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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 ...

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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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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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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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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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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
80 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
101 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
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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
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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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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
272 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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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
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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
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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
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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
110 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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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
91 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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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
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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
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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
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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
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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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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 (...
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1answer
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Who coined the term “degenerate star”?

I'm trying to find a good source for the definition of degenerate matter to differentiate it from Fermi gases. For my research a good section on history would be nice. This question is more ...
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1answer
167 views

Why is distance sometimes abbreviated S?

While distance in physical formulas is often abbreviated as d (which is pretty intuitive), another common abbreviation is s, as seen e.g. here, here or here. It also seems to be used in optics to ...
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Speed of light in aether

I've been recently reading about the famous Michelson-Morley experimental attempt to detect the Earth motion with respect to the aether. According to Wikipedia, Michelson initially made a mistake ...
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1answer
123 views

Resistor color code

I wonder if anyone would know the origin of the Resistor Color Code.
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31 views

Who first stated that electromagnetic radiation is the difference between advanced and retarded fields?

Dirac makes the claim in his 1938 paper, Classical theory of radiating electrons, that for an electron accelerated by an electromagnetic field: $$ F^{\mu\nu}_{act} = F^{\mu\nu}_{ret} + F^{\mu\nu}_{in}...
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1answer
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Introduction of magnetic vector potential [duplicate]

Who first introduced the concept of magnetic vector potential and why? Was it introduced only for ease of mathematical calculation or it was done keeping in mind its physical significance like ...
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1answer
197 views

Source of cartoon lampooning Felix Klein

There is an interesting cartoon in the book Lillian Hoddeson, Ernst Braun, Jurgen Teichmann, Spencer Weart (Eds.) Out of the Crystal Maze: Chapters from The History of Solid State Physics. Oxford ...
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Who invented the method of characteristics? [duplicate]

It is a technique introduced in many textbooks. But they never mention its origin. Who first used this method?
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When did statistics become an integral part of physics?

When you study Newtonian physics in introductory classes, the equations don't include any statistical indications, such as error, etc. However modern physics articles indicate statistical properties ...
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1answer
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Corpuscular theory of light and Double slit experiment

I am sure many scientists would initially have attempted to explain Young's double slit experiment's results using the concept of light as a stream of particles. Can somebody tell me what these ...
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What explanations are there for this strong spike in the use of 'angular momentum' in the 1960s?

A recent comment called my attention to the Google Ngram for 'angular momentum', which shows a very strong and rather sharp peak in the usage of the phrase shortly after 1960, followed by a steady ...
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When did the use of complex numbers become widespread in physics?

Complex number are extremely useful in every branch of physics dealing with ondulatory phenomena. In electromagnetism, for example, they allow to write the solution of Maxwell's equations in a form ...
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Who assigned the name “work” to the quantity $\int F\,{\rm d}r$?

I am looking into the historical perspective of how the concept of work and energy came about: who coined the terms "mechanical work" and "energy", and how the concept evolved over time. I know that ...
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How much influence did the work of Boltzmann have on that of Gibbs, and vice versa?

Gibbs and Boltzmann were active in the same years (1860s-1900s). However, I often hear that their formulations of statistical physics were developed independently, and that (at least for a long time) ...
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1answer
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Capacitance or capacity?

In physics, the capacitance of a conductor is (roughly) the net charge accumulated when it is grounded relative to a unit voltage at infinity. The same quantity comes up in mathematics, but we call ...
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1answer
165 views

Who originally derived the general force law equation of force between current elements?

Wikipedia credits this to Maxwell. This derivation can be found in Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism vol. 2, part 4, ch. 2 (§§502-527). I went through the derivation and found two self ...
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Where can I find Descartes' account of the rainbow?

It is stated that it is included in his book Discourse on the Method. But I cannot even find the keyword 'rainbow' in this book. so where is it?
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1answer
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First appearance of causality issues

The oldest appearances of causality troubles in modern theories are of course the Kurt Gödel paper (1949), Reichenbach's philosophy of time and space (1927), Weyl's "Space, time and matter" (1922) and ...
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Major private labs that did physics research in the USA

I've been reading about Bell Labs in the USA and find the idea of private labs to be interesting. What are some other major private labs that have existed in the US that did/do physics research?
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1answer
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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: ...