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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8
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11answers
13k views

Was Aristotle really wrong about gravity?

When I was in 9th grade, I learned that Aristotle was responsible for holding back physics for centuries because he said that heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects. Finally, in the 16th ...
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0answers
128 views

Who first discussed the Lorentz force with respect to special relativity?

The fact that a Lorentz force in a reference frame 1 can become a Coulomb force in another reference frame 2 has always astonished me, especially because the velocities involved are really small. I ...
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3answers
203 views

When in the history of physics did 'laws of nature' become the primary form of explanation?

Aristotle's natural philosophy was an inquiry into the causal principles of nature. He famously proposed the notions of formal, material, efficient and final causes. At the dawn of modernity, figures ...
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1answer
250 views

How did the notion of “time” come in the world of physics?

I was trying to figure out how people came to know about time then I realized that people started keeping track of time to know about sunset and sunrise. But I can't figure out how did time came into ...
13
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1answer
919 views

When was the vector notation in physics and other sciences first introduced?

The vector notation in physics is a very compact and easy way to write things down, and according to Feynman it also saves print. When exactly did scientists realize that they were summarizing things ...
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1answer
1k views

When and by whom was the term 'momentum' introduced?

We know that up to 1726, when the third edition of the Principia was published, the name for $m\vec v$ was: quantitas motus. Do you know who substituted that with another Latin word: 'momentum'?
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2answers
412 views

How many papers on general relativity did Marcel Grossmann author or co-author?

Marcel Grossmann is perhaps best known for helping Einstein learn the Riemannian geometry necessary to formulate general relativity. He was instrumental in its early development. Wikipedia states: ...
19
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1answer
2k views

What cipher(s) did Isaac Newton use?

A number of sources including this one assert that Isaac Newton used encrypted messages to communicate some of his scientific discoveries, and as a way of establishing priority. What cipher(s) did he ...
18
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5answers
917 views

What led to the rise of Göttingen?

this is a counter part to my other question: What led to the fall of Göttingen?. Göttingen was a major university in which many famous physicists and mathematicians lived. It was located in ...
12
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2answers
1k views

Why did Einstein stop publishing so many papers in Annalen der Physik?

In his early years (actually, straight through the early 1910s), Albert Einstein published a lot of papers in Annalen der Phyisk, a very old and prominent German scientific journal. However, this ...
14
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4answers
2k views

What was Einstein's motivation for relativity theory?

I'm a high school student who never studied any relativity before, but I'm just wondering what was the question that Einstein asked himself before going into this field. I knew he has done lots of ...
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1answer
64 views

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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2answers
3k views

What was the vis viva controversy, including its philosophical aspects?

Leibniz's concept of vis visa (literally translated as living force) was a precursor to our modern concept of kinetic energy. His formula for it was close to the modern non-relativistic one: $mv^2$, ...
14
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4answers
1k views

Why isn't Feynman's path integral taught more widely and earlier in today's academic physics curricula?

Anyone who has studied Feynman's path integral will know that it makes quantum mechanics more like classical mechanics. A student who has learned about the Lagrangian will easily understand the ...
16
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2answers
845 views

What became of the Boltzmann-Zermelo debate about the second law of thermodynamics?

At the end of 19th century there was a lively discussion about the nature of the second law of thermodynamics, and its relation to Hamiltonian dynamics. Boltzmann developed a position that the second ...
4
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1answer
646 views

Classical physics - A timeline of Mechanics

As a chemist we never really use classical mechanics much instead favouring a quantum description of the world around us. I have been lectured plenty on the origins of quantum mechanics and how the ...
14
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2answers
884 views

What is the story behind various uses of the word “spectrum”?

Here are five distinct uses of the word spectrum in physics and mathematics: Spectrum (optics): The range of colors in the rainbow Spectrum (particle physics): The range of electromagnetic ...
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4answers
953 views

Did ancient/medieval non-European cultures have a concept of energy? If so, what are the similarities and differences to the modern concept?

For example, do we find something related to the modern energy concept in Ancient China, Ancient India, or the Islamic Golden Age? Among "similarities and differences", conservation is obviously ...
6
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1answer
2k views

Who invented the concepts of potential and kinetic energy? [duplicate]

Who invented potential and kinetic energy ? Was it Newton ? Or someone else ? I have the impression Newton used those ideas but they already existed.
7
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1answer
183 views

When was conical refraction predicted and observed?

I was reading James Ladyman's Understanding Philosophy of Science, and came across the following consequence of Fresnel's theory of light: The phenomenon is known as conical refraction and has now ...
7
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1answer
828 views

When were the modern notions of work and energy created

Reading through Wikipedia says that Coriolis was the first to introduce the notion of work, described as "weight lifted through a height". Our modern conception of work is of a force that realizes a ...
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4answers
4k views

Whose shoulders did Newton stand on?

In a letter to Robert Hooke in 1676, Newton wrote: If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. Do we know which giants Newton was referring to? And was he referring to a ...
8
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2answers
155 views

When was atomism first considered a scientific theory?

Of course it is difficult, if not impossible, to know whether classical philosophers that talked about atomism thought that "atoms" could be manipulated by men. However, I was startled to know that ...
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1answer
1k views

When and how was UV radiation found to be dangerous to human skin?

It is pretty common knowledge nowadays that prolonged exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation is dangerous to human skin, potentially resulting in cancers such as melanoma and photoaging. A bit of ...
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4answers
6k views

Did physicists around 1900 really believe they were close to “figuring it all out”?

I've encountered the claim that around the end of the 19th century, physicists believed that their understanding of the physical world was close to being complete. One example of this claim can be ...
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3answers
3k views

When exactly (and why) did matrices become a part of the undergraduate curriculum?

Let me tell what I know about this. It is well-known that Heisenberg invented matrix multiplication himself, in his great paper that is considered part of the foundation of quantum mechanics. This was ...
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3answers
1k views

How did we come up with the name “atomic bomb”?

At first, my initiate question was: What is the difference between an atomic and a nuclear bomb?: Nuclear bombs are of two types — those that depend on fission, like atomic bombs, and those that ...
8
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1answer
2k views

Who discovered that different objects accelerate at the same rate due to gravity?

The concept of the constant acceleration for different objects due to gravity (at the same height and ignoring atmospheric effects) is usually attributed to Galileo. In reality, Galileo merely ...
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3answers
326 views

How soon after or before the development of nuclear applications was waste disposal considered?

Nuclear applications—be it in the form of electricity production, weapon creation, etc.—inevitably involves radioactive waste. When was it realized that there might be a need for a specialized waste ...
28
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1answer
1k views

What were the dominant non-atomic theories of matter in the 19th century?

From what I have read, the atomic theory of matter was cemented by a 1905 paper by Einstein in which he explained the erratic motion of a bit of pollen suspended in water using the assumption that ...
24
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2answers
702 views

When did physics texts start to teach Kepler's $3/2$'s power law as a result of Newton's $1/r^2$ law of gravitation, rather than the other way around?

In modern physics textbooks, we teach Newton's laws of motion, then Newton's law of Universal Gravitation, and then Kepler's laws of planetary motion. Specifically, from the $1/r^2$ form of the ...
17
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1answer
248 views

Did the Digges Telescope actually exist?

There are many claimants for the first telescope. Amongst these are the claims placed at the doors of Bacon and Digges. The Bacon claim is very sketchy, boiling down to one sentence and is easy to ...

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