Questions tagged [terminology]

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

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5
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1answer
233 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
446 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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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
869 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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847 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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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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3answers
684 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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1answer
183 views

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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1answer
335 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
63 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
66 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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332 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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2answers
581 views

Who wrote down minus times minus is equal to plus? [duplicate]

I am not here to ask why "minus times minus is plus", this is a basic arithmetic fact. The related question most people ask is: why does $-\times-=+$. Of, course there may be several explanations for ...
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1answer
149 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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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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6k views

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
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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 ...
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2answers
10k 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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209 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
53 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
433 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 ...
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1answer
761 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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479 views

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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1answer
341 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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235 views

When was the term “union” first used?

I found out that the symbol for union, ∪, was created in 1895 by Giuseppe Peano in his Formulario Mathematico but of course the use of the word "union" in mathematics was older. Do you have a ...
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721 views

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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380 views

When was the term “field” first used in maths?

My understanding is that the term "field" in science was first used in physics, while the mathematical term, at least the algebraic one, was more recent. Does anybody know when the first occurrence ...
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217 views

What are the most famous examples of theory rebranding?

This question was sparked by the observation that the rebranding of the field called "neural networks" into "deep learning" is quite impressive. I wonder whether there have been similar renamings in ...
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1answer
140 views

Do the words 'graphing' a function and 'graph' theory have a common ancestor?

When saying graph in mathematics, it can be either a graph of a function, or a graph in graph theory. However mathematically they have nothing in common. How did they get the same name? I know graph ...
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374 views

Why do we call a linear mapping “linear mapping”?

According with the book Classic Algebra by P.M.Cohn for historical reasons we call a linear mapping "linear mapping". What are the historical reasons that created the term "linear mapping"?
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188 views

From the perspective of etymology, why was the word “magma” chosen to describe a set with a single binary operation defined on it?

According to Wikipedia, the choice of vocabulary was made partially to avoid overloading the term "groupoid". However, that still does not explain etymologically speaking, "magma" was chosen instead ...
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461 views

Is it true that Leibniz introduced “constant,” “variable,” and “function”?

I read in a not always reliable source (David Foster Wallace's Everything and More, p.104), that Leibniz introduced the terms constant, variable, and function, the latter as an alternative to Newton's ...
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274 views

Origin of “dust” in cosmology?

In cosmology, "dust" refers to a pressureless perfect fluid, which essentially means a continuum of nonrelativistic material particles, such as galaxies. This is a picturesque and unusual piece of ...
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2answers
4k views

Why was delta ($\Delta$) chosen to represent change of a quantity?

In many fields, it's common for $\Delta$ (the Greek letter delta) to represent a change or difference. Math uses it, physics uses it, engineering uses it, etc. Why was $\Delta$ chosen for this? I ...
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146 views

What is the origin of the term recombination?

During the introductory lecture to a cosmology course I'm currently taking, there was a brief discussion of some of the "highlights" of the Big Bang model. One of these is, of course, recombination. ...
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321 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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1answer
1k views

How did the term “Michel electron” come about?

The Michel electron is what we call the electron produced from muon decay, and it's named after Louis Michel. I mention this in a paper I'm writing, and I was told that I need to cite it. I can't find ...
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93 views

Who was the first to use the phrase “the standard model” of something?

I was doing some reading on stellar structure, and I noticed the phrase "the standard solar model" used to describe the structure of the Sun, and stars in general. It reminded me of the Standard Model ...
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Why is magnetic flux 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. I mean, he didn't contribute much to magnetic fields theory, nor did he work with them a lot. ...
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Origin of the Hankel contour?

Who was the first to publish a Hankel contour integral? See notes in my answer to the MO-Q How does one motivate the analytic continuation of the Riemann zeta function?.
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130 views

History of the Wreath product

Why is the wreath product so named? If possible, please provide a citation.
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312 views

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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709 views

Why is the Heaviside step function named after Heaviside?

The Heaviside step function is usually defined as $$ \theta(x)=\left\{\begin{array}{ll}0&\text{if }x<0\\\tfrac12&\text{if }x=0\\1&\text{if }x>0.\\\end{array}\right. $$ It is ...
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1answer
5k views

Who invented the mole?

Who invented, or first used, the concept of the mole? I did my own research and the closest I came was Avogadro’s constant, which was made not by Avogadro but rather by Jean Baptiste Perrin. However, ...
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1answer
87 views

Origin of “world-line?”

The term "world-line" is a little odd in English. Google n-grams shows the English term going back to 1915 in the books google has scanned. Is its origin in Minkowski, Raum und Zeit (1909), ...
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250 views

When was the term 'elementary function' first coined and who did it?

The definition of what an elementary function is is quite arbitrary (see what math.SE has to say about it) and it makes me wonder why hasn't the mathematical community added other rather natural ...
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831 views

When and by whom was the term 'momentum' introduced?

We know that up to 1726, when the third edition of the Principia was published, the name for $m\vec v$ was: quantitas motus. Do you know who substituted that with another Latin word: 'momentum'?
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Why did angular momentum get the letter L

Note - this question was inspired by this questions on physics.SE. Many (most) physical quantities are denoted with a single letter - latin or greek. For many, the letter chosen makes sense: $t$ for ...
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1answer
130 views

What's the origin and meaning of the adjective “free” in mathematics?

It's pretty common to call a group, ring or module free when it has a 'basis', but unlike other mathematical definitions whose names can be easily related to the concept they describe (e.g. the ...
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283 views

Is “de” in “de Morgan” supposed to be capitalized or not?

I am currently writing about the "de Morgan's laws" and have seen both "de Morgan" and "De Morgan." Which of these is correct?