Questions tagged [terminology]

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

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144 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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113 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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198 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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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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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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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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216 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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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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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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875 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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955 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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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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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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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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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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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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111 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 ...
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294 views

What is the etymology of lower case p as the operator for the negative of the common logarithm?

In high school we were taught that the formula for pH is the negative of the common logarithm of hydrogen ion concentration: pH = -log[H+]. It wasn't until I took organic chemistry that the "acid ...
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What is the name given to the principle that guides mathematical conventions like the product of two negative numbers is positive

I recall that I read---in a book by Constance Reid---of a named principle that guided the arithmetic conventions that applied to operations on newly discovered mathematical objects. For example, when ...
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History of mesoscopic physics

Mesoscopic physics is a topic of major research as nanotechnology becomes an important hot topic. There doesn't seem to be a major writing about the history of mesoscopic physics. I know a little ...
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Timeline of mathematical foundation?

As it is globally known that set theory as a foundation of mathematics, although in the beginning we didn't call it "Set" rather group of elements. For example - set of [1(banana) + 2(apple)+1(cow)] =>...
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554 views

Who was the first individual that used the word “torus” to refer to $\mathbb{S}^{1} \times \mathbb{S}^{1}$?

Further, I believe that the idea to call it thus had to do with its resemblance to the "torus" in the base of some Greek columns of old: What do you think of this hypothesis of mine? Thanks in ...
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Origin of the terminology “trace operator” related to boundary-value problems for PDEs

Important results in the theory of PDEs regarding boundary-value problems are trace and extension theorems. Since the trace operator (not to be confused with the trace from linear algebra) essentially ...
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Grassmann's “forms”

In Grassmann's famous article Ausdehnungslehre from 1844 (the one where he introduces what has come to be famous as Grassmann algebra) he uses the termionology "form" in place of, as he explains in ...
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Who was the first to use the term field in physics?

Faraday, after drawing his lines of force in 19th century, is normally credited as the first to use the term field in physics. But... ... was not the term field used in the context of gravitational ...
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Why is it called the butterfly effect?

The pop-sci answer is that Lorenz characterised chaotic atmospheric dynamics with the hypothetical example of a butterfly's flapping wings changing whether a tornado results. However, since butterfly-...
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origin of the terms “domain” and “range”?

A 1929 paper of Chittenden contains the following sentence (about the derived set operator on a space $P$): “Thus the relation $E' = K(E)$ defines a single-valued set-valued set-function, whose ...
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Why is $\eta$ used in $\eta$-conversion?

In lambda calculus there are three types of reduction, $\alpha$-renaming $\beta$-reduction $\eta$-conversion The use of $\eta$ in $\eta$-conversion seems rather strange to me. Since they already ...
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Set Theory, onto and into their relation to spoken language definitions

Does anyone know how the definitions for onto and into map to the spoken language definitions of the words? I compared the Bourbaki definitions to these words and have a suspicion that the German ...
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43 views

First use of the term/name “curved exponential family”?

Question: What was the first recorded use of someone calling exponential families (in probability/statistics) for which the dimension of the natural parameter space is strictly less than the dimension ...
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343 views

Name of the Gamma function

The Gamma function for positive arguments can be defined with the integral $$ \Gamma(\alpha) = \int_0^\infty x^{\alpha-1} e^{-x}\,dx $$ The function $ x^{\alpha-1} e^{-x} $ is called the Gamma ...
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Whence “homomorphism”, “homomorphic”?

The kernel question leads to another : Today, homomorphism (resp. isomorphism) means what Jordan (1870) had called isomorphism (resp. holoedric isomorphism). How did the switch happen? “Homomorphic” ...
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What is the origin of the term “involution” used in Hamiltonian mechanics

We say that two dynamical variables $f$ and $g$ are in involution if their Poisson bracket vanishes, i.e., $\{f,g\}=0$. Why is it called involution?
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What is the name of this numeral system?

In a XVth century french manuscript on arithmetic and astrology, there is a description of a numeral system as follows (it starts here in the manuscript). Numbers between 1 and 9 are depicted by a ...
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What are early examples of the rare notational convention to make the sign of the real number represented by a letter depend on the typography?

Question. What early published or citably attested examples (preferably in the mathematical literature) can you give of the following convention? Let $\mathbb{S}$ denote some nonempty subset of some ...
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Who was the first to prove that $\pi$ was a real number? [closed]

Recently, there were many topics in sci.math discussed by so many (mathematicians, logicians, physicians, cranks and anti-cranks,..etc) the old definition of $\pi$ that is still considered valid up to ...
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Was the word “function” used in mathematics prior to Leibniz?

Most sources attribute the first use of "function" in the context of mathematics to Leibniz. But D'Alembert, Lacroix and Dini claim the following: D'Alembert in Encyclopédie 1757: les anciens ...
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386 views

Where does the name “geometric sequence” come from?

On this and other Stack Exchange website, there have been question about the so-called geometric series, and where its name comes from. My problem is that most answers follow one of two different ...
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Why is the letter $\vec{r}$ used for position?

I'm sorry if this is a dumb question but I've never heard a convincing explanation for why seemingly all of physics names the position vector "$\vec{r}$". I've tried translating it into just about ...
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Etymology of 'qubit'; is there any relation to cubits?

Whilst several not-very-authoritative sources e.g. Wikipedia state that the word qubit was derived, partially, as a play on the word cubit (obviously it also stands for 'quantum bit'), is there any ...
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Why and who was the first to denote the square root operation in fractional form as $1/2$

Basically, the square root operation was discovered and proved rigorously from the Pythagorean theorem, it was denoted by square root of a rational number say $n$ as $\sqrt{n}$, but at a later stage, ...
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Did anybody know Pi well enough in 1592 to celebrate Pi day?

Pi to 7 decimal digits is: 3.1415926 Many people are familiar with Pi day. Celebrated on March 14 as per American date format, the holiday brings attention to the fact that the date resembles the ...
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Was the term “manifold” (or its German equivalent) chosen with the verb “to fold” in mind?

Recently I came across several papers of Monge and Lagrange, around the end of the 18th century, considering developable surface as 'folded' planes, using specifically the word "plié" (i.e. folded). ...
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Question on “What St. Augustine didn't say about mathematicians”

In the note "What St. Augustine didn't say about mathematicians" (which appeared sometime in 1991 in the pages of the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal), R. P. Boas, Jr. mentioned, among other things, that in the ...
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When was a partition of unity discovered?

A partition of unity is a mathematical concept in geometry. I want to know when and in what context this concept appeared.
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Jordan called isomorphisms (iso.) and homomorphisms “iso. holoedriques” and “iso. meriedriques” respectively; translation of holoe/meried-driques?

Stillwell mentions in his Elements of Algebra: The first to use the term "isomorphism" was Jordan, in his Traite des Substitutions [1870], the first textbook on group theory...Jordan used the word "...
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Why isn't the ${\gamma}^5$ matrix not called ${\gamma}^4$?

This is not really a physical question, but it relates to notation in QED. The ${\gamma}^5$ matrix is defined as $${\gamma}^5=i{\gamma}^0 {\gamma}^1{\gamma}^2{\gamma}^3$$ Wouldn't it be more ...
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Why is the term “kernel” used in algebra? [duplicate]

What was the motivation to use the word "kernel" in algebra to denote the set of all arguments which are mapped to the idendity element (by a homomorphism)? Who introduced it?
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What is the history of why electrical circuit diagrams list positive as the direction of electron flow?

In the study of electrical engineering circuit diagrams it is usually the norm to show the + ( positive ) polarity as the direction of motion. However in reality the electron is the elementary ...