Foucault pendulum in Mainz?

A Foucault pendulum in Mainz is listed on Wikipedia. The article says that it is in School for Business and Technique, Mainz However, I didn't find any information about this pendulum on the ...
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1answer
118 views

Origins of molecular orbital diagrams?

Does anyone remember who proposed molecular diagrams for simple molecules as taught today in most general chemistry texts? I cannot access Hund's original article, however, Mulliken's early articles ...
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1answer
51 views

Did Cyrano de Bergerac's space ship have retro-rockets?

In this answer I cite and quote some surprising information; that the real Cyrano de Bergerac (not the one in the play) had written of using a rocket ship to go to the Moon circa 1650. As strange as ...
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1answer
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Why is the amount of charge needed to generate 1 unit of electric flux, called permittivity?

This keeps confusing me. I keep imagining "permittivity" as being "The ability for a substance to permit electricity", when it is the opposite. High permittivity means it is hard (requires a lot of ...
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2answers
112 views

Where does the prefix “super” from “supersymmetry” come from?

Where does the prefix "super" from "supersymmetry" come from?
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0answers
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In the old days, how did chemists trap and measure gases?

The old days being roughly 1600 - 1850, the time when chemistry and the nature of the elements was being investigated empirically. For example, hydrogen gas was discovered by Robert Boyle in 1671 ...
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0answers
46 views

experimental evidence of fusion

It is known that in the sun the main reaction is the fusion process which consumes hydrogen and generates helium. While this is conceivable by the mass-energy equation, did people have any ...
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0answers
52 views

How did people in pre-Ampere period deduce this?

How did people before Ampere (eg-Coulomb) who used magnetic-pole model, know that only two surfaces (north and south poles) of a bar magnet exerts and experiences force while the rest of the surfaces ...
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1answer
60 views

Who first came up with the idea that heavenly laws and earthly laws should be the same?

At least Newton realized that the motion of the Moon on the heaven and the motion of an apple on the earth are governed by the same law. But who first proposed that the same laws should hold ...
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2answers
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Who determined whether surfaces between magnetic poles attract/repel or whether the poles' volumes do?

NOTE: I am talking about the period before electricity and magnetism were unified. So I am not seeking for answers based on Ampere atomic current model of magnets. Who first figured out that one of ...
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1answer
125 views

How did people believe Aristotle's law of gravity for so long?

So he says that heavier objects fall faster than light ones and size is irrelevant? (at least as far as I understand) This brings 2 easy ways to see the error of this. 1) throw a big rock and a ...
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1answer
112 views

Who first solved the two-body problem in 3D?

Who first solved the two-body problem in 3-dimensions? Was it Laplace?
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Reference for Math-Physics history book

I am looking for a book on the history of mathematics that would also serve as a book on the history of physics. In the sense that the history of math is developed along with the developments in ...
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1answer
159 views

Who did say that anyone who discover a new particle should be fined instead of receiving a prize?

I am almost sure I read once that a famous physicist said that anyone who discover a new particle should be fined instead of receiving a prize. The context was that at the time there was more and more ...
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1answer
108 views

Why was Courant's “Methods of Mathematical Physics” suppressed, by the Germans, during WW2?

In the preface to Methods of Mathematical Physics Richard Courant, the author, wrote that the book was suppressed by the National Socialist rulers(Nazi) of Germany. Hence, my question. Thanks.
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4answers
606 views

Help translate from German a quote by Hermann Weyl in Space Time Matter

I would like to find an accurate translation to the following quote from Space Time Matter: Man muß gegen diese Orgien des Formalismus, mit dem man heute sogar die Techniker zu belästigen beginnt, ...
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1answer
289 views

Who was this man (who is not Bruno Pontecorvo)?

The English-language Wikipedia article about physicist Bruno Pontecorvo is illustrated with this photo: Now, this man seems distinctly different from most portraits of Pontecorvo around: The ...
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0answers
61 views

Why the concept of energy was that lately established? [duplicate]

As I know the concept of energy was universally accepted lately in the 19th century and after debates and controversies. Does anybody knows the reason for this?
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2answers
591 views

Did Richard Feynman ever meet Stephen Hawking or comment on Hawking radiation?

I was just curious what Richard Feynman thought of Stephen Hawking's Hawking Radiation. Feynman was one of the developers of quantum field theory and Hawking's work would have been cutting edge on the ...
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3answers
81 views

Is there an anthology of classic papers on electricity?

I'm trying to find a book similiar to Stephen Brush "Kinetic Theory of Gases: An Anthology of Classic Papers With Historical Commentary". The electricity version, let's say! I like to see how subjects ...
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1answer
67 views

Why are microcanonical, canonical and macrocanonical ensembles called that way?

In statistical mechanics, why microcanonical, canonical and macrocanonical ensemble are called that way? Is there any reason according to the size of the system they can describe properly ( I don't ...
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1answer
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Was carbon dioxide also called carbonic acid historically?

I am reading the classic paper by Thomas Andrews, in which he discovered the critical point. The gas he used in his experiments is called by him 'carbonic acid'. By its critical temperature being 31....
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1answer
116 views

A Peculiar Quote from an Engineer

The best result of mathematics is to be able to do without it. The above is a quote by Oliver Heaviside, an electrical engineer and mathematician. What does the quote really mean?
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4answers
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Textbook on the History of General Relativity

I have studied General Relativity from various textbooks already, and the subject fascinated me immensely. I was wandering if there is any textbook that deals with the chronological "steps" that ...
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1answer
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Was Captain Cook’s voyage to observe the transit of Venus going to enable better ship navigation at the time?

On a recent visit to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich I was struck by its proximity to the Naval Academy next door. The theme of the history of clocks and development of astronomy was driven by the ...
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3answers
383 views

Has science fiction ever caused scientists to do real research?

Has science fiction ever caused scientists to do real research? Science fiction here means fiction that tries to explain things in the world rather than speculate about the future or unexplorable ...
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1answer
97 views

Who first derived $a =v^2/r$

This is a basic formula in mechanics, which determines the acceleration of a particle performing uniform circular motion. By who first derived it? In Newton's Principa, what one can find is that $$...
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2answers
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Why couldn’t the Burgess B Clock built in 1974 be built in 1775 by Harrison?

In the Royal Observatory in London they have a mechanical clock called the Burgess B, based on a 200 year old design by Harrison. My question is: Why couldn’t the Burgess B Clock built in 1974 be ...
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2answers
97 views

When did spring-driven clocks start being used?

On a tour of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich I saw the following display on the history of mechanical clocks: They suggest that mechanical clocks and astronomy weren’t really combined in England ...
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1answer
42 views

When did mechanical tower clocks start being used?

On a tour of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich I saw the following display on the history of mechanical clocks: The suggest that mechanical clocks and astronomy weren’t really combined in England ...
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1answer
81 views

How did Lagrange get his equation (the so-called Euler-Lagrange equation)

The variational principle is named after Hamilton, instead of Lagrange. So it seems that he did not derive his equation by the variational method.
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Is this Einstein rejection letter fake?

So I found this on the internet the other day- Is this fake? Are there any ways to prove that it's fake? Does there, if any, exist any real copy of such a rejection letter?(Was Einstein ever ...
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1answer
129 views

Pauli's first paper about the spin

Wikipedia states, that the spin degree of freedom was first formulated by Pauli in 1924: In 1924 Wolfgang Pauli introduced what he called a "two-valued quantum degree of freedom" associated with ...
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0answers
101 views

Who first noted the connection between Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and the Fourier Transform?

This is a question about the history of Quantum Mechanics. Who first noted the connection between Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and the Fourier Transform?
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6answers
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Good book on the history of introductory physics (upto first year college)

I am looking for some good physics book(s) which shows the development of physics ideas from antiquity since 1850 or 1900 or something like that. The book should covers all "elementary" topics (...