Questions tagged [terminology]

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

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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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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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38 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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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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132 views

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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281 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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What is the first usage of the term “Adjoint” and why was this word chosen?

The term "Adjoint" appears in many different mathematical areas and for sometimes seemingly different kinds of things. Wikipedia says -- "In mathematics, the term adjoint applies in several ...
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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 ...
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Why do we say “Matrices” and “Vertices”, but “Complexes” rather than “Complices”?

I had a professor point out that it is odd we refer to more than one chain complex as "complexes." It seems that in most other definitions in math we stick to the typical latin plural, i.e. we say ...
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Why is the SI prefix k- lower case?

In the SI unit prefixes, there's a general pattern of using uppercase prefixes for multipliers larger than 1 and lower case for prefixes that are smaller than one. However, this is not a universal ...
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How is “soul” meant to be understood in the context of the “Soul Theorem”

My mathematics are still quite rudimentary, but am I correct in assuming this is a reference to the "finite" state of closed manifolds as opposed to a potential, "infinite" state of the non-compacted ...
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First use of litte $o_p$ (little $o$ in probability) notation?

I have a follow up question from my previous question on math.SE, where I asked about the First use of little $o$ notation - for those who want to check - the answer goes back to Landau ($1909$), this ...
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Why is there no named unit for momentum but there is one for energy?

Momentum and energy play very similar roles in mechanics, each being changed by the application of force over a interval. For energy the interval is in space and for momentum it is in time. Both have ...
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Who attached Buniakovsky's name to the Cauchy-Schwarz inequality?

From time to time one sees insistence that the inequality name "Cauchy-Schwarz" should include Buniakovsky. This is based on a paragraph in a note to the St Petersburg Academy from 1859, where ...
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Why are rings called rings?

I copied the question from https://math.stackexchange.com/q/61497/378968 because I think it is more suitable for this site and I think an answer to this question here could do better than: Hilbert ...
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Analysis vs Synthesis in Greek Mathematics

I am trying to understand the difference in "analysis" and "synthesis" as used by the ancient Greek mathematicians. Most sources characterize synthesis as working from givens to a desired conclusion, ...
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Coordinate axis - Why the name “axis”?

In "natural life" "axis" is often used in terms of an axis of rotation. But in the mathematical sense, it's more used like a ruler. One could say an axis in "natural life" sense has something to do ...
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What is the connection between Lamarck's Mediterranean mussel and the province of Gallia?

The scientific name of the Mediterranean Mytilus is Mytilus galloprovincialis, with Lamarck being reported as the creator. I wonder where this name comes from, in particular what is the (supposed) ...
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Who originated the biological senses of palindrome and pseudopalindrome?

One would think that when DNA biology uses the word palindrome it would mean approximately the same thing as palindrome in other contexts. As I understand it, this is not true. Whereas, a normal ...
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Grassmann Formula

I'm in my first year of Mathematics at the University. Recently, we've learnt about Grassmann Formula and when I was making a little research on the internet, I couldn't find a single reference ...
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What is the origin of “an algebra” as in vector space with multiplication?

What is the origin of calling a vector space over a field $F$ endowed with multiplication an algebra? Tried searching, but not surprisingly Google likes to drop the article and just bring me to the ...
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Why the thermoelectric figure of merit is denoted “ZT”?

Why the thermoelectric figure of merit is denoted ZT? Does ZT come from the abbreviation of words in some language? Update: So far T has been figured out --- it is the temperature to make the whole ...
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What is the origin of “ortho-,” “meta-,” “para-,” in chemistry?

The prefix "ortho-" means straight or right; "meta-" means beyond or after; "para-" means beside or along. How, then, did ortho-, meta- and para- come to refer to the carbon positions one, two, and ...
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Why do English volume units use base 2?

I would post this on Quora, since it is more of a "just wondering" sort of question, except that I much prefer StackExchange's platform: As weird as Imperial units generally are, English volume units ...
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Were integrals really called solution curves (or vice versa)?

For some reason I recall hearing that around the time Euler wrote his Calculus books (1768-1770), or even before then, what we call integrals now were called solution cuvres (or even possibly the ...
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What is the etymology behind sine, cosine, tangent, etc.?

I heard somewhere that it was actually a mistake in translation. What's the correct story?
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When was the convention for the indefinite integral $\int\frac{1}{x}dx$ changed?

In Europe, in the 20th century, $\int\frac{1}{x}dx$ equalled $\ln{x}+C$. (I have references from Poland for 1930-1947 and the UK for the 1960s and 1970s). Now, if one mentions $\int\frac{1}{x}dx=\ln{...