29 votes
Accepted

How was Einstein led to make a contact with Differential Geometry for his theory of General Relativity?

Einstein himself told the story in his Kyoto address of 1922, which I quote from Pais's biography titled Subtle is the Lord: "If all systems are equivalent, then Euclidean geometry cannot hold in ...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 76k
27 votes

What was the relationship between Einstein and Minkowski?

A good account is Weinstein, Max Born, Albert Einstein and Hermann Minkowski's Space-Time Formalism of Special Relativity. They did no have much of a relationship, what it was is well-summarized by ...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 76k
22 votes
Accepted

Did Lorentz remain an ether advocate till his death?

Lorentz did remain sympathetic to ether to the end. However, it was not necessarily to his original conception of ether, and it was not "despite the empirical successes" of special ...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 76k
18 votes
Accepted

Did Richard Feynman ever meet Stephen Hawking or comment on Hawking radiation?

I take that your primary goal is to know what Feynman thought of Hawking's work. While it is possible that they have met I would consider it unlikely given that Feynman mentioned several times how his ...
cesaruliana's user avatar
16 votes

Did amateurs ever produce important proofs or similar?

A case from this year is that of Aubrey de Grey. Aubrey de Grey, a biologist known for his claims that people alive today will live to the age of 1,000, posted a paper to the scientific preprint site ...
Bence Mélykúti's user avatar
16 votes

Articles published without their authors being aware

In theoretical physics, the celebrated 1948 Alpher–Bethe–Gamow paper, or αβγ paper on cosmic nucleosynthesis. Bethe's name was thrown in, unbeknownst to him, at first, as a practical joke, for which G ...
Cosmas Zachos's user avatar
15 votes

Who was the first to say "Shut up and calculate!"?

Some centuries before Mermin, Leibniz in the 17th century was seeking a solution to some of the denominational quarrels that were plaguing his generation by envisioning a calculus ratiocinator that ...
Mikhail Katz's user avatar
  • 5,772
13 votes
Accepted

Max Planck's reaction to Einstein's 1905 STR Paper

It seems not. See: A.Douglas Stone, Einstein and the quantum: The quest of the valiant Swabian (2013): [page 6] Planck was the first major figure to recognize Einstein’s seminal 1905 work on ...
Mauro ALLEGRANZA's user avatar
13 votes
Accepted

Who was the first to say "Shut up and calculate!"?

Mermin has a thorough analysis1 and traces the phrase to himself in a 1989 Physics Today column2 & makes a case that the numerous attributions to Feynman may or may not be mistaken. Mermin, Could ...
vzn's user avatar
  • 246
12 votes

Who was the first to say "Shut up and calculate!"?

As noted, Mermin was probably the first to utter the exact words “Shut up and calculate”. However, the equivalent rallying cry of “Get the numbers out” has its origins some decades earlier. According ...
nwr's user avatar
  • 6,859
12 votes
Accepted

Why did Einstein develop General Relativity?

"Simply modifying" Newtonian gravity to have it spread at finite speed does not work if the finite speed is the speed of light. It was attempted by Laplace in his Celestial Mechanics (1799), who found ...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 76k
12 votes
Accepted

On early US patriotism to choose quark color charge labels

According to the best source, "red, white, and blue" were proposed in honour of France, not the United States. As discussed in the answer to "Quantum chromodynamics - an origin of the ...
David Bailey's user avatar
  • 1,222
11 votes
Accepted

Did Feynman develop QED based on Stueckelberg's manuscript?

There seems to be enough evidence to believe that people were joking around about Stueckelberg's notes in 1965, when the Nobel prize was awarded to Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga, but I do not see ...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 76k
11 votes
Accepted

How did 19th century physicists do their undergraduate/graduate studies?

The status of scientific education in the 19th century is a very complicated mess, especially for the fact that every country worked different than the others. I know of no book or article that ...
cesaruliana's user avatar
10 votes

Why is the action from the principle of least action traditionally denoted $S$?

The notation was introduced by Hamilton in 1834, who shifted the focus from the original Maupertuis-Euler version of the least action principle. The tradition followed him probably because his ...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 76k
10 votes
Accepted

Who did say that anyone who discover a new particle should be fined instead of receiving a prize?

According to a slide deck I found, it was Willis Lamb. Quote from said deck: In 1955, Willis Lamb started his Nobel Prize acceptance speech by saying that “maybe physicists discovering a new ...
Carl Witthoft's user avatar
9 votes

Who was the first to say "Shut up and calculate!"?

N. David Mermin (born March 30, 1935, in New Haven, Connecticut, USA) is Horace White Professor of Physics Emeritus at Cornell University his quote was like this If I were forced to sum up in one ...
Marble's user avatar
  • 191
9 votes

Why were 20th Century German scientists so impressive?

Given the historical circumstances the German education system might or might not have played a significant role in the formation of these scientists. In his collection of essays entitled "Brocas ...
polymechanos's user avatar
9 votes
Accepted

When did the use of complex numbers become widespread in physics?

It depends on the definition of "widespread". Mathematicians certainly used them in 18th century. They play prominent role in the work of Cauchy and Fourier (which belongs to both physics ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
9 votes

Did amateurs ever produce important proofs or similar?

A well-known example is the work of Marjorie Rice on pentagonal tilings of the plane. Wikipeidia: In December 1975, Rice came across a Scientific American article on tessellations. Despite having ...
Gerald Edgar's user avatar
  • 10.3k
9 votes

Why was the Greek letter psi (Ψ) chosen to represent the wave function?

Prior to Schrodinger There is no use of the symbol by de Broglie, Schrodinger's predecessor. In the first three short notes from de Broglie on the topic of wave mechanics (1923), there is no use of ...
Sam Gallagher's user avatar
8 votes

What did it historically mean in physics for something to "exist"?

To not be measured is not to have any behavior. No dynamic is induced on any other system in the universe by this object (Rosen 1978). Objects without behavior do not exist. Their behavior is that ...
Gottfried William's user avatar
8 votes

How Einstein got the first idea for special relativity?

Einstein was reading Maxwell. Axiom a) follows from Maxwell's electromagnetic theory of light. Axiom b) is stated imprecisely in your message. The actual axiom is that you cannot detect the absolute ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
8 votes

Who originally derived the general force law equation of force between current elements?

Ampère did. Ampère's force law (not to be confused with one of Maxwell's equations, "Ampère"'s circuital law, which Ampère never wrote down, as Ampère didn't deal with the field concept), written in ...
Geremia's user avatar
  • 5,329
8 votes

Representation theory in physics

Explicit applications of group representation to physics start with E. Noether, Invariante Variationsprobleme, Nachrichten von der Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Mathematisch-...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
8 votes

Have there been instances in physics where different scientists have interpreted the same data differently?

The comments correctly say that this happens all the time. For a recent example, you can see my answer to: Can a highly-cited published paper have this type of error? I will explain here some details ...
Nike Dattani's user avatar
7 votes

What was the motivation for Minkowski spacetime before special relativity?

Complementing Conifold's answer, it might perhaps be instructive to quote from Minkowski's presentation Raum und Zeit at the 80th Congress of German Natural Scientists in Cologne on the 21st of ...
José Figueroa-O'Farrill's user avatar

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible