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Questions tagged [terminology]

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

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How did the early chemists make a connection between gram formula weight with 1 mole and Avogadro's number?

According to one historian Mustafa Sarikaya's article in Foundations of Chemistry DOI 10.1007/s10698-011-9128-7, the mole concept was introduced to chemistry earlier than Avogadro’s number. The mole ...
ACR's user avatar
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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, ...
Bassam Karzeddin's user avatar
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1 answer
352 views

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 ...
user190080's user avatar
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1 answer
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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 ...
AJY's user avatar
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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 ...
Taladris's user avatar
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When did they start requiring holotypes for species description?

I know they weren't required in the early 1800s but obviously they are now so just wondering when this started being required and/or who coined holotype. Internet research yielded no good answers.
imrobert's user avatar
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What's the difference between Galileo's "impeto" and "momento"?

In Galileo's Two New Sciences, he describes an experiment demonstrating pendulum motion and how the pendulum will rise to the same height from where it started its fall. This discussion can be found ...
Andrew R.'s user avatar
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Origin of the term "affixe"/"affix" in the geometric treatment of complex numbers

In current French mathematical tradition, when introducing complex numbers, it is common to hear about "complex plane of Argand-Cauchy". What is particular in French treatment, it is the ...
Alexey's user avatar
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1 answer
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Origin of "bootstrapping" in mathematical logic

"Bootstrapping" is a term which in general refers to a self-starting process. It is very heavily used in the field of computer science, but it also has uses elsewhere. For example, in ...
Not_Here's user avatar
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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-...
blackholedynamite's user avatar
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3 answers
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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 ...
WBT's user avatar
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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 ...
bzm3r's user avatar
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1 answer
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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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1 answer
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What is the origin of the "red, green, yellow" quark color convention?

In physics, quarks come in one of three color states, usually chosen to be called, "red", "green", and "blue". However, because these are just labels, there are other ...
jack101yello's user avatar
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3k views

Who associated the sharp, principal, diffuse, fundamental spectral terms with electron's momentum?

It is well documented that the notation for the electronic configuration (s,p,d,f) of atoms as used today originates from the words sharp, principal, diffuse, fundamental from alkali metal spectra (...
ACR's user avatar
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Why do mathematicians call ~ 'twiddle'?

Every one of my lecturers have always called it this, as do I, despite the fact that I know its properly called 'tilde'. Does anyone have any clue where this convention comes from and why it might ...
MMR's user avatar
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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?
Diracology's user avatar
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1 answer
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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 ...
Michael Bächtold's user avatar
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1 answer
252 views

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?
Stephan Kulla's user avatar
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0 answers
120 views

Who coined the term Orthonormal?

Does anyone know who coined the term orthonormal to refer to a basis that is orthogonal and normal? In such a poorly named mathematical world (looking at you, conditionally convergent series) I think ...
I love orthonormal's user avatar
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The term "constant" in "integration by parts" ("partielle Integration")

In Riemann's "Ueber die Darstellbarkeit einer Function durch eine trigonometrische Reihe", Riemann mentions taking a factor as "constant" in "partial integration", which ...
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Why did Galileo pick "temperatura" to signify 'degree of heat or cold'?

Etymonline avouches that Sense of "degree of heat or cold" first recorded 1670 (Boyle), from Latin temperatura, used in this sense by Galileo. But "degree of heat or cold" doesn'...
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322 views

Where does the term "arm's-length recursion" come from?

I've recently seen the term "arm's-length recursion" for a recursive method with a check that short-circuits the method's true or intended base case. What's the origin of this term? How did ...
Jason Hemann's user avatar
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Origin of the term 'index of a subgroup'

The index of a subgroup $H$ in a group $G$ is the number of distinct cosets of $H$ in $G$. Why did someone decide to call this an 'index'?
Nick Decroos's user avatar
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Where does the notion of "three crises of mathematics" come from? [duplicate]

Update: It can be traced back to Fraenkel-Bar-Hillel's Foundations of Set Theory, originally published in 1958. Further discussions can be seen at the linked question. The notion of "three crises ...
比尔盖子's user avatar
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Old geometry terminology

I was reading Ramsey's 1927 paper "A Contribution to the Theory of Taxation" and came across the following paragraph: "We have $\lambda_1 = \mu_1,\ldots,\lambda_m = \mu_m$, $m$ hyperplanes ($n-1$ ...
Zed's user avatar
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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, ...
J.G.'s user avatar
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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 ...
chandra's user avatar
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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 ...
Toby Hawkins's user avatar
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192 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 ...
Ernesto Iglesias's user avatar
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0 answers
300 views

History of the Wreath product

Why is the wreath product so named? If possible, please provide a citation.
user1941's user avatar
3 votes
3 answers
1k views

History of the term innovation and its difference with invention?

Today, research and science is often associated to innovation (particularly by governments and funding agencies). I would like to understand how we got here and when the use of innovation as a ...
Vincent's user avatar
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2 answers
457 views

What or who is Peloritan in the name "Accademia Peloritana dei Pericolanti"?

The University of Messina has a scientific organization and publication "Accademia Peloritana dei Pericolanti", see 1. What is the origin and meaning of the word "peloritana"?
hyportnex's user avatar
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1 answer
506 views

When did the error function get its modern definition?

I am currently writing an essay on the error function and after researching its historical origin, I found out who first defined it: J.W.L. Glaisher. But his definition is different from today's form. ...
Nogi Biggi's user avatar
2 votes
3 answers
1k views

When was mercury given its name?

The Wikipedia page for mercury says that it was named after the Roman god because of his speed and mobility. When did the name mercury start to be used to designate the metal?
usernumber's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
158 views

Weyl's gauge theory and railroad tracks

There is a claim I occasionally read that the origin of the word "gauge" refers to a track gauge used in railroad tracks (the distance between two rails). It's a claim I have seen here, here,...
Slereah's user avatar
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1 answer
708 views

Why are revolutions per minute (RPM) still used instead of hertz (Hz)?

When did people start using Revolutions per Minute (RPM) to measure motors, engines, other devices and where did the term originate? Why do we continue to use it instead of an SI unit like Hz? From ...
SomeGuy's user avatar
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2 votes
2 answers
1k 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 ...
Leon Conrad's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
70 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) ...
martina.physics's user avatar
2 votes
2 answers
290 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 ...
HowDoIMath's user avatar
2 votes
3 answers
125 views

Where does the name "geometric theory" come from?

In mathematical logic, where does the adjective "geometric" comes from, in terms like "geometric theories" and "geometric logic"? These terms come up in fields like topos ...
Nick Decroos's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
277 views

Why is a time series not called a time sequence?

In pure mathematics, a sequence is a list of terms, for instance $1, \frac12, \frac14, \dots, \frac{1}{2^k},\dots$, and a series is the sum of an infinite sequence, for instance $\sum_{k=1}^\infty \...
Federico Poloni's user avatar
2 votes
3 answers
30k 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 ...
HSchmale's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
256 views

Was Freud a scientist? If so, does this mean psychoanalysis is a scientific method? [closed]

Freud was a dominant thinker in 20th c intellectual history, testimony to which is given by the sheer volume of articles, papers and books written by and about him and the psychoanalytic method. ...
DJohnson's user avatar
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1 answer
148 views

Were molecules called atoms in the 19th century?

E.g. a quote from Justus von Liebig, 17th Chemical Letter, 1858, in German: Wir können ein Stück Zucker, auch wenn wir es noch so fein reiben, nicht flüssig machen, noch viel weniger können wir durch ...
viuser's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
169 views

The reason why sheaf theory emerged

Motivation: In any history, there is a cause-and-effect relationship. So I became curious about the situation in which the sheaf theory came to appear. In other words, I'm curious about what problem ...
pokssin's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
746 views

The etymology of "radio waves"

The word "radio" originates from "radius", which in turn came from "ray". That's why "radius" means any line from a central focal point to any directions. ...
Piinhuann Chew's user avatar
2 votes
2 answers
156 views

Definition and name change of the oscillation function

I have two related questions: Who first defined the oscillation function (perhaps under a different name)? When did the switch from the phrase "saltus function"(*) to "oscillation ...
Alp Uzman's user avatar
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1 answer
777 views

What is the history of the use of the word daughter for a decay product in nuclear physics?

I was browsing the book Isotopes: Principles and Applications by Faure and Mensing and I would like to know what is the history of the use of the word daughter for a decay product. It seems to me that ...
Alessandro Jacopson's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
3k views

How did the early chemists determine the atomic weight of hydrogen?

In early history, the relative atomic weight of hydrogen was assigned as 1 (exactly) and all other elements were compared against hydrogen. What is difficult to find who determined the absolute atomic ...
ACR's user avatar
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