Physics - History of Physics Publications (50)

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Physics - History of Physics Publications

The article analysis was carried out within the confines of the replication project of the telescope, which was used by Mikhail Lomonosov at observation the transit of Venus in 1761. At that time he discovered the Venusian atmosphere. It is known that Lomonosov used Dollond 4. Read More


We derive the Hilbert space formalism of quantum mechanics from epistemic principles. A key assumption is that a physical theory that relies on entities or distinctions that are unknowable in principle gives rise to wrong predictions. An epistemic formalism is developed, where concepts like individual and collective knowledge are used, and knowledge may be actual or potential. Read More


Most physicists do not have patience for reading long and obscure interpretation arguments and disputes. Hence, to attract attention of a wider physics community, in this paper various old and new aspects of quantum interpretations are explained in a concise and simple (almost trivial) form. About the "Copenhagen" interpretation, we note that there are several different versions of it and explain how to make sense of "local non-reality" interpretation. Read More


In this contribution I discuss a peak in Einstein's endeavor to extract as much information as possible about the nature of radiation from the Planck distribution is his paper "On the Quantum Theory of Radiation" of 1916. This is one of the most important contributions of Einstein to quantum theory. Read More


The apparent dichotomy between quantum jumps on the one hand, and continuous time evolution according to wave equations on the other hand, provided a challenge to Bohr's proposal of quantum jumps in atoms. Furthermore, Schroedinger's time-dependent equation also seemed to require a modification of the explanation for the origin of line spectra due to the apparent possibility of superpositions of energy eigenstates for different energy levels. Indeed, Schroedinger himself proposed a quantum beat mechanism for the generation of discrete line spectra from superpositions of eigenstates with different energies. Read More


Planck's law for black-body radiation marks the origin of quantum theory and is discussed in all introductory (or advanced) courses on this subject. However, the question whether Planck really implied quantisation is debated among historians of physics. We present a simplified account of this debate which also sheds light on the issue of indistinguishability and Einstein's light quantum hypothesis. Read More


Scientific illustrations, thanks to the vision of great artists fascinated by astronomical research and astronautics, have provided us with an accurate depiction of the possible views which mankind will one day observed from locations other than our planet. In this talk I will pay homage to some of these geniuses who serve science, and underline the scientific, artistic, political, and social implications deriving from a wise use of space-art. Read More


2017Mar
Affiliations: 1Universidad de Costa Rica, 2Universidad de Costa Rica, 3Universidad de Costa Rica, 4Universidad de Costa Rica, 5Universidad de Costa Rica, 6Universidad de Costa Rica, 7Universidad de Costa Rica, 8Universidad de Costa Rica

We aim to carry out an assessment of the scientific value of Oppenheimer's research on black holes in order to determine and weigh possible factors to explain its neglect by the scientific community, and even by Oppenheimer himself. Dealing primarily with the science and looking closely at the scientific culture and the scientific conceptual belief system of the 1930s, the present article seeks to supplement the existent literature on the subject by enriching the explanations and possibly complicating the guiding questions. We suggest a rereading of Oppenheimer as a more intriguing, ahead-of-his-time figure. Read More


Weyl's original scale geometry of 1918 ("purely infinitesimal geometry") was withdrawn by its author from physical theorizing in the early 1920s. It had a comeback in the last third of the 20th century in different contexts: scalar tensor theories of gravity, foundations of gravity, foundations of quantum mechanics, elementary particle physics, and cosmology. It seems that Weyl geometry continues to offer an open research potential for the foundations of physics even after the turn to the new millennium. Read More


The rising complexity of our terrestrial surrounding is an empirical fact. Details of this process evaded description in terms of physics for long time attracting attention and creating myriad of ideas including non-scientific ones. In this essay we explain the phenomenon of the growth of complexity by combining our up to date understanding of cosmology, non-equilibrium physics and thermodynamics. Read More


I argue that some important elements of the current cosmological model are "conventionalist" in the sense defined by Karl Popper. These elements include dark matter and dark energy; both are auxiliary hypotheses that were invoked in response to observations that falsified the standard model as it existed at the time. The use of conventionalist stratagems in response to unexpected observations implies that the field of cosmology is in a state of "degenerating problemshift" in the language of Imre Lakatos. Read More


According to quantum theory, randomness is a fundamental property of the universe yet classical physics is mostly deterministic. In this article I show that it is possible for deterministic systems to arise from random ones and discuss the implications of this for the concept of free will. Read More


Eugene Wigner famously argued for the "unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics" for describing physics and other natural sciences in his 1960 essay. That essay has now led to some 55 years of (sometimes anguished) soul searching --- responses range from "So what? Why do you think we developed mathematics in the first place?", through to extremely speculative ruminations on the existence of the universe (multiverse) as a purely mathematical entity --- the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis. In the current essay I will steer an utterly prosaic middle course: Much of the mathematics we develop is informed by physics questions we are tying to solve; and those physics questions for which the most utilitarian mathematics has successfully been developed are typically those where the best physics progress has been made. Read More


The goal of this paper is to explain how the views of Albert Einstein, John Bell and others, about nonlocality and the conceptual issues raised by quantum mechanics, have been rather systematically misunderstood by the majority of physicists. Read More


The quantum Liouville equation, which describes the phase space dynamics of a quantum system, is analyzed from statistical point of view as a particular example of the Kramers-Moyal expansion. Quantum mechanics is extended to the relativistic domain by generalizing the Wigner-Moyal equation. Thus, an expression is derived for the relativistic mass in the Wigner quantum phase space presentation. Read More


The history of the dark matter problem can be traced back to at least the 1930s, but it was not until the early 1970s that the issue of 'missing matter' was widely recognized as problematic. In the latter period, previously separate issues involving missing mass were brought together in a single anomaly. We argue that reference to a straightforward 'accumulation of evidence' alone is inadequate to comprehend this episode. Read More


The principle of common cause asserts that positive correlations between causally unrelated events ought to be explained through the action of some shared causal factors. Reichenbachian common cause systems are probabilistic structures aimed at accounting for cases where correlations of the aforesaid sort cannot be explained through the action of a single common cause. The existence of Reichenbachian common cause systems of arbitrary finite size for each pair of non-causally correlated events was allegedly demonstrated by Hofer-Szab\'o and R\'edei in 2006. Read More


The beginning of the calendar record inscribed on the Mamari tablet has been dated to the day of the summer solstice of December 20, 1680 A.D. The moon was not visible earlier at night. Read More


In the early sixties Leonard Parker discovered that the expansion of the universe can create particles out of the vacuum, opening a new and fruitfull field in physics. We give a historical review in the form of an interview that took place during the Conference ERE2014 (Valencia 1-5, September, 2014). Read More


This article discusses the relationship between emergence and reductionism from the perspective of a condensed matter physicist. Reductionism and emergence play an intertwined role in the everyday life of the physicist, yet we rarely stop to contemplate their relationship: indeed, the two are often regarded as conflicting world-views of science. I argue that in practice, they compliment one-another, forming an awkward alliance in a fashion envisioned by the Renaissance scientist, Francis Bacon. Read More


The guiding influence of some of Stanley Mandelstam's key contributions to the development of theoretical high energy physics is discussed, from the motivation for the study of the analytic properties of the scattering matrix through to dual resonance models and their evolution into string theory. Read More


The present discussion concerning certain fundamental physical theories (such as string theory and multiverse cosmology) has reopened the demarcation problem between science and non-science. While parts of the physics community see the situation as a beginning epistemic shift in what defines science, others deny that the traditional criterion of empirical testability can or should be changed. As demonstrated by the history of physics, it is not the first time that drastic revisions of theory assessment have been proposed. Read More


In 1626, the Venetian physician Santorio Santorio published the details of his pulsilogium, a stop clock that could accurately measure one's pulse rate. He applied Galileo Galilei's insights that the frequency of a pendulum's oscillation is inversely proportional to the square root of its length. Santorio's inventions emerged at a time when the natural world and our solar system were beginning to be mapped in remarkable detail. Read More


This is the first part of an oral history interview on the lifelong involvement of Joel Lebowitz in the development of statistical mechanics. Here the covered topics include the formative years, which overlapped the tragic period of Nazi power and World War II in Europe, the emigration to the United States in 1946 and the schooling there. It also includes the beginnings and early scientific works with Peter Bergmann, Oliver Penrose and many others. Read More


Canonical quantization relies on Cartesian, canonical, phase-space coordinates to promote to Hermitian operators, which also become the principal ingredients in the quantum Hamiltonian. While generally appropriate, this procedure can also fail, e.g. Read More


Cholanaikkans are a diminishing tribe of India. With a population of less than 200 members, this tribe living in the reserved forests about 80 km from Kozhikode, it is one of the most isolated tribes. A programme of the Government of Kerala brings some of them to Kozhikode once a year. Read More


The purpose of this note is to explain what is "analytical history", a modular and testable analysis of historical events introduced in a book published in 2002 (Roehner and Syme 2002). Broadly speaking, it is a comparative methodology for the analysis of historical events. Comparison is the keystone and hallmark of science. Read More


Objective probability in quantum mechanics is often thought to involve a stochastic process whereby an actual future is selected from a range of possibilities. Everett's seminal idea is that all possible definite futures on the pointer basis exist as components of a macroscopic linear superposition. I demonstrate that these two conceptions of what is involved in quantum processes are linked by two alternative interpretation of the mind-body relation. Read More


In 2012, Chen Ning Yang received a 90th birthday gift in the form of a black cube inscribed with his 13 most important contributions, which cover four major areas of physics: statistical mechanics, condensed matter physics, particle physics and field theory. We briefly describe these 13 contributions and make general comments about Yang's distinctive style as a trailblazing leader in research. Read More


As Harvey Brown emphasizes in his book Physical Relativity, inertial motion in general relativity is best understood as a theorem, and not a postulate. Here I discuss the status of the "conservation condition", which states that the energy-momentum tensor associated with non-interacting matter is covariantly divergence-free, in connection with such theorems. I argue that the conservation condition is best understood as a consequence of the differential equations governing the evolution of matter in general relativity and many other theories. Read More


We investigate Maxwell's attempt to justify the mathematical assumptions behind his 1860 Proposition IV according to which the velocity components of colliding particles follow the normal distribution. Contrary to the commonly held view we find that his molecular collision model plays a crucial role in reaching this conclusion, and that his model assumptions also permit inference to equalization of mean kinetic energies (temperatures), which is what he intended to prove in his discredited and widely ignored Proposition VI. If we take a charitable reading of his own proof of Proposition VI then it was Maxwell, and not Boltzmann, who gave the first proof of a tendency towards equilibrium, a sort of H-theorem. Read More


We argued previously that the well-known equation for hydrostatic equilibrium in a static spherically symmetric spacetime supported by an isotropic perfect fluid should be called the Oppenheimer-Volkoff (OV) equation, rather than the Tolman-Oppenheimer-Volkoff (TOV) equation, a later ArXiv manuscript has disagreed. Here we reply to that comment, reaffirming the original argument. Read More


In the absence of empirical confirmation, scientists may judge a theory's chances of being viable based on a wide range of arguments. The paper argues that such arguments can differ substantially with regard to their structural similarly to empirical confirmation. Arguments that resemble empirical confirmation in a number of crucial respects provide a better basis for reliable judgement and can, in a Bayesian sense, amount to significant \textit{non-empirical} confirmation. Read More


Some modern cosmological models predict the appearance of Boltzmann Brains: observers who randomly fluctuate out of a thermal bath rather than naturally evolving from a low-entropy Big Bang. A theory in which most observers are of the Boltzmann Brain type is generally thought to be unacceptable, although opinions differ. I argue that such theories are indeed unacceptable: the real problem is with fluctuations into observers who are locally identical to ordinary observers, and their existence cannot be swept under the rug by a choice of probability distributions over observers. Read More


The fortieth anniversary of the original construction of Supergravity provides an opportunity to combine some reminiscences of its early days with an assessment of its impact on the quest for a quantum theory of gravity. Read More


I present the reconstruction of the involvement of Karl Popper in the community of physicists concerned with foundations of quantum mechanics, in the 1980s. At that time Popper gave active contribution to the research in physics, of which the most significant is a new version of the EPR thought experiment, alleged to test different interpretations of quantum mechanics. The genesis of such an experiment is reconstructed in detail, and an unpublished letter by Popper is reproduced in the present paper to show that he formulated his thought experiment already two years before its first publication in 1982. Read More


Recently it was shown that certain fluid-mechanical 'pilot-wave' systems can strikingly mimic a range of quantum properties, including double-slit interference, quantization of angular momentum etc. How far does this analogy go? Could such systems also violate a Bell inequality, despite the fact they involve only local (sub-luminal) interactions ? Here the premises of the Bell inequality are re-investigated for particles accompanied by a pilot-wave, or more generally by a 'background' field. We find that two of these premises, namely outcome independence and measurement independence, are not generally valid when a resonant background is present. Read More


Given an equivalence relation ~ on a set U, there are two abstract notions of an element of the quotient set U/~. The #1 abstract notion is a set S=[u] of equivalent elements of U (an equivalence class); the #2 notion is an abstract entity u_{S} that is definite on what is common to the elements of the equivalence class S but is otherwise indefinite on the differences between those elements. For instance, the #1 interpretation of a homotopy type is an equivalence class of homotopic spaces, but the #2 interpretation, e. Read More


We present a historical review of Einstein's 1917 paper 'Cosmological Considerations in the General Theory of Relativity' to mark the centenary of a key work that set the foundations of modern cosmology. We find that the paper followed as a natural next step after Einstein's development of the general theory of relativity and that the work offers many insights into his thoughts on relativity, astronomy and cosmology. Our review includes a description of the observational and theoretical background to the paper; a paragraph-by-paragraph guided tour of the work; a discussion of Einstein's views of issues such as the relativity of inertia, the curvature of space and the cosmological constant. Read More


In the year 1900 Max Planck was led by experimental observations to propose a strange formula for the intensity as a function of frequency for light emitted by a cavity. It relied on peculiar properties to be obeyed by the emitters and absorbers in the cavity. I highlight the mathematically suggestive nature of the formula, accessible even to a high school student, that could have provided a clue to the physical reasoning of Planck. Read More


Ockham's razor is a heuristic concept applied in philosophy of science to decide between 2 or more feasible physical theories. Ockham's razor operates by deciding in favour of the theory with least assumptions and concepts, roughly speaking the less complex theory. Could Ockham's razor not easily treat the different interpretations as theories and decide in favour of the one with fewest assumptions? We provide an answer to this question by means of examples of applications in literature and the discussion of its historical origin. Read More


We critically review the recent debate between Doreen Fraser and David Wallace on the interpretation of quantum field theory, with the aim of identifying where the core of the disagreement lies. We show that, despite appearances, their conflict does not concern the existence of particles or the occurrence of unitarily inequivalent representations. Instead, the dispute ultimately turns on the very definition of what a quantum field theory is. Read More


Conjectures play a central role in theoretical physics, especially those that assert an upper bound to some dimensionless ratio of physical quantities. In this paper we introduce a new such conjecture bounding the ratio of the magnetic moment to angular momentum in nature. We also discuss the current status of some old bounds on dimensionless and dimensional quantities in arbitrary spatial dimension. Read More


We present evidence for the occurrence of a white-light flare on 10 September 1886. It represents the third of such rare events reported in the history of astronomy. The flare was mentioned by Valderrama (1886, L'Astronomie 5, 388). Read More


Subject of this article is the relationship between modern cosmology and fundamental physics, in particular general relativity as a theory of gravity on one side, together with its unique application in cosmology, and the formation of structures and their statistics on the other. It summarises arguments for the formulation for a metric theory of gravity and the uniqueness of the construction of general relativity. It discusses symmetry arguments in the construction of Friedmann-Lema\^itre cosmologies as well as assumptions in relation to the presence of dark matter, when adopting general relativity as the gravitational theory. Read More


The very humble origins of the Cyberspace, and all the related developments that smoothly conspired and converged towards this concept, making its emergence possible, as the personal computer, TEX and LATEX, the Fax, the internet, the cellphone, and the World Wide Web, are discussed, always from a personal perspective. A separate, comprehensive explanation of the reasons for the appearance and subsequent evolution of each of these different phenomena, with explicit assessments and a future prospective of the main subject, is presented. Read More


In 1615 Paolo A. Foscarini, a Carmelite monk lived in a monastery of south Italy near Cosenza (Calabria), published a Trattato which, at variance to what was common at the time, has not been written in Latin, but in volgare, the ancient Italian language. We are currently investigating the Trattato, and we found strong evidences that, hidden in the Italian language of early seventeenth century, it represents, to our knowledge, the first systematic attempt to interpret something unknown at that time, as meteo-climate changes and their forecasting, in the scientific framework of environmental physical effects related to Sun-Atmosphere relationships. Read More


A personal recollection of events that preceded the construction of Supergravity and of some subsequent developments. Read More


Inspired by possible connections between gravity and foundational question in quantum theory, we consider an approach for the adaptation of objective collapse models to a general relativistic context. We apply these ideas to a list of open problems in cosmology and quantum gravity, such as the emergence of seeds of cosmic structure, the black hole information issue, the problem of time in quantum gravity and, in a more speculative manner, to the nature of dark energy and the origin of the very special initial state of the universe. We conclude that objective collapse models offer a rather promising path to deal with all of these issues. Read More


2017Jan
Affiliations: 1Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille, Centre de Physique Théorique, Observatoire de Paris

We discuss the reception of Copernican astronomy by the Proven\c{c}al humanists of the XVIth-XVIIth centuries, beginning with Michel de Montaigne who was the first to recognize the potential scientific and philosophical revolution represented by heliocentrism. Then we describe how, after Kepler's Astronomia Nova of 1609 and the first telescopic observations by Galileo, it was in the south of France that the New Astronomy found its main promotors with the humanists and "amateurs \'eclair\'es", Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc and Pierre Gassendi. The professional astronomer Jean-Dominique Cassini, also from Provence, would later elevate the field to new heights in Paris. Read More