Questions tagged [physics]

For questions about the scientific discipline that concerns itself with analysing the laws of nature in full generality

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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 ...
valerio's user avatar
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Why do many names of technical and scientific subjects end with "ics"?

The names of many technical and scientific subjects, like mathematics, physics, statistics, etc., etc., end with letters "ics". What is meant by this, if anything? Was there any logic behind it or is ...
FAHDI GORSY's user avatar
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What is the history of the energy concept and its measurement?

Could someone please explain how the concept of energy was originally conceived and how it evolved over time to our current understanding of it? Also how did people come about various ways of ...
SaitamaSensei's user avatar
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Origin of operators in quantum mechanics

Historically, where did the concept of operators in quantum mechanics come from? How did people first understand that momentum operator should be of the form of $i \hbar \frac{{\rm d}}{{\rm d}x}$? ...
user157588's user avatar
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Which book gives a thorough understanding on the scientific environment of antiquity?

I have started reading Rene Dugas' History of Mechanics book. I want to understand physics from the spectacle of seeing its intellectual evolution instead of directly jumping into its general theories/...
Sensebe's user avatar
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Why did Einstein oppose quantum uncertainity?

Einstein always believed that everything is certain, and we can calculate everything. That's why he rejected quantum mechanics, due to its factor of uncertainty. But still quantum physics was right. ...
Creepy Creature's user avatar
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Did Feynman develop QED based on Stueckelberg's manuscript?

I found some rumors on the internet regarding Stückelbergs manuscript and it's role for the development of QED. In a comment on here somebody writes: Crease and Mann say in their book The Second ...
asmaier's user avatar
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What exactly was the Rutherford model of the atom?

I was recently doing research on the "Rutherford model" of the atom. I found that there seem to be three different accounts of Ernest Rutherford's theory circulating online: Electrons move ...
Mark Morales II's user avatar
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Where did Rayleigh derive the ultraviolet catastrophe?

Where can I find this paper: J.W. Strutt, Verh. d. deutsch. phys. Ges. 2, 65 (1900). It is presumably where Rayleigh derived the black-body radiation formula (the incorrect one that has ultraviolet ...
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Are there any famous physicists that never went to university?

With the restriction of physicists after the year 1900, were there any self-taught physicists that achieved fame without having gone to university?
an offer can't refuse's user avatar
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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 ...
winwaed's user avatar
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What was the real need of divergence and curl operators?

As I'm advancing my study in Electromagnetism I'm getting introduced to more mathematical operators which are exclusively used in Electromagnetism and Fluid Dynamics only. Let me try to explain myself ...
Knight wants Loong back's user avatar
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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 ...
Diracology's user avatar
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Who is the father (if there is one) of string theory?

I have read a variety of articles and books about string theory that relate the various initial discoveries that ultimately lead to a theory we know now as "string theory" (and its descendants such as ...
K7PEH's user avatar
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What is Heaviside's version of Maxwell's equations?

I have read, in many places, statements like this: Heaviside was able to greatly simplify Maxwell's 20 equations in 20 variables, replacing them by four equations in two variables. Today we ...
Harry Weston's user avatar
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What 19th century developments contributed to the General theory of Relativity?

Regarding General Theory of Relativity, I'm interested to find out whether there are some contributors to this theory in 19th century or not. In fact I want to know whether there are some physicists ...
Hamid Enki's user avatar
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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 ...
mau's user avatar
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Did Bruns establish that the 3 body problem has no non-trivial conservation laws?

I'm reading Colin Pask's book Magnificent Principia and in 16.7.2 he states that the difficulty of the 3 body problem is in part tied to the lack of additional conservation laws at our disposal. In ...
L.P.'s user avatar
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When was the measurement problem solved?

I have been looking into the measurement problem that arises when considering different interpretations of quantum mechanics. Nowadays it seems to be considered a solved problem (in fact some people ...
Wolpertinger's user avatar
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What is the history of electric current and resistance?

Thomas Kuhn writes in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Part of what the acceptance of Ohm’s Law demanded was a redefinition of both ‘current’ and ‘resistance’; if those terms had continued ...
Christian's user avatar
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Where did Master equations come from, and why are there so many of them?

The Wikipedia article about the Master equations describes pretty well how many there are and what kind of equations are called "Master equations". Does anyone know where the term originates, why ...
Wolpertinger's user avatar
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What was the reaction to Kepler's *Somnium* when it was published?

Kepler's Somnium ("The Dream") is a work of fiction that is sometimes regarded as the first example of science fiction (e.g. by Carl Sagan). In it, Kepler describes a journey to the Moon and various ...
winwaed's user avatar
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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 ...
Mark Fantini's user avatar
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1 answer
330 views

What are some of the most complete genealogies of scientific and mathematical subject areas?

I am interested in the way scientific and mathematical subject areas developed (and are still developing). One of the great visual tools that can help us gain insight in how these areas developed is ...
Max Muller's user avatar
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How did Kepler infer three-dimensional positions from Tycho Brahe's data?

This has bugged me for some time. Tycho Brahe's data on planetary observations, presumably, consisted of the direction in which a planet was observed at a given date and time, but not the distance to ...
Emilio Pisanty's user avatar
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0 answers
293 views

What exactly was Lagrange's "grave mistake" with respect to rotating bodies under hydrostatic equilibrium?

A comment below What would be different about satellite orbits if Earth were prolate? Would we have Sun-synchronous and Molniya orbits? got me reading Wikipedia's Jacobi ellipsoid which begins: ...
uhoh's user avatar
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Who is the lady on the image? [closed]

I stumbled upon the following napkin (yes, a napkin) and was wondering who the lady on the picture is: She is surrounded by some basic mathematical functions, as well as physical equations which ...
WoJ's user avatar
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6 answers
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What are some good references elucidating the discovery/creation of Fourier Series?

I've always grappled with anything related to Fourier since my undergrad days. Recently, when revisiting why I learned what I did, I discovered how Fourier's desire to understand the flow of heat ...
PhD's user avatar
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1 answer
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Why did Galileo express himself in terms of ratios when describing laws of accelerated motion?

I opened the same question on Physics Stack Exchange, but it seems more suited for this site. I've been reading about Galileo's experiment with inclined planes, and he ends up saying something along ...
Jon's user avatar
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2 answers
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Which physicist is this quote attributed to?

There is a quote from a 19-20th century scientist that goes (and I am paraphrasing): New scientific theories are never accepted until old scientist die. Who is this cynical quote attributed to, ...
cms's user avatar
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Why are canonical coordinates canonical?

Canonical coordinates are coordinates $q_i$ and $p_i$ in phase space that are used in the Hamiltonian formalism. The canonical coordinates satisfy the fundamental Poisson bracket relations: \...
Matta's user avatar
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Why did Aristotle make mistakes in his laws of motion?

I was studying Aristotle's laws of motion and comparing them to Newton's. He states that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter ones. I really can't understand how he could have committed such a ...
jack's user avatar
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4 answers
405 views

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 ...
grimx's user avatar
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7 votes
5 answers
3k views

Electromagnetics and vector calculus

A friend of mine claims that vector calculus was invented to do electrodynamics. I'm dubious. I know that Maxwell first wrote down the so-called Maxwell's equations in scalar form and only later ...
user1992's user avatar
7 votes
3 answers
465 views

When did physicists begin using the symbol $G$ for Newton's gravitational constant?

The Cavendish experiment was equivalent to measuring $G,$ Newton's gravitational constant. However, because physicists at the time did not write equations in the same way we do now, Cavendish didn't ...
Mark Eichenlaub's user avatar
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3 answers
4k views

Why do Maxwell's equations bear his name?

Maxwell's equations in their modern differential form are: $\nabla \cdot \mathbf{E} = \dfrac {\rho} {\varepsilon_0}$ (Gauss's law for electricity) $\nabla \cdot \mathbf{B} = 0$ (Gauss's law for ...
Omar Nagib's user avatar
7 votes
2 answers
3k views

Why is magnetic flux density named after Nikola Tesla?

I have my respect for Mr Tesla, but it seems weird that "he" was chosen to be the units of magnetic flux density. I mean, he didn't contribute much to magnetic fields theory, nor did he work ...
Eminem's user avatar
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7 votes
1 answer
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How does Legendre transformation in classical mechanics relate to Adrien-Marie Legendre?

I tried to look for the history of Legendre transformation, which transformed Lagrangian mechanics to Hamiltonian mechanics, usually formulated as $$ \begin{cases} p_i = \frac{\partial L}{\partial v_i}...
Mr. Egg's user avatar
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3 answers
518 views

When were fictitious forces introduced

Some problems in mechanics are simplified by considering the action of "fictitious forces". These appear in accelerated frames, such as circular movements. When were these first considered so? Did ...
Mark Fantini's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
969 views

How did artillery and physics co-evolve during 1400-1700?

Artillery was established in Europe around the year 1400. But physics, the mathematical and systematical description of how objects fall, the foundation of engine construction, didn't dawn until about ...
LocalFluff's user avatar
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1 answer
4k views

Why is Einstein's mass-energy relation usually written as $E=mc^2$, and not $\Delta E=\Delta m c^2$?

Why is Einstein's mass-energy relation usually written as $E=mc^2$, and not $\Delta E=\Delta m c^2$? When you calculate the energy $\Delta E$ released during nuclear fission, you take the difference ...
wythagoras's user avatar
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7 votes
2 answers
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How did Newton come up with his formula for gravitational force?

In high school students are taught the formula that describes the universal gravitational force $F=G\frac{m_1 m_2}{r^2}$. However it is not taught how and why Newton came up with it. Does Newton give ...
PunkZebra's user avatar
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7 votes
3 answers
18k views

Did Einstein really say: "If I were wrong, it would only take one."

The story is that Einstein was shown a German newspaper that claimed "One hundred German physicists claim Einsteins theory of relativity is wrong." Einsteins reply was supposedly, "If I were wrong, it ...
lvoyster's user avatar
7 votes
2 answers
4k views

How did Maxwell conclude that light is an electromagnetic wave?

This is a copy of a question I just asked at Physics Stack Exchange. From reading the text on the related questions, it seems that Maxwell equated light with the carrier of electromagnetic force just ...
CTMacUser's user avatar
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1 answer
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Did Sophie Germain find a flaw in Euler's equations for elastic vibrations?

I am a playwright working on a play about Sophie Germain. When Sophie was competing for the prix extraordinaire to find effective formulas to describe the vibrations of elastic surfaces, she believed ...
Brenda Kenworthy's user avatar
7 votes
2 answers
3k views

Did Galileo perform an experiment at the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

Galileo's pupil Viviani said that Galileo dropped unequal weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa and observed them to take equal times to hit the ground. Galileo's own writings do not describe such an ...
user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
230 views

Did physicists correct an error of mathematicians in counting twisted cubics in the quintic?

One problem in enumerative geometry consists in counting the number of rational curves of degree $d$ in the plane going through $n$ general points. If $n = 3d-1$, this number, denoted $N_d$, is finite ...
Ansonī Bōdo's user avatar
7 votes
2 answers
222 views

Is there an etymological dictionary of terms in physics?

There are of course many physics dictionaries and glossaries and some words can be found in general etymological dictionaries and even English dictionaries; but is there a Physics Etymological ...
stafusa's user avatar
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1 answer
378 views

When and how did the notion/idea of physical constant emerge?

Physical constants (e.g. c, h, G, alpha and so on) play a central role in our scientific theories and they have yet drawn much of controversial flavor into questions concerning the foundational status ...
Louis    's user avatar
  • 343
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1 answer
393 views

When was the geometric structure of a water molecule discovered?

How and when was water the structure of a water molecule (specifically the angles) discovered? Was it discovered by using a specific type of spectroscopy? I know you can derive these angles ...
Dan Barzilay's user avatar

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