23 votes
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What was the vis viva controversy, including its philosophical aspects?

The controversy was ostensibly over what gets to be the "true quantity of motion", momentum or vis viva (kinetic energy), with Newton and Leibniz on the opposing sides. While there was some ...
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18 votes
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Why did Galileo express himself in terms of ratios when describing laws of accelerated motion?

Galileo followed a venerable tradition of distinguishing numbers, magnitudes of different kinds (lengths, times, areas, etc.) and ratios. This is somewhat analogous to the strictures of modern ...
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16 votes

Why do I , J and K in mechanics represent X , Y and Z in maths?

This usage of $\mathbf i$, $\mathbf j$, and $\mathbf k$ is not specific to physics. It is also used in mathematics, specifically when teaching linear algebra or multivariable calculus in $\mathbf R^3$ ...
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14 votes
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Why don't we learn Buridan's laws of motion?

The next to last sentence has all the reasons in a nutshell:"Buridan used the theory of impetus to give an accurate qualitative account of the motion of projectiles but he ultimately saw his theory as ...
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14 votes
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Why are canonical coordinates canonical?

Such coordinates were called canonical because they are those in which equations of motion (or, of the hamiltonian flow of a function $H$) take the “canonical form” $$ \frac{dq_i}{dt}=\frac{\partial H}...
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14 votes
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Who first solved the classical harmonic oscillator?

It was "solved" by Huygens in Horologium Oscillatorum (1673). The scare quotes are there because he never wrote down the equation, and even Newton's laws were not yet explicitly formulated. Huygens ...
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13 votes

Was Galileo a plagiarizer?

By this standard why single out Galileo? Euclid "plagiarized" Elements, there isn't a single theorem in it that can be reliably attributed to him, and there are entire books that can be attributed to ...
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13 votes
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Was Galileo a plagiarizer?

See Heytesbury and the Physical Sciences and Nicole Oresme for detailed information about the so-called Oxford Calculators and their contribution (mainly) to mathematics. The issue is not so clearly ...
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12 votes
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Was there early opposition to Newton's mechanics?

There was an opposition. The reasons were mainly philosophical. The main thing which was hard to accept was "action at a distance" through the void space. For example Huygens did not accept this. It ...
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11 votes
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Did Hooke's law come from experiments, or was it mathematically derived from Newtonian mechanics?

Newtonian mechanics was not yet in place when Hooke published his De Potentia Restitutiva (On Restoring Force) in 1678, Newton's Principia only came out in 1687. Hooke inferred the law from ...
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9 votes
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Why is calculus missing from Newton's Principia?

There are too separate issues here. The method of fluxions and fluents, Newton's version of calculus, is amply represented in Newton's extant papers, starting with 1669 On Analysis by Equations with ...
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9 votes

Why don't we learn Buridan's laws of motion?

I have not read Buridan, but I am sure he was a philosopher, like Aristotle. The laws of nature are usually not named after philosophers. Philosophers can state all kinds of opinions, but this does ...
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9 votes
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How did gyromagnetic ratio come up before quantum mechanics, and who introduced it?

This is a very good question, I wish it got more attention. My answer will only be partial for I had difficulty finding early details on gyromagnetic effect and ratio. The concept comes up every time ...
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9 votes

Day-to-day tasks of human computers, à la Hidden Figures movie

If you are interested in descriptions of “everyday life” of human computers, here is an excerpt from Stan Ulam’s autobiography, Adventures of a Mathematician (University of California Press, 1991) ...
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9 votes
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Could scientists of Newton's time have explored the limits of his laws of motion?

At the time of Newton, the scientists could NOT detect any deviation of the Newton's laws from reality. As we know now, the only visible effect of this deviation in the Solar system is the anomalous ...
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9 votes

Foucault pendulum historical question

Yes. Léon Foucault in 1851 published in the Comptes rendus a paper Démonstration physique du mouvement de rotation de la Terre au moyen du pendule detailing his experiment and the mathematical ...
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9 votes

Who made the first derivation of the angle to maximise projectile range, which turned out to be wrong?

This probably refers to Galileo's "derivation" of Tartaglia's observation that cannon balls achieve maximal range when fired at 45°. Tartaglia's theory of projectile motion was wrong, he ...
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8 votes
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History of the study of indeterminism in classical mechanics

Perhaps, the most insightful analysis (possibly to this day) of indeterminism in classical mechanics and its implications was given by Joseph Boussinesq, best known for his work on solitons, in a book ...
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8 votes

What is the history of the energy concept and its measurement?

The word originated with Aristotle, whose "energeia" and "entelecheia" can roughly be translated as enaction, that which makes matter move, and embodiment, that which makes matter take form, ...
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8 votes

Who first derived $a =v^2/r$

(a) In answer, first a comment about proportionalities and equalities. Many 17th-century writers, including Huygens and Newton, commonly used proportions rather than equalities, especially to avoid ...
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7 votes
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What were Newton's six laws of motion?

The "classical" references for the sources and evolution of Newton's mechanics are : Alexandre Koyré, Richard S.Westfall and I.Bernard Cohen. Ivor Grattan-Guinness' comment is [in the Norton edition ...
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7 votes

What is the history of the energy concept and its measurement?

There is a chapter "the history of the energy concept" of some 80 pages in Philip Mirowski's book More heat than light which is rather informative. The main point of the story appears to be that ...
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7 votes

Did wave optics anticipate quantum mechanics?

It is more accurate to say that Hamilton anticipated some of the ideas of mathematics and heuristics of quantum mechanics, that would later inspire Schrödinger to produce his formulation of wave ...
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7 votes
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How did Newton and Kepler (actually) do it?

Goldstine, A History of Numerical Analysis from the 16th through the 19th Century (1977), describes Kepler's approach (p. 47), which may be found in Kepler's Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae (1618), ...
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7 votes
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Who discovered the normal mode decomposition of coupled oscillators?

Edited. The story is long and complicated. From the mathematical point of view, three statements are involved: A. Eigenvalues of a self-adjoint operator are real and simple, B. There exists an ...
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7 votes
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What was Liouville's contribution to Liouville's theorem?

Liouville shows (1838, pp. 347-349) that if $x=\phi_t(a)$ is the "complete integral" of an ODE $$ \frac{dx}{dt}=P(t,x) \tag{*} $$ on $\mathbf R^n$ (meaning that $a\in\mathbf R^n$ are $n$ otherwise ...
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7 votes
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Who studied kinematics before Galileo? Did Galileo base his kinematic research on the previous work of any other scientist?

Kinematics was distinguished from dynamics by the Merton school (a.k.a. Oxford calculators) of scholastics in 14th century, who worked out kinematics of uniformly accelerated motion. In particular, ...
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6 votes

On the development of Newtonian Mechanics

According to Truesdell [1954]: (p. xliii:) As far as I can ascertain, it is Euler [1750, p. 196] which contains the first general statement of “Newton’s equations”. (p. xlii:) The axioms which ...
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6 votes

Which book gives a thorough understanding on the scientific environment of antiquity?

Not much is really known about general "scientific environment". What we really have is only books and fragments of scientists and references on them in other works. It is commonly acknowledged that ...
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6 votes

Who was the first scientist to suggest that objects can keep moving without applied force?

This depends on which objects you have in mind and who you would call a scientist. There was a broad consensus in the ancient Greek natural philosophy that superlunar objects, like the stars and ...
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