Questions tagged [terminology]

For questions about terms, definitions and related concepts used in science and mathematics.

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1answer
156 views

Why did Euclid define “a unit” instead of “the unit”?

I know Euclid's Definition VII.1 of a unit only from English and German translations: A unit is (that) according to which each existing (thing) is said (to be) one. [translation by Fitzpatrick] ...
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127 views

Degenerate States in Quantum Mechanics

In his book on quantum mechanics in the chapter on perturbation theory Dirac says in a footnote: A system with only one stationary state belonging to each energy-level is often called non-...
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1answer
247 views

History of group theory character tables (as used in physics and chemistry)

Does anyone know who started using the symbols A, B, E, T (First column, left) for showing irreducible representations of symmetry groups? In older maths books I see capital gamma. Herein A= totally ...
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45 views

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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29 views

Why did “cold fusion” come to mean Fleischmann-Pons fusion instead of μCF?

Muon-catalysed fusion is obtained at low temperatures, although as of 2018 its energy yield is less than the muon production requirements. The term "cold fusion" was first used in the 1950s, to refer ...
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650 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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230 views

What is the origin of “normal” in normal coordinates and normal modes?

I am trying to understand why vibrational modes of polyatomic molecules are called "normal" mode of vibrations and with corresponding normal coordinates. What is the origin of the term normal here? I ...
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1answer
373 views

Who came up with the link between the spectrum of an operator and the poles of a meromorphic function?

From Dieudonné's "History of Functional Analysis" I learned that Picard in 1893 gave a characterization of an eigenvalue of the Laplacian as the simple pole of a meromorphic function. Is there an ...
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1answer
106 views

“Species” and “terms” meaning polynomials and monomials

I found in some old Latin texts and their translations that polynomials were once called "species" (if I understand correctly that they meant the same thing, but it looks like it). And their ...
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1answer
91 views

What does Rousseau mean by “Baroco des Logiciens”?

In the Wikipedia "Baroque" article I found this quote from "Dictionnaire de Musique" by Jean-Jacques Rousseau: BAROQUE. Une Musique Baroque est celle dont l’Harmonie est confuse, chargée de ...
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96 views

Who coined the term “immune system”?

Who coined the term "immune system"? The OED lists the following as its earliest example of the term "immune system": 1943 Science 30 Apr. 406/1Complement..is removed by the addition of an ...
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127 views

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

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

How did the terms “center” and “centralizer” come up in group theory?

Usually the word center means the center of a circle. I have encountered the word center in group theory, but do not see any connection with the center of a circle. I think the history of group theory ...
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116 views

What is the etymology of the term “mode” in statistics?

I saw that the word "mode" means "popular" in French, and I was wondering if this might be the etymology of the "mode" of a population in stat? I was wondering if anyone had sources for early use of ...
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212 views

When and why did people stopped using “natural philosophy” term and started using “science”?

Previously what is called now "natural sciences" was called "natural philosophy". I'm interested in details, what was so wrong with the name "philosophy" so the name "science" became preferred?
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Who first considered the $f$ in $f(x)$ as an object in itself, and who decided to call it a function?

The question is in the title, but allow me to provide some background. I’m aware that Leibniz introduced the word “function” into mathematics (around 1673) and that Johann Bernoulli or Euler ...
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119 views

What is the origin of “law of excluded middle”?

Reading an article I have stumbled across the concept of law of excluded middle. Wikipedia mentions that original expression is principium tertii exclusi which ...
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119 views

What does the “G” for the similitude groups stand for?

When we have a bilinear symmetric/ bilinear anti-symmetric/hermitian form $b$ on a real/complex vector space $V$, one can consider the group of invertible matrices $A \in GL(V)$ which respect $b$, ...
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370 views

Why is one of Maxwell's equations named after Ampère? Who first named it after Ampère?

Ampère never wrote down what is confusingly called "Ampère's circuital law," not even the form without the displacement current term, as Ampère never dealt with the field concept.* Maxwell derived $$\...
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246 views

Why statistical moments are called moments?

According to the Jeff Miller's Earliest Known Uses of the Words of Mathematics "Moment was taken into Statistics from Mechanics by Karl Pearson when he treated the frequency-curve (or observation ...
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502 views

How influential was the Kerala school to European development in Calculus?

Did it influence the work of Newton or Leibniz, i have often heard that Europeans "stole" calculus from the Kerala school, these are views often parroted by Indian nationalists, but how accurate is it?...
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1answer
231 views

Etymology of Some Terms Used in Ratio and Proportion in Old Algebra Textbooks

In older algebra textbooks for high school (mainly 19th century) four properties of ratio and proportions were used. The properties were Invertendo, Alternendo, Componendo, and Dividendo. This ...
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720 views

Origin of “Spline” word

I was studying interpolation by Splines in numerical analysis and started to wonder the word's origin. I've found that it was a system used in technical drawings using weights but couldn't find why ...
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154 views

Where does the habit of calling the elements of a projective Hilbert space “rays” originate from?

When describing the projective Hilbert space as the state space in quantum mechanics, physicists habitually refer to its elements as "rays in Hilbert space", while the mathematical literature seems to ...
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148 views

Where does the letter S in “$S$-units” and in localization $S^{-1} R$ come from?

In number theory, we may encounter the notion of $S$-unit, $S$-integer, etc. where $S$ is a finite set of prime numbers (for simplicity). For instance, if $S = \{2,3\}$ then the $S$-integers are the ...
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126 views

First appearance of the term sinus cardinalis

Who introduced the term sinus cardinalis? I do not mean the abbreviation sinc, which was introduced 1952 by Woodward.
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879 views

Etymology of “power” (math.)

Having done some searches on the internet, seems like the term "power" is a mistranslation. The Wikipedia article links to an article in the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive where it is written ...
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954 views

Why are étale morphisms called “étale”?

Alexander Grothendieck developed the theory of "locally trivial coverings spaces for rings/schemes" in SGAI as an analog to the theory of covering spaces in algebraic topology. He called such ...
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217 views

Who coined the term “uniform” as in “uniform distribution”?

During the late 16th century and early 17th century, published work about probability theory (e.g. Liber de ludo aleae by J. Cardan published in 1663 but writen around 1564) studied dice games using ...
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129 views

Riemann's moduli and Dedekind's modules: any connection?

The concept of a moduli space goes back to Riemann's count of $3g-3$ (or $3p-3$, in older notation) coordinates to describe Riemann surfaces of genus $g$ when $g > 1$. See the bottom of p. 33 here, ...
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246 views

Indiana Pi Bill: Other attempts to establish mathematical truth by legislative fiat?

Wiki: The Indiana Pi Bill is the popular name for bill #246 of the 1897 sitting of the Indiana General Assembly, one of the most notorious attempts to establish mathematical truth by legislative ...
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121 views

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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100 views

Who invented the term “Kuhn loss”?

This term has been discussed on this forum, e.g. under Examples of Kuhn loss?, and has been attributed to Kuhn himself. The term refers to the loss of explanations and predictions of the prior ...
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181 views

Earliest known usage of letter gamma “Γ” for reducible representation in group theory

Does any know the earliest known usage of the Greek letter gamma for showing a reducible representation of a group? This symbolism is commonly used in character tables in chemical applications of ...
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143 views

Who was the first to use the “does not exist” sign ∄?

Who was the first to use the "does not exist" sign ∄? I'm aware that Giuseppe Peano originated serifed ∃ and, moreover that Whitehead and Russell repurposed Peano's serifed ∃; I'm also aware that ...
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1answer
80 views

References about the the development of the concept of mechanical work

I'm looking for references about how the concept of mechanical work ("$\boldsymbol{F}\cdot\mathrm{d}\boldsymbol{r}$") or the concept of mechanical power ("$\boldsymbol{F}\cdot\boldsymbol{v}$") came ...
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265 views

When were the abbreviations of chemical elements standardized?

This is going to be tricky because the discovery/synthesis of elements has taken place over centuries. It might be best to restrict this purely to the elements contained on Dmitri Mendeleyev's table, ...
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197 views

What is the origin of the terminology 'spin up/down'?

In my research area one seminal reference is H. Bethe, ''Zur Theorie der Metalle'', Z. Phys. 71 205 (1931), see also the English translation by T. C. Dorlas (2009). On page 206 of the original ...
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96 views

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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815 views

Why is kinetic energy denoted by the letter $T$ in quantum mechanics?

I think the question is self-explanatory but stackexchange requires me to write something here.
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1answer
42 views

Doctrine of the sterilazio magna

What was the "doctrine of sterilazio magna"? Example from 1912 article about the variability of drug effectiveness: "Although the doctrine of the sterilazio magna has only been urged against the ...
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2answers
641 views

Why is the azimuthal quantum number so named?

The name "azimuthal quantum number" is often used for the total orbital angular momentum quantum number $\ell$ in an atom. What is the origin of this name? It makes no sense to me, since the usual ...
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835 views

Who Invented The Number Line?

Recently, I came across this article and wondered if there really is a definitive answer to the question of who invented the number line?
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364 views

Who coined the term “iff” for “if and only if”?

The OED's entry for "iff" lists this as the earliest usage: 1955 J. L. Kelley Gen. Topol. vii. 232: "F is equicontinuous at x iff there is a neighborhood of x whose image under every member of ...
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106 views

What was the significance of Eisenstein's discovery of invariants?

I am trying to decipher a portion of James Joseph Sylvester's 1869 address entitled "The Study That Knows Nothing of Observation", which, among other things, surveys the landscape of 19th century ...
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168 views

Who are “analysts” and “synthesists” in mathematics?

What is the difference between the terms "analysis" and "synthesis" used in a mathematical context? For example, Hawkins's Emergence of the Theory of Lie Groups p. 3 says that Klein and Lie were ...
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2k views

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: \...
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191 views

Why is an inch (in the English Imperial system of measure) as long as it is?

My question is about the length of the inch which is a subunit of the Imperial foot. Is there any connection whatsoever between the Imperial system for units of measure and the dimensions of the ...
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2answers
109 views

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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65 views

Gentzen and computer science

This is a cross-post from mathstack: https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/2584003/gentzen-and-computer-science?noredirect=1#comment5333947_2584003 I would like to learn a bit about the ...