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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 Henry Cavendish deduce the inverse square law in electrostatics from his experiment in 1772?

An elegant experiment in 1772 by Henry Cavendish. Cavendish charged a spherical conducting shell that contained within it, and temporarily connected to it, a smaller sphere. The outer shell was then ...
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2answers
135 views

What animals or plants were used to illustrate ideas of physics?

This crossed my mind today... There is Schrödinger's cat and Newton's apple. Are there any other famous animals/plants featured in physics in a similar way?
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1answer
52 views

What was Isaac Newton's contribution to optics?

What was Isaac Newton's contribution to optics? I know that he believed in the corpuscular theory of light. Did he know about the laws of reflection ad refraction?
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1answer
51 views

Refraction in Newton's Corpuscular Theory of Light [duplicate]

Newton's theory of light stated that a light travelled in a straight line as small particles. When these particles travelled in a medium, they experienced an attractive force with the particles of the ...
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93 views

What is discovered first, electricity or electron?

It always bugs my mind to think which comes first, it feels like the egg or the chicken problem. When i was reading about the discovery of the electron i found that the charge to mass ratio of the ...
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0answers
75 views

Were notable physicists great at math or computing? [closed]

Were famous or popular physicists like Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Feynman predominantly mathematicians or scientists (computing, experimenting, engineering, etc.)? I am curious if people like the ...
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1answer
123 views

How did philosophers and scientists in the 18th century view mathematical explanation?

The 18th century saw a rise in the use of mathematical formalisms to account for natural phenomena. Works of Lagrange, Euler, d'Alembert, etc., were groundbreaking in the history of mechanics and ...
5
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1answer
95 views

Equivalence principle before Einstein [duplicate]

In a German interview some physicists were asked, what they would ask Einstein, if he were alive today. One of them wanted to know how Einstein came up with the idea of the equivalence principle, that ...
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2answers
178 views

Was there early opposition to Newton's mechanics?

Scientific theories are rarely accepted immediately. Even if the evidence for a theory is impeccable, there will be some stragglers who resist it for lack of understanding. More interesting is when a ...
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37 views

Does anyone know articles or books about what the notion of difficulty in science, especially physics?

In physics, many problems were known at their time to be very challenging, for example the notion of heat, or how to understand the ideal gaz law, or the phase transition criticial behaviors, etc. And ...
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1answer
111 views

Is Newton going to be the new Aristotle? [closed]

As general relativity and quantum mechanics become more accessible, is Newton going to become the new Aristotle, as the example of being wrong and misleading humanity for centuries? (as opposed to the ...
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6answers
237 views

Remarkable numerical calculations before electronic computers

I know the story that Cole found the factoring of the big number $2^{67}-1$. Is there any other remarkable achievement of hand calculation?
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1answer
50 views

Did old Crookes Radiometers ever have a pair of terminals?

This is a question about old physics lab equipment. This and this question led to the question in SciFi SE Crookes Radiometer at the end of a telescope in old movie scene, something about a comet? ...
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85 views

Can anybody identify an appropriate radio for this game?

This is quite a specific question about radio, but it has been rejected on the Amateur Radio and History Stack Exchanges, so I will ask it here... I'm a complete radio ignoramous, but I've been ...
3
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1answer
65 views

How was the notion of the metacenter of a floating body discovered?

Does anybody knows how this important notion of hydrostatics was discovered? I have read that it is about someone walking up and down the mountains of Latin America trying to disprove Cartesian ...
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0answers
33 views

Looking for references to an experiment on the evaporation rate of water in sunlight

I remember reading a long time ago about some experiments measuring evaporation rate of water in large open containers (tubs) sitting on open ground. It was a simple experiment, each day the water ...
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1answer
492 views

Why didn't Lorentz conclude that no object can go faster than light?

Based on Lorentz factor $\gamma = \frac{1}{\sqrt {1-\frac{v^2}{c^2}}}$ it is easy to see $v < c$ since otherwise $\gamma$ would be either undefined or a complex number, which is non-physical. Also, ...
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2answers
216 views

Did the Idea of Universal Gravitation predate Newton?

"Baba wrote over 60 books, almost everyone on a different topic, writing on issues from astronomy, identified stars that European scientists technology could not discover until the late 1800s, ...
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2answers
107 views

What experiments led to the sign of the electron's charge?

The famous Millikan's oil drop experiment in 1908 determined the magnitude of charge of the electron to be 1.59*10^(-19) C. However, it was well known that electron has a negative charge. Although ...
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0answers
90 views

Is it a historical coincidence that relative atomic weights by chemical methods and mass spectrometry are very close?

The concept of relative atomic weight originated from measuring the combining weight of hydrogen with a certain element. In the simplification process H was taken as unity (18th, 19th and 20th century)...
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1answer
102 views

Why is electric dipole moment represented by “p”?

"I recently came across a text where the electric dipole moment was represented as "d" instead of the more commonly used "p". The reason behind using "d" here is probably that "dipole moment" begins ...
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1answer
72 views

What's the relationship between Aristotle's theory of elements and motion and geometry?

I'm having a hard time gathering my thoughts about this. I'm trying to find a connection or some sort of relation between the first 3 axioms (postulates) of Euclidean geometry (though around Aristotle'...
4
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1answer
79 views

High voltage / current sources in 19th century cathode ray experiments

In modern chemistry textbooks, a DC source (battery symbol) is usually shown for cathode ray tube experiments by Thomson and others. Certainly, no battery can provide very high voltages needed for gas ...
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1answer
93 views

Who associated the sharp, principal, diffuse, fundamental spectral terms with electron's momentum?

It is well documented that the notation for the electronic configuration (s,p,d,f) of atoms as used today originates from the words sharp, principal, diffuse, fundamental from alkali metal spectra (...
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1answer
192 views

What are some references that Lev Landau was atheist?

In Wikipedia and many other sources copying it, it is claimed that Lev Landau was an atheist (I have no problem to believe the claim), however the (two) sources are not satisfying at all, to me. I ...
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1answer
131 views

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
246 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
167 views

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
97 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
99 views

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
34 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
136 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
79 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
186 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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300 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
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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
99 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
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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
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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
60 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
161 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
313 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
61 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
48 views

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
114 views

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

Where does the prefix "super" from "supersymmetry" come from?
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52 views

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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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
55 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
61 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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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 ...