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19 votes

Why do many names of technical and scientific subjects end with "ics"?

It is not random. These names are of Greek origin, and -ic or -ics are Anglicizations of the Greek suffix -ikos, which meant "pertaining to". In other languages it can be rendered as -ika or -ica, ...
Conifold's user avatar
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7 votes

When did people notice the special shapes of snowflakes, and when did they start to study them?

There is a very nice site SnowCrystals.com run by Kenneth Libbrecht, a professor of physics at Caltech, which covers both physics and history, and hosts many captivating images, videos and more. ...
Conifold's user avatar
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7 votes

What is the history behind defining temperature as measure of hotness?

In a way everyone knew that it was heat that is flowing and coldness is absence of heat. But how did they know it? The answer, quite simply, is that they didn't know it. Coldness was frequently ...
Athanasius's user avatar
7 votes

When did the concept of temperature first arise?

Your link quickly leads to Middleton, History of the Thermometer and its Use in Meteorology (1966). Pre-1600 (p. 3): The opposition of “hot” and “cold,” like that of “dry” and “moist,” [was] ...
Francois Ziegler's user avatar
6 votes

When did the concept of temperature first arise?

As Francois Ziegler pointed out, Galen introduced the idea of four degrees of heat and four degrees of cold on either side of a standard neutral temperature around 150 A.D. By the 1300s, the Oxford ...
Endy's user avatar
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6 votes
Accepted

What is the etymology of "phase space" of a dynamical system?

Here is a direct link to Nolte's Tangled Tale of Phase Space on Physics Today. Big takeaways: the name did not come from Liouville's oft-cited 1838 paper, and Boltzmann used "phase" without &...
Conifold's user avatar
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6 votes
Accepted

Did Einstein oppose evolution?

First of all, I did not study in any detail what Einstein's views on evolution were; the following is just a trivial observation: Our sun is constantly pumping energy into the ecosystem of the Earth. ...
Moishe Kohan's user avatar
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6 votes
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Why is thermodynamics called thermodynamics?

Thermodynamics is indeed derived from the Greek words Therme (heat) and Dynamis (power). However, Dynamis is not the same as the Physics definition of Power but is synonymous with "might" or ...
Big Brother's user avatar
  • 2,187
5 votes

What is the history behind defining temperature as measure of hotness?

It makes no difference for either measuring temperature, or calculating heat flow, what flows there, if anything. So experimental basis for measuring temperature was established long before the nature ...
Conifold's user avatar
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5 votes
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Did Ludwig Boltzmann read Albert Einstein's publication published on Brownian motion one year before Boltzmann passed away?

I’m afraid he no longer cared. According to Boltzmann biographer E. Broda (1981): (p. 9): One might have thought Boltzmann would, after 1900, in lectures and writings refer to Planck’s work on ...
Francois Ziegler's user avatar
5 votes
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Was Lord Kelvin at any point a proponent of vitalism?

Kelvin did not merely believe that vitalism warranted serious scientific consideration, he thought it to be "absolutely forced by science". In less strong terms, it was a popular idea at the ...
Conifold's user avatar
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5 votes

Lord Kelvin's wonderful prediction

Long ago I had to make a project about this topic. I disagree with other answers: Lord Kelvin, with the help of Joule, did actually find the absolute scale, because there's much more you are missing. ...
FGSUZ's user avatar
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5 votes
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Why isn't "thermodynamics" replaced with "thermostatics"?

Thermodynamics really studies CHANGES of states, not just the states themselves. These changes are slow. The technical term is "adiabatic". It started with Carnot cycle, describing the action of a ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
5 votes

When was double-paned glass first invented and used for insulation?

lmgtfy google cache of mimivanderhave.com 1945 The first double-pane, insulated window was introduced That's without attribution; door and window claims From single to double pane windows… ...
Carl Witthoft's user avatar
5 votes
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What did people understand heat and temperature to be in Clausius' time?

Until 1850s the dominant theory was that the heat is caloric fluid, and the phrasing reflected that. The caloric theory was a revision by Lavoisier of the earlier phlogiston theory, and Carnot and ...
Conifold's user avatar
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4 votes

Carnot and Entropy

Carnot was not talking about thermodynamics in the same way that Clausius was. Carnot saw the fundamental action as a fluid substance (caloric) being manipulated into motion between a hot place and a ...
TrueVoice's user avatar
  • 141
4 votes
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Who discovered the Virial Theorem?

According to the OED, Clausius coined the German word "virial" (from vīs force, strength): a. In Clausius' kinetic theorem of gases: (see quots.). virial theorem, the theorem that for a steady-...
Geremia's user avatar
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4 votes
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What material was the wire with which J.P. Joule did his experiment, with which he arrived at his law of heat dissipation from a resistor?

"It couldn't be copper, because a short circuit would occur" Not if the copper was in the form of a long thin wire. Solenoids, for example, are coils of enamelled copper wire and are usually ...
Philip Wood's user avatar
3 votes

How did Einstein know the Avogadro Number?

Although the concept of the existence of the atoms originates from the ancient Greek, for them it was yet more a philosophical concept, they were very far from any experimental proof.1 Later, mainly ...
peterh's user avatar
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3 votes
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When and how did usage of the term Centigrade give way to Celsius? Are/were they in fact numerically identical?

The unabridged Oxford English dictionary clarifies the "when" part of the question. Also consult the paper in Nature (1949) https://www.nature.com/articles/163427a0 for the historic discussion (paper ...
AChem's user avatar
  • 4,079
3 votes
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Earliest use of the word 'polytropic' to describe an equation of state or process

The best source of word origins and their earliest usages is the Unabridged Oxford English Dictionary. You need a library subscription. The first meaning could be of mathematical original since n ...
AChem's user avatar
  • 4,079
3 votes
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When was the speed of sound first "correctly" calculated?

One of the first theories is due to Newton. He derived a formula for the speed of sound from his wave theory, and compared with experiment. (The experiment was difficult at that time, because of the ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
3 votes

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

A piece of info that is key for energy as a concept is Emmy Noether's brilliant work on symmetry and conservation laws. I have not come accross an explanation of the Noether Theorem that I can ...
chuck's user avatar
  • 236
3 votes
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Why was it necessary to define the "Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics"?

If two unequal thermally insulated cylinders are connected with a pipe with a piston in it, then these two cylinders are said to be in "Mechanical Equilibrium" if the piston does not move and we ...
Devansh Mittal's user avatar
3 votes

When did they say 'progression is downward?'

The general idea started probably around the 18th century, but some illustrious names in the 19th century like Sir William Thompson talked of the "heat death" of the universe, so originally it appears ...
Steve's user avatar
  • 254
3 votes
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What motivated scientists to define quantities at a point?

The OP speculation is basically correct. Average density was certainly defined first, the Eureka story told about Archimedes by Vitruvius involves distinguishing gold from non-gold by comparing ...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 77k
3 votes

Origin and justification for stating the second law of thermodynamics as $dS=d_{\rm{e}}S+d_{\rm{i}}S$?

Clausius in his "The mechanical theory of heat" discusses what he calls "uncompensated transformation". First he derives that $\int \frac{dQ}{T}=0$ for a reversible cyclic ...
hyportnex's user avatar
  • 347
3 votes
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When was Kelvin's vitalism rejected in physics?

It was normal to accept some form of vitalism way past 1851, and it was still around at the time of Planck's writing in 1897. In fact, vitalism experienced a resurgence in 1870s in response to the ...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 77k
2 votes

Why is the thermoelectric figure of merit denoted by $ZT$?

My guess for the Z From THIS Germain-English dictionary, we see that "Figure of merit" in German could be Gütezahl $\qquad$ or $\qquad$ Leistungskennzahl in electrical engineering. So probably ...
Gerald Edgar's user avatar
  • 10.3k
2 votes

Why is the thermoelectric figure of merit denoted by $ZT$?

The concept of the thermoelectric figure of merit and the abbreviation ZT were introduced by the Russian physicist Abram Fedorovich Ioffe in 1949, so I assume the acronym originates from Russian. ...
John Rennie's user avatar

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