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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Diffraction pattern of Michelson's echelon

Has anyone used Michelson's echelon (pictured below), a very famous type of diffraction grating in the 1920s? I am wondering how did the diffraction image look like from this type of transmission ...
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1answer
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What was Einstein's first publication of the final form of general relativity?

What was Einstein's first published exposition of his final form of general relativity, be it a scientific article or a book? I've been googling the answer for hours now, with no luck, really. The ...
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Who was the first to hypothesise that gravity from one mass causes the spacetime around another mass to curve?

Was it Einstein? Or was there someone before him to hypothesise this?
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Who introduced the difference between magnetic fields in matter? $\mathbf H$ vs $\mathbf B$

In magnetism, there are two different magnetic fields, that I will simply call $\mathbf B$ and $\mathbf H$. The distinction is not always clear. In experiments $\mathbf H$ is the applied field while $\...
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Historical example of research papers being misinterpreted due to poor wording and creating controversy?

Is there any example of major controversy in the scientific community caused due to poor wording and/or misinterpretation of words?
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Historical example of research papers being misinterpreted due to poor wording and creating controversy? [duplicate]

Is there any example of major controversy in the scientific community caused due to poor wording and/or misinterpretation of words?
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1answer
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Who first proposed the idea of "resolution of the identity"?

Who first proposed the idea of "resolution of the identity" as used in the functional calculus of self-adjoint operators? Was it von Neumann? In Japanese, it translates as "resolution ...
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46 views

Which scientist(s) first measured the elementary charge and how did they do it? [duplicate]

I would be grateful if anyone could shed some light on these questions. Which scientist(s) first measured the elementary charge? If it wasn't measured in a straightforward experimental setting, and ...
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1answer
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In physics, how are two quantities found to be proportional to each other? [closed]

For instance, force was discovered to be proportional to mass and acceleration. How are these proportional relationships discovered and proven to be true?
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1answer
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What is the difference between caloric and heat?

What is the difference between caloric and heat? Is there a difference?
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2answers
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Roughly when did it become accepted by the western scientific community that human space flight could be possible in the future?

Safe human travel into space had to have become scientifically accepted as plausible long before any nations managed to successfully pull it off (and unsafe or one-way human travel likely earlier than ...
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What technology was used to determine the shape of the blackbody spectrum at the 19th century?

The shape of the blackbody radiation spectrum was known in the 19th century from experimental measurements, and before the theoretical discovery of Planck's law. At those times, how did people manage ...
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Why did nuclear physics predate semiconductor physics? [closed]

Why was nuclear physics able to be developed before semiconductor physics? It seems nuclear physics is based upon even more fundamental interactions than semiconductor physics but the atomic bomb was ...
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12answers
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Which physicists died very young or in a tragic way?

Inspired by Which mathematicians died very young or in a tragic way? , I wonder which physicists had similar fates. A quick search lead me to Heinrich Hertz who died from a malignant bone condition at ...
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How did Stern or Gerlach, of Stern-Gerlach experiment, create individual silver atoms? How were they accelerated?

How, a century ago, could Stern and/or Gerlach KNOW that they had created single silver atoms? How were they moved, or accelerated?
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How did Kirchhoff express his voltage law (KVL)

It is sometimes claimed that Kirchhoff's Voltage Law (KVL) is equivalent to the statement that a given electric field is conservative. When a given electric field is not conservative, it is claimed ...
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Since when is it commonplace to use conservation of energy for dynamics problems?

If I throw an object, I can derive its trajectory using the forces acted on it. I can also do the same using conservation of energy. Since when is it commonplace to use conservation of energy for ...
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2answers
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What was the decisive argument against Le Sage's theory of gravity?

Le Sage's theory described gravity by means of corpuscules, small particles pervading space that hit masses all around. Between two masses a shadow comes about. None of them are present there. Masses ...
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2answers
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In Newton's cannon image, where do the shapes drawn into the sphere come from?

I find quite interesting the choice for the shapes drawn into the sphere that resembles continents. Was this choice arbitrary or do we know if there is some justification behind it?
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7answers
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Has there been an equivalent in physics to Ramanujan in maths?

Ramanujan's story is a well known story of the Indian young man who turned out to be a mathematical genius without a scholarly education. He was "discovered" by the mathematician Hardy at ...
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1answer
183 views

How come that the "heroes" in physics are gone?

I'm not sure if this question can be answered objectively but I still ask. Once upon a time there were people like Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Feynman, Curie, Tesla, Dirac, Schrödinger, maybe Chopra, ...
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On the origin of "sandwiches" in quantum mechanics

The term "sandwich" and the verb "to sandwich" appear pretty common but informally in quantum mechanics. Generally when describing some kind of inner product of the form: $$\langle ...
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2answers
253 views

Why is periodic motion always represented as a sine function

Why was periodic motion started to be represented as a sine function at the beginning? Is it because it is perhaps the simplest periodic function? Is there certainly any reason behind this ...
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1answer
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Was Einstein's "Maschinchen" a predecessor of the photomultiplier tube?

Einstein once got involved in true experimental physics. That is, he designed his little machine (Maschinchen, in German, a word that makes me laugh; Einstein's Maschinchen...) to detect small ...
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How was the first calculation of the g-factor done?

Dirac said the magnetic g-factor (a measure of the electron's wiggling in a magnetic field) is exactly 2. Quantum field theory introduced a g-factor that diverged a bit from 2. It needs an increasing ...
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1answer
114 views

Earliest numeric value for helium D3 line

In late 1868, Norman Lockyer discovered the existence of the D3 emission line of helium in the solar spectrum. What was the earliest published example of a numeric value for the wavelength of this ...
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What was the attitude towards atoms around the turn of the nineteenth century?

Einstein invented, on his own, a statistical mechanics, presupposing the existence of atoms. I can't imagine he was unaware of the shortly-before-invented statistical approach by Boltzmann and others, ...
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4answers
373 views

Whatever happened to quaternions?

Quaternions were made up by Hamilton. They are an extension of complex numbers. It is said that he first introduced "3d tertions". He was thinking what the relation between i and j had to be ...
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Where there scientists before Einstein who viewed space(time) as being elastic?

Einstein was the first who saw spacetime as a mallable substance to be malled with mass. As far as I know there were no people who suggested such a view of spacetime before him. But I could be wrong. ...
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1answer
85 views

About Newton's apple

I read: Suddenly – boink! -an apple hits him on the head. “Aha!” he shouts, or perhaps, “Eureka!” In a flash he understands that the very same force that brought the apple crashing toward the ground ...
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1answer
188 views

Why didn't the phase space formulation of Quantum Mechanics get the upper hand?

At university I learned quantum mechanics in or position or momentum variables. Later (in fact on this site), I learned about the phase space formulation in which both are used at the same time. The ...
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Was Becquerel's discovery of radioactivity inspired by his father?

Becquerel was awarded the Nobel prize for his discovery of radioactivity. He was researching phosphoresence and decided one day to place the stuff he used in a drawer to keep it out of the sun. He put ...
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11answers
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What are examples of serendipity in the history of the sciences and math?

Cosmic microwave background radiation was discovered after Penzias & Wilson couldn't get rid of the noise generated by their horn. In fact, the noise was their discovery. The strings in string ...
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Is there any literature or articles which expand more on Einstein's thoughts about Dostoyevsky's novels?

It is a well known fact that he admired Dostoyevsky even more than scientists. I'm looking for things like, Einstein's opinions about his religious discourse? What did he think of his bold statements ...
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Did proponents of classical and statistical thermodynamics get along well with each other?

Proponents of classical thermodynamics believed the subject matter to be continuous, while the statistical thermodynamics proponents' subject matter was made up of atoms and variations of collectives ...
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1answer
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What does the Fourier transform have to do with heat?

For example the current version of the Fourier analysis article on Wikipedia says the study is: […] named after Joseph Fourier, who showed that representing a function as a sum of trigonometric ...
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How did Mach's view on spacetime differ from Einstein's?

We can read in Wikipedia: Mach's principle, in cosmology, hypothesis that the inertial forces experienced by a body in nonuniform motion are determined by the quantity and distribution of matter in ...
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What inspired the use of the term "gauge" in gauge theories?

Gauge theories in physics are theories that introduce extra fields, the mediating fields, after the non-mediated fields are gauged. Now to gauge something means that you set some reference point from ...
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What can be said about Galileo's tower experiment? Did it take place? [duplicate]

In Wikipedia we can read that Galileo didn't actually performed his tower experiment: According to the story, Galileo discovered through this experiment that the objects fell with the same ...
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53 views

Did aesthetics play a role in the construction of the Standard Model?

The Standard Model is a sophisticated mathematical framework to capture the behavior of elementary particles. It is a dream castle which is built on loose sand and every change in its construction or ...
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1answer
82 views

Before the advent of the quark model, was there evidence that the hadrons were composite structures?

When the quark model wasn' t there yet, was there evidence that hadrons are composite structures? In hindsight of course yes. But at the time back then, were there signs? Maybe not noticed, but which ...
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1answer
78 views

When was the concept of “Power” defined?

I know the Watt, as a unit of measuring power was defined somewhere in early 1900's. But who was the first physicist to consider "work over time"? Perhaps Newton? Problem with searching ...
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113 views

Soviet atomic bomb development — advantage of knowing it could be done, was this ever said by any Soviet scientist?

I have heard it said that even if Fuchs had not provided details which must have been invaluable — just knowing, for example, that implosion and explosive lenses were employed without any further ...
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1answer
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Why did the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics got the upperhand?

The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is nowadays the interpretation that prevails over other interpretations (or theories). Basically, it states that all processes in Nature are ...
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38 views

Why can't it be said that Lorentz invented Special Relativity? [duplicate]

It is well known that Lorenz found the transformations of space and time to account for the observations made by Michelson and Morley. Before their experiments, an absolute aether was supposed to ...
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1answer
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First occurrence of the Langevin function in scientific literature

The Langevin function $\mathcal{L}(x) = \mathrm{coth}(x) - \frac{1}{x}$ is named after the French physicist Paul Langevin (1872-1946). The Wikipedia article on the Brillouin and Langevin functions ...
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Who first proposed the theory of tidal locking?

I'm interested in the history of the concept of tidal locking but haven't been able to find any articles presenting a timeline of its development. I'm hoping to have a look at the first published ...
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3answers
172 views

Best history of Maxwell and his equations

I've done my B.S. in Electrical Engineering as well as mathematics but I'd like to get a proper, or complete history of Maxwell and the history of his derivation of the equations and the newness of ...
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85 views

Who first defined velocity and acceleration?

I'm asking who was the first to use and define velocity and acceleration in the modern, now standard way, with velocity being the first derivative of position and acceleration being the second ...
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1answer
96 views

Did anyone ever propose a hypercomplex numbers system with more than one anisotropic axis?

The real number axis is asymmetric against zero: for instance, multiplication of two negative or two positive numbers will produce a positive number, a square root of a negative number is not real, ...

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