Questions tagged [terminology]

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

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20
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2answers
3k views

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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3answers
890 views

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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0answers
149 views

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 ...
4
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2answers
984 views

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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1answer
119 views

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 ...
2
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1answer
56 views

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) ...
2
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1answer
103 views

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 ...
3
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2answers
374 views

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 ...
14
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2answers
371 views

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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898 views

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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1answer
772 views

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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1answer
202 views

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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1answer
104 views

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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4k views

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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304 views

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{...
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247 views

Introduction of $\imath$ and $\jmath$ notations for the imaginary unit

The imaginary unit is generally denoted $i$ or $\imath$. I have learned that the term imaginary ("imaginaires") was coined by R. Descartes in 1637, and the "i" notation was introduced by L. Euler (cf. ...
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225 views

First mention of Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic

Without a Disquisitiones Arithmeticae at hand, I may ask... When the unique factorization theorem was first called the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic?
6
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1answer
7k views

Why are microwaves called “microwaves”, when they are much longer than a micrometer?

If "millimeter waves" have a wavelength of about 1 mm, one might linguistically expect microwaves to have a wavelength of about three orders of magnitude less, not the same or greater. How did ...
5
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1answer
121 views

Origins and history of branched covering

During my research on branched coverings of the projective plane, I am interested to know the origins and history of branched coverings of the projective plane and the projective line, together with ...
5
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2answers
709 views

History of the definition of Injective & Surjective Function

I'm a college student, just beginning to study Elementary Set Theory. In studying about the definition of injective and surjective function, out of curiosity, it came to my mind a question about the ...
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1answer
97 views

on the classification of singular points

After reading this question and the answers to it, I am interested o know who were the first mathematicians who started classifying singular points of curves: i.e. different kind of nodes, of cusps ...
3
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1answer
1k views

What is the origin of the term “ordinary differential equations”?

Who has first used the term "ordinary differential equation"? Is it known, why the term "ordinary" is used here? What makes an ODE "ordinary"?
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82 views

Which is the first reference using the terminology “Chinese Remainder Theorem” for this theorem?

The Chinese Remainder Theorem is one of the fundamental theorems in modular arithmetic. As far as I know, this terminology for the theorem is due to the fact that the Chinese mathematicians were the ...
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1answer
99 views

Why were nature, natural science, physics, medicine all considered the same subject and so defined with the same noun?

This question pursues the history of this noun and its etymons; compare with ELU and FSE. physic (n.) [1.] c. 1300, fysike, "art of healing, medical science," also "natural science" (c. 1300), ...
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1answer
201 views

Who coined kernel in mathematics?

I'm convinced that there is no such a mathematician whose name is "kernel". The wiki article about kernel doesn't include history in its content. So I wonder, who is the first mathematician to use ...
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1answer
437 views

Who was first to differentiate between prime and irreducible elements?

I recently learned about irreducible and prime elements in a commutative ring. However, my professor was not quite sure who was the first to make this distinction, or give an example of an irreducible ...
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3answers
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Who first used the word “calculus”, and what did it describe?

This comment cites Wikipedia in stating that, before the development of the modern-day subject of calculus (i.e. analysis), the term "calculus" referred to general mathematics. Who first used the ...
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1answer
379 views

What caused the name change from “analysis situs” to “topology”?

J. Alexander's 1926 paper, Combinatorial Analysis Situs, doesn't refer to the field as combinatorial topology. He mentions that combinatorial analysis situs is concerned with topological invariants ...
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1answer
335 views

What is the origin of the “virtual particle pair” metaphor for vacuum fluctuations?

In any layman level description of vacuum fluctuations in quantum field theory the fluctuations are described as a pair of virtual particles spontaneously appearing then disappearing within some short ...
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How did “one-to-one” come to be used to refer to injective functions?

I have always had a hard time explaining to my students the term one-to-one. After making sure my students understand "in", "sur" and "bi", the Bourbaki terms, injective, surjective and bijective make ...
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2answers
134 views

Separability and second countability is the same thing to Halmos

I was browsing through Paul Halmos' classic book on measure theory from 1950, when I came by the following definition of separability on page 3 in the chapter on prerequisites: Today a separable ...
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1answer
487 views

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 ...
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1answer
69 views

Origin of use of “quotient” to describe structures induced by equivalence classes

I'm sure this question has been asked somewhere, but I have been unable to find it. Why is it that when we have some set $X$ with an equivalence relation $\equiv$, and $X$ has some structure (e.g. a ...
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1answer
235 views

What is the origin of the use of “g” for a Riemannian metric?

I am asking about the reason for the use of this letter, if known, as well as the initial occasion of its use. Ideas that have been suggested concerning the former include: That it stands for ...
5
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1answer
341 views

Modern usage of alchemical symbols

As far as I know, not many (if any) alchemical symbols have survived in modern nomenclature of science, either in chemistry or any other. I think $\LaTeX$ doesn't even support most of them! I know ...
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4answers
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Who said $\pi$ is a constant since it is not even a real number?

EDIT: (130116) I don't mean it is complex or imaginary nor it is negative also, I tried hard to conceive it on the real line number (positive X-axis), by obvious means, a little idea came to me?, "...
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1answer
971 views

Origin of the word “vector” [closed]

I would like to know the history and the original meaning of the word "vector". Thank you for any hints.
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1answer
157 views

What was the evolution of “basis” and “generating set” in algebra?

Today, I've heard someone speak of a basis (of an ideal), meaning a generating set. All the time, I was fine with the term Gröbner-basis, but when it comes without the prefix, it's a bit funny, since ...
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3answers
832 views

Why does the start of the calendar year not correspond to a natural event?

Why is Jan. 1, the start of a new year, several days after the Winter Solstice, instead of coinciding with a solstice or equinox or other natural annual event? Note: The question does not ask why ...
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345 views

Historical roots of the justification for the rule for multiplication of negative numbers

As a follow up question with respect to : Who wrote down minus times minus is equal to plus? and to : Historically, how did people define multiplication for negative numbers?, it can be interesting to ...
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13k views

Who invented the integers?

I know that Kronecker claimed it was God's doing, and that even prehistoric humans used some ways of counting. But I am curious where the idea of a sequence of numbers stretching out into infinity ...
4
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1answer
401 views

What did Dedekind's The Nature and Meaning of Numbers contribute to the founding of Set Theory?

As best as I can tell Dedekind's paper was published in 1887 already several years after Cantor's flurry of papers on Set Theory between 1879-1883. With this in mind my central questions are: 1) What ...
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1answer
67 views

Origin of the expression “Open problem”

Google Ngram shows that the expression "open problem" started to be in use around the end of the 19th century. My question is then 2-fold: Who coined the expression? Wikipedia doesn't seem to know. ...
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1answer
68 views

How can I be sure that a certain term ocurred first in a certain textbook?

The German Wikipedia article "Bernoulli-Verteilung" ("Bernoulli distribution") claims that the term "Bernoullian trials" occurs first in the textbook "Introduction to Mathematical Probability" by J.V. ...
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1answer
706 views

When did the names of scientists first become the names of scientific units?

Many scientific units are named after scientists, for example Tesla for magnetic flux, Farad for capacitance and Newtons for force. When did the tradition of naming scientific units begin?
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13k views

“Calories” vs “calories”

Why was it decided to differentiate kcals from calories with a capital 'C'? It seems kind of odd to me. 1 Cal = 1 kcal = 1000 cal What were the reasons ...
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1answer
819 views

Why is the Sophie Germain Identity called thus?

Several authors (z.B.: Arthur Engel in his Problem-Solving Strategies, Alexander Bogomolny in this entry of the Cut the Knot website) refer to the following (straightforward) consequence of the ...
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213 views

Is $\Gamma^i_{jk}$ the Christoffel symbol or the Christoffel symbols?

For years, I have been perplexed that the expression $\Gamma^i_{jk}$ is often referred to in the plural as "the Christoffel symbols", although sometimes it is referred to in the singular as "the ...
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1answer
55 views

What was the system for naming scientific ideas / inventions?

I'm interested in tracing the history of the word "Optical Illusion." See these two questions History of optics and https://english.stackexchange.com/q/260495/129806 It seems Greek and Latin words ...
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2answers
457 views

What word meaning “random” was used before the word “random” got popularized?

In the What is Random? vlog of the Vsauce channel, Michael says (start from 3:25): In the 1300s, random meant running or at great speed. Later, it would be used to describe things that have no ...