# 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 ...
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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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### 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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### 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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### 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 ...
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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.
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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-...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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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### 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 ...
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### 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 (...
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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 ...
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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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### 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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### 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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### 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 ...
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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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### 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 ...
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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'?
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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 ...
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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 ($n-1$ ...
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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, ...
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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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### 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 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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### History of the Wreath product

Why is the wreath product so named? If possible, please provide a citation.
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### 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 ...
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### 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"?
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### 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. ...
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### 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?
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### 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,...
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### 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 ...
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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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### 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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### 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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### 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 ...
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### 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 \...
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### "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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### 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. ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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. ...
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### 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 ...
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