Evolution and Revolutions in Physics

Homer's Odyssey

The fates of men and their world are subject to the whims and tantrums of the panoply of Greek gods. The epic tells of Odysseus' misfortunes and victories, largely determined as a consequence of Athena's favor, Poseidon's wrath and the childish contests and jealousies among the other gods.

Julius Robert Oppenheimer

Julius Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist whose resume is filled with many different groundbreaking discoveries. His work includes the Born-Oppenheimer approximation which is, “the assumption that the motion of atomic nuclei and electrons in a molecule can be separated”, the Oppenheimer-Phillips process which is, “a type of deuteron-induced nuclear reaction”, the discovery of the Tolman–Oppenheimer–Volkoff limit which is, “an upper bound to the mass of cold, non rotating neutron stars, analogous to the Chandrasekhar limit for white dwarf stars”, and most notably the development of the first nuclear bomb. TC

Rutherfords Goil Foil

The conclusion of the experiment was that Rutherford and friends proved what we now know as the nucleus of the atom to be real, altering the course of science indefinitely. Rutherford, Geiger and Marsden all did not accept the plum pudding model and because of this, only carried out the gold foil experiment to disprove the model, or prove its conclusion. The experiment was done with a gold foil sheet with thickness 8.6 x 10^-6 cm. The foil was than hit with a beam of alpha particles in a vacuum. The three scientist used alpha particles because an alpha particle is a sub microscopic, positively charged particle of matter. Rutherford knew that these alpha particles had considerable mass, and hypothesized that they would not just pass through uninhabited. The team covered the foil in Zns, which is a substance that emitted a flash of light when an alpha particle came in contact with it. After shooting the alpha particles in the vacuum the crew noticed that in the center the particles would be scattered by angles that were greater than 90 degrees all coming from a very small area. Furthermore it was seen that about one in every two-thousand alpha particles fired reflected back at a perfect one hundred and eighty degrees. It became fairly clear that this was not a coincidence and that the plum pudding model flaws were finally exposed.

From Röntgen to Rutherford

AG: From the discovery of X-ray to the door of Quantum Mechanics

Ohm's Law

(HW) In the early 19th century, a German physicist and mathematician, Georg Ohm discovered the relationship between the voltage across the conductor and the electric current, which is known as the Ohm’s Law. This correlation between the voltage and current is crucial to the research of electricity and electromagnetism. Several equations and discoveries were made based on the Ohm’s Law. Before Georg Ohm’s experiment, Henry Cavendish, a British physicist, experimented with Leyden jars and different sizes of glass tubes filled with salt solution in 1781. A Leyden jar consists of a glass jar with metal foil on the inside and outside surfaces. It is a device that can store static electricity between the electrodes on the inside and outside of the jar. Cavendish used the Leyden jars and the glass tubes to measure the current by testing on the electric shock himself and feeling the strength of the shock. He realized that the current is directly proportional to the “degree of electrification,” or the voltage. However, unfortunately, for some reason he did not communicate the results of his experiment to other scientists at the time. Then, in 1825, Ohm did his work on resistance. His experiment was greatly inspired by Joseph Fourier's work. Fourier was a French mathematician and physicist who was interested in heat conduction. For Ohm’s experiments, he used a galvanometer to measure the current, and he knew that the voltage between the terminals was proportional to the temperature. He then used wires that have different lengths, diameters, and materials to complete the circuit. Ohm found out that the data he gathered can be modeled with this equation: x = a/(b+l) X was the reading from the galvanometer, which is current, a depended on the temperature, and b was a constant. He determined his law of the proportionality between current and voltage through this experiment, and he published his results. The equation was then refined to: I = V/R with I being the current, V being the voltage, and R being the resistance of the conductor in units of ohms. The resistance of the conductors has to do with the temperature, the material, and the size. Ohm’s work was crucial for the study of electricity because it helped scientists to quantitatively describe electricity. Ohm’s Law and the process of discovering this Law demonstrates what “modern physics” means - to obtain scientific conclusions through experiments. It was a generalization from many experiments that have proven the proportionality between the current and the electric field for most materials. This is part of the modernization of physics because it shows that scientists begin to generalize and to generate equations through experiments and scientific modeling.


For centuries, historians and archaeologists have fathomed over the mysterious Stonehenge. It is a prehistoric monument that took Neolithic builders an estimated 1,500 years to construct. The monument is located in southern England and comprised of roughly 100 massive upright stones placed in a circular layout.

Leonardo Da Vinci

A Man of All Trades. Leonardo Da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452 in present day Florence, Italy and died on May 2, 1519 in present day France. Da Vinci was a man of all crafts, as he was an Italian painter, draftsman, sculptor, architect, and engineer. Da Vinci was the embodiment of the humanist Renaissance man. His two most profound paintings that influenced the Renaissance were the Last Supper and Mona Lisa. We are able to observe Da Vinci’s work because they are either physical paintings or old notebooks.

The Early Stages of Astronomy

As Socrates once said, the world extends beyond the beautiful Earth we live on today. The world is filled with compelling mysterious that we may not be able to fathom. However, that should not limit us and prohibit our natural curiosity about space. From ancient civilizations to present day, there have been numerous people investigating what they see in the sky. In the book The Evolution of Physics by Leopold Infeld, Infeld discusses his ideal audience for the book: “One who makes up for a complete lack of any concrete knowledge of physics and mathematics by quite a great number of virtues.” Interestingly, the ideal reader shares several common characteristics to those interested in astronomy in the past. Ancient civilizations utilized what they saw in the sky in diverse ways. Members of ancient civilizations had no idea what physics was, but they did use their virtues to explain what they observed.

Alessandro Volta

In today’s age, everyone uses a piece of technology that relies on batteries or some type of electrical source. However, batteries are still not the best sources of energy. There electrical output is not the strongest and the amount of energy they store is not infinite. It is amazing to note the inefficiency of batteries because they have existed since 1800. Of course, the first created battery is not the standard double A or triple A battery we think of. Batteries are devices that convert chemical energy into electrical energy and that are used as sources of power. This article will explore the creation of the battery, focusing on the findings of Alessandro Volta. TC

Thomas Aquinas

Among the most influential theologians and philosophers during the Middle Ages was Thomas Aquinas. Born in Italy in 1225, Aquinas was a Roman Catholic priest and had served as papal theologian. After his death, the Catholic Church recognized him as a saint and the Doctor of the Church, a title given to those who made a significant intellectual contribution to the theology and doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. Almost all the work of Aquinas was shaped by his theology and belief in God, nevertheless, his influence is unrivaled in developing Western philosophies. Most philosophies concerning God and knowledge either expand from him or oppose him. JZ

Heinrich Hertz's Experiment

Heinrich Hertz was a German physicist who showed that the Scottish physicist James Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism was correct through proving the existence of electromagnetic waves as predicted by Maxwell. The unit of frequency is named after him to honor his contribution to the foundation of modern physics. -SNW

Christiaan Huygens

Christiaan Huygens was a brilliant scientist that did important work concerning light. Around the mid to late 1600s, Huygens put forward a treatise on light which required the aether to explain how light could be a wave. When considering light as a wave, one must inherently consider the medium through which light travels. While light passes through materials such as glass or air, the glass or air is the medium—but what medium does light pass through as it traverses the vacuum of space? Basing his work off of Newton’s earlier work, Huygens decided that aether was the medium. The aether through which light propagated became known as luminiferous aether (Ranzan). While the aether was an artificial substance that had not been proven to exist, his theory on light as a wave was simpler than the corpuscular theory, which required each color be its own artificial substance (Infeld 107). Once Huygens had aether as his medium, he could proceed with his description of light as a wave. In addition to luminiferous aether, Huygens also proposed a gravitational aether. He described this aether as circulating around the earth like a vortex, trying to move away from the earth and simultaneously pulling other objects towards the earth to take its place (Ranzan). To demonstrate this idea, Huygens vortexed water in a bowl and then dropped pebbles into the water. The pebbles were drawn to the middle of the vortex and the bottom of the bowl, which Huygens said proved his theory (Ranzan). This idea was later disproved when physicists were able to understand and explain both this type of vortex and actual gravity.

Marie Curie

Marie Skłodowska Curie was a chemist and physicist who carried out pioneering research on the field of radioactivity for which she won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903, becoming the first woman to win the award. She won the Nobel Prize again in 1911, this time in the field of chemistry, for the discovery of two new elements, Polonium and Radium; in the process becoming the first person, and only woman, to ever win the prestigious award twice. -JH

Henri Becquerel

People often think of the Curie family when asked about Radioactivity. However, before the Curies, it was Henri Becquerel, the scientist from France, who studied the field of Radioactivity. In fact, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics with the Curies in 1903 for his discovery. Currently, the world standard unit for measuring the size of a radioactive material is Becquerel (Bq), and one radioactive decay per second equals to 1 Bq. - J.C

Remembering the life of Pythagoras

“Pythagoras is one of the most interesting and puzzling men in history. Not only are the traditions concerning him an almost inextricable mixture of truth and falsehood, but even in their barest and least disputable form they present us with a very curious psychology” - J.C

Aristotelian Physics

In ancient times there was little known of science and especially physics. However, there lived a philosopher and scientist of the name Aristotle. He lived in ancient Greece between the years of 384 BC and 322 BC. He is more well known for his philosophical beliefs in the modern day, but during the time that he was alive, he was also well known for his scientific beliefs and discoveries. In ancient Greece, there was a limited idea of physics, so at the time physics was known under the category of natural philosophy. Aristotle’s discoveries in science were related to the four elements that the Greeks had discovered. Although later proven wrong, these elements were some of the most advanced scientific beliefs of the ancient times. Aristotle’s scientific beliefs were based entirely on the four elements and how they acted together. He also determined their properties and what objects consisted of what elements. The majority of his beliefs surrounding these elements were created from what seems to simply be logic during this time, instead of scientific processes or discoveries. These four basic elements consisted of earth, fire, water, and air. Aristotle would refer to these elements as “simple bodies”, although these “bodies” could be combined to create all different aspects of the planet earth. Even humans were made of these four base elements, as every part of life was. The “simple bodies” had different aspects that set them apart from each other. These elements belonged in pairs. Each element wanted to return to its natural place on earth. For earth and water that was towards the center of the earth. Meanwhile, air and fire were trying to reach the “limit” of the earth. In addition to the natural properties that pulled them in certain directions, they had a ranking of pureness scales. Fire and earth were the purest of the pairs, each on an opposite side of the scales, while water and air were less “pure”. A final aspect that set each pair apart was that each pair had an opposite element in the other pair. As Aristotle presented: fire and water were opposites, while earth and air were also opposites. These were the primary beliefs of the ancient Greeks which were “proven” by Aristotle during this time. In addition to these four “simple bodies”, Aristotle believed that there was one other element known as “aether”. It is more modernly known as “quintessence”, which can also be known as “fifth being”. There is little known about this fifth element, except that is used to describe everything beyond the reaches of the earth- such as stars, moons and other planets. In addition to these elements, Aristotle had brief theories about motion. His belief of motion was that there were four types of motion, known as changes in substance, quality, quantity, and place. There is very little that Aristotle says scientifically about motion, other than the physical changes of motion and what can describe motion. Aristotle is much more well known for his philosophies that have carried on into the modern day surrounded social and ethical beliefs. However, during his time, his scientific theories were what was used to describe physics. Since then his scientific theories have been disproved and modern physics has taken over which much more depth and accuracy about the world we live in. It is important to know where theories surrounding science and physics all started and recall how science has evolved over the centuries that pass.

Galileo's Physics

Aristotle's theories about physics stood for a long time. As mentioned previously, his belief of motion was entirely based on how elements wanted to return to their starting place. About 2100 years after Aristotle's theories about motion were initially created, Galileo came to revise those theories and create entirely new theories about physics and motion. These theories focused less on the elements and much more on the ideas of motion, and the new idea of inertia. Galileo’s theories were broken down into densities, masses; as well as forces as a separate entity from the elements themselves. Galileo created these theories from what are now known as famous experiments. One of his famous experiments was dropping two objects from the Leaning Tower of Pisa and measuring when each object hit the ground. The point of this experiment was to understand laws of motion, and more specifically the force of gravity on Earth. The experiment was difficult because of the limited technology. He was able to figure that gravity was indeed a force since the two different objects fell at the same rate. However, the exact force of gravity was impossible due to the rate that the objects fell. It was not possible to find a precise and accurate number to represent gravity. The solution to this was to decelerate the object without compromising gravity. Galileo’s new experiment became known at his ramp experiment. Using this ramp, he was able to slow the ball down to a measurable time. By changing the ramp height and angle, he was able to create a proportion of time versus height to determine the exact acceleration created by gravity. This was the first measure of what gravity was. Galileo had the theory that gravity was existent and was an external force since the seperate objects fell at the same rate, however he was unable to prove the exact acceleration of gravity up until he did his second experiment. These experiments opened the door for future experiments and understandings of gravity. Later on using a similar experiment, Galileo formulated the exact acceleration of gravity. Eventually using the formula of gravity and after learning more about different forces, Galileo established more theories concerning inertia as well as laws of motion that Newton went on to later revise and specify.

GiorDano Bruno - Cosmic Pluralism JS

Have you ever looked into the night sky and wondered where the beautiful array of stars and matter ends or what might be on those stars? Whether your first thought is other people, something extra terrestrial, or any other possible concept involving other life forms, you have GiorDano Bruno to thank. GiorDano Bruno in the late 1500’s raised the possibility of cosmic pluralism changing the way everyone looked at the stars, and he also insisted that the theories of an infinite universe was true.

John Dalton's Atomic Theory

Previous to the 1800’s, physics theories were very basic. They explained aspects of physics and life accurately, however these theories were not developed or in depth. During the 1800’s these theories were explored more and were also developed on a new level. One of these physicists, John Dalton, started focusing on the atomic level of research. He created a new theory about atoms, what they are made of, their properties and general understandings of atoms that we accredit him with today. His atomic theory is still carried on in the present day in order to understand basic atomic properties. John Dalton’s four statements about atoms were discovered through experiments with gas molecules and the splitting of gas molecules into their individual elements. Although the measurements were not entirely accurate due to lack of technology, Dalton was still able to create his theories accurately. His three theories were as follows: 1) All matter is made of atoms. Atoms are indivisible and indestructible.* 2) All atoms of a given element are identical in mass and properties* 3) Compounds are formed by a combination of two or more different kinds of atoms.* 4) A chemical reaction is a rearrangement of atoms. *Taken from footnote below* These theories created many of the physics basics we now know today. The theory of atoms not being able to be destroyed or created is what we currently know as the conservation of mass theory. This is by far the most applicable theory to modern day physics, and is applied in all aspects of physics. A similar law, the conservation of energy relies on the same principle that energy cannot be created nor destroyed. These theories are essential to the understanding of physics and the lessons involved in physics.

Magnetic Field and Hans Christian Ørsted

(HW) The Mechanistic View is referring to the belief that all things are like complicated machines or artifacts, behaving independently. This view was dominating the physics and philosophy world. However, it started to decline after the Renaissance because physicists began to discover more and more about this world, and they found out that many things, like the electricity and the magnetic field, are actually interconnected. Hans Christian Ørsted, a Danish physicist and chemist in the 19th century, discovered the relationship between electric currents and magnetic fields. The Italian physicist and chemist, Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta, invented a galvanic battery in 1800. Galvanic battery consists a number of galvanic or voltaic cells, which are electrochemical cells that generates electrical energy from spontaneous redox reactions. After he became professor at the University of Copenhagen in 1806, Ørsted continued his research with electric currents. The galvanic battery inspired Østred to study the nature of electricity. During a lecture on 21 April 1820, Østred noticed that when an electric current from a battery was switched on and off, a compass needle deflected, which confirms a direct relationship between electricity and magnetism. Three months later, he discovered that an electric current produces a circular magnetic field as it flows through a wire. Around that time, more and more scientists began to discover that not everything composed of parts that lack intrinsic relationship to each other ,and everything can’t simply be explained with “particles bumping into each other.” In conclusion, later on, the discoveries about light also countered the Mechanistic view. This point of view declined after the Renaissance because more and more people began to find out more and more evidence that substances in the world are related in one way or another.

Ancient World View on Dreams (IK)

Dreams are one of the biggest and most fascinating mysteries in the ancient world and to the scientists today. The earliest documentation of dream was compiled in Mesopotamia, but still to this day, scientists are unable to explain why people dream and what these dreams mean. In the ancient world, Egypt, Greece, and Rome were crucial locations in developing human conceptions of dreams. In ancient Egypt, dreams were often interpreted as religious signs from a superior being. Because God was considered to be a superhuman entity who was not visible to humans, Egyptians deemed dreams as a communication channel between God and the common men. Dreams were classified as either good or bad and they served as oracles. The Dream Book, which is currently in British Museum in London, shows such classification where bad dreams are written in red. Similarly, ancient Greeks believed in the idea of “good” and “bad” dreams. They even went on as so far as to induce “good” dreams through rituals. The rituals required them to cleanse themselves of impurities such as sex and meat and only drink water. Once they enter a temple to proceed the ritual,

Robert Millikan

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there were many experiments performed to explain modern physics. This created new details to describe the basic laws of physics we had already adhered to. More specifically, there were many experiments done to explain atoms and the different parts of the atoms. Although the challenge with finding out information about atoms is that they are so small it is impossible to see them, therefore it is impossible to know their qualities and what makes up an atoms. In 1909 Robert Millikan, a graduate of Columbia University, performed an experiment that decided the size of a charge on an electron. This experiment would lead to further discoveries surrounding the charges of atoms. The experiment had two plates on the top and the bottom of a container, with one plate being charged positively and the other charged negatively. The plate on top had a hole in it, of which oil drops would fall between the plates. When the plates had charge running through them it causes the droplets to either fall faster, slower or entirely disobey the laws of gravity entirely. This proved that atoms have electrons with a negative charge to them. This negative charge reacted to the charge of the plates which is what caused the change in motion of the oil droplets. This discovery was crucial to the development of atomic theories, especially concerning charges between the protons and electrons. Over the course of the Modern Physics time period, many experiments were performed similar to the oil drop experiment. These all uncovered new laws and discoveries surrounding atoms, but more generally physics as a whole. Finally, there were many other physicists who made discoveries similar to these, who will also be remembered in the same way as Robert Millikan. Millikan also went on to win a Nobel Prize for his discoveries.

Metal Printing in the Koryeo Dynasty (IK)

Ever since Korea was unified during the Shilla Dynasty, Korea excelled in developing technologies for printing images or letters on paper. In the Koryeo Dynasty, the development of xylograph printing allowed for the creation of the complete collection of Buddhist sutras, laws, and treaties. Back then, Korea was a majority Buddhist nation, and thus the country prided itself on its collection of sacred Buddhist writings. Using xylograph printing as its basis, Korea developed metal type printing. While xylograph printing was better for several copies of the same text, metal type printing was useful for printing a few copies of different texts. Korea was at least 200 years more advanced in printing technologies compared to the western world. The oldest print available today is “Anthology of Great Buddhist Priests Zen Teachings”. This print was produced in 1377 in Cheongju and is currently in the France National Library a UNESCO World Heritage. The development of metal printing in the Koreyo Dynasty set the precedent for more advanced printing technologies one of which includes 3D metal printing which is relevant in engineering and physics field in the status quo.

Blackbody Radiation

Blackbody radiation, also know as thermal radiation, is the spectrum of light emitted by any heated object. The spectrum of light only depends on the temperature of the object, according to Planck’s law. A black body is a theoretical object that absorbs all electromagnetic radiation, and the electromagnetic radiation that blackbody emits is also referred to as blackbody radiation. All objects with a temperature above absolute zero emit energy in the form of blackbody radiation. For example, we know that if a metal object is heated, it will start to glow as its temperature increases. The object starts giving off its own light instead of simply reflecting the light of its surroundings, according to the human eyes. However, all objects give off blackbody radiation in the form of invisible infrared light at room temperature. In other words, blackbody radiation becomes a glow of light when the temperature is high enough. At different temperature, an approximate black body will glow in different colors in the visible spectrum. JZ

Ancient Chinese Worldviews

Ancient Chinese philosophers began formulating recorded thoughts on the nature of reality since 1000 BCE. Most ancient Chinese philosophers believed that there is something unseen beyond the physical reality that creates and guides the physical reality. JZ

Plato pluralism

If a tree falls in the forest with no one around, does it make a sound? This question in modern day times is one that has many minds perplexed, and we have many philosophers and great minds to thank for this. One of those people is Plato, the father of perception. He made us think about how perception can augment reality in one's mind. Using religious, physical, or theoretical reasoning to try and understand questions like the one above only widens the abyss of knowledge necessary to truly understand one of these conundrums.

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit was Dutch, German, and Polish physicist and inventor who was the pioneer of exact thermometry. Fahrenheit’s name is very recognizable because of his invention of the first standardized temperature scale which is still widely used in the modern day. However, Fahrenheit’s arguably greatest achievement was inventing the first mercury-in-glass thermometer, which was the first accurate and convenient thermometer of it’s time. The mercury-in-glass thermometer is a genius invention which uses mercury, whose volume changes due to temperature, and a thin glass tube. We have learned, in The Evolution of Physics by Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld, that temperature transfers between objects when two objects, that are touching, are not of equal temperature. Fahrenheit’s thermometer used this rule of thermodynamics to create his thermometer. When the mercury is inside of the glass tube and the glass tube touches an object, the mercury will either expand or contract depending on the temperature of the object in which it is touching. So, with carefully marked units, the mercury’s change in volume will accurately display the temperature of the object in question. Fahrenheit’s research and inventions would not be possible without the amazing discoveries of many physicists and scientists before him. His mechanistic view of cause and effect as well as a deep understanding of thermometry helped forward science as a whole. Without his accurate temperature reading device, many experiments that followed would not have been possible. With the decline of the mechanistic view and the coming of the modern era, Fahrenheits original thermometer design is no longer the most reliable or convenient. However, without his work and efforts modern thermometry and many other scientific fields would not be where they are today.

Uncovering Leibniz

Pythagorean Triples in Music

The arts and the sciences, while both being equally important, could not be more different. One possesses the power to create and affect emotions, while the other presents us with logical answers which are most of the time concrete. Most people see it as an art form, and rightfully so, as music possesses the power to change atmospheres, begin wars, bring tears and fuel fires. So, when questioning music's uncanny ability to affect emotions there are not often naysayers, but how many of the people believing in music's capability to shift a vibe would understand that the only reason any music can do so, is because of math and science.

Socratic Method

The Socratic Method is “the method of inquiry and instruction employed by Socrates especially as represented in the dialogues of Plato and consisting of a series of questionings the object of which is to elicit a clear and consistent expression of something supposed to be implicitly known by all rational beings.” The idea was first developed by Socrates during his time in Athens working with sophist teachers. The basis of the method is called Elenchus, which is “ the technique Socrates uses to investigate, for example, the nature or definition of ethical concepts such as justice or virtue.” The Socratic method is the method of asking and answering logical questions to trigger critical thinking which will explain underlying meanings and presumptions. It’s meaning and usage can often be misconstrued and lost in confusion, however it is something that people use everyday. The idea and process of proving points using logical questions and answers is not exclusive to this method, but was made famous by Socrates. The Socratic method is arguably the most notable theory that Socrates produced in his outstanding lifetime. Its impact can be seen all across our modern society. Lawyers use it daily to help prove points that were otherwise unproved, modern philosophers use it to debate philosophical questions, and even regular people use it to win their arguments everyday. Along with the Socratic Method is Der Gedankenexperiment. Der Gedankenexperiment is a german word which translates to “the thought experiment”. Der Gedankenexperiment has many similarities to the Socratic Method and is often mentioned in the same context due to their striking similarities. Der Gedankenexperiment is “a thought experiment is a device with which one performs an intentional, structured process of intellectual deliberation in order to speculate, within a specifiable problem domain, about potential consequences (or antecedents) for a designated antecedent (or consequent) (Yeates, 2004, p. 150) ”. More simply, it is a method in which one uses common sense and structured thought to explore the potential consequences of hypothetical situations. The common sense and structured thought is very similar to the common sense and structured thought used in the Socratic Method. Even though the fundamental ideas of Der Gedankenexperiment pre date the Socratic Method, it’s expansion and structure were built using the ideas Socrates presented. As time progressed beyond Ancient Greece, the Socratic method and its ideology not only stayed alive but grew. Pre modern lawyers used the Socratic Method as a basis for almost all of their cases and this usage thrusted the Socratic Method into history books were it will stand the test of time. TC

Animal Electricity

A description of the life of Luigi Galvani and his famous "animal electricity"

Michelson-Morley Experiment

[HL] The Michelson-Morley experiment, first performed in 1887 and repeated from 1902 to 1905, is an experiment that disproved the existence of ether and cast doubt on Christiaan Huygen’s wave theory of light. Contrary to other groundbreaking experiments, the Michelson-Morley experiment derived a conclusion from its failure rather than success, thus gaining a reputation as the most famous failed experiment in history. In the eighteenth century, two different views about the nature of light existed in the scientific field. Isaac Newton, pioneer of the mechanistic worldview, proposed the corpuscular theory. According to this theory, light is made up of particles that behave under the same physical principles that govern the actions of other masses like planets. While the corpuscular theory successfully explained the reflection and refraction of light, it failed to do so with light’s polarization, diffraction, and interference. Therefore, Christiaan Huygen’s wave theory of light soon replaced Newton’s theory. By the early nineteenth century, physicists generally believed that light is waves that move through a medium called “luminiferous ether”. The ether, they assumed, was a weightless, transparent, frictionless, and undetectable substance that permeated all matter and space. As the Earth moved around the sun, the ether created a detectable “ether wind,” the magnitude and direction of which determined the speed of a light beam emitted out of a random source on earth. The Michelson-Morley experiment aimed to measure the speed of ether relative to earth by measuring the speed of light in different directions. Albert Michelson designed a device called the interferometer. In this device, the beam from a source of light would bump into a half-silvered mirror that split it into two beams traveling at right angles to each other. Then, the beams would travel to the end of two long arms and get reflected back by small mirrors, recombining in an eyepiece on the other side of the splitter. Eventually, a pattern of constructive and destructive interference was established, and the change in time that the beams spent during the transit would indicate the shift in positions of the interference. Michelson first carried out the experiment in 1881 and repeated it in collaboration with Edward Morley, a chemistry professor at the Western Reserve College. While they expected a twentieth of the shift based on the hypothesis that Earth’s velocity around the sun equals its velocity through ether, results of the experiment consistently showed no shift. The null result of this experiment was sufficient evidence to disprove the existence of ether, and it prepared the scientific field for Einstein’s theory of special relativity in 1905.

Rutherford's Gold Foil

An insight on one of the most famous experiments that resulted in the modern day atom model.

Persistence Hunters

Humans, nature’s perfect and most efficient long distance running species, still have problems with running long distances today though. Currently, it seems so common for people to have knee pain, ankle pain and general discomfort when running. Yet, centuries ago our ancestors and currently tribes in Africa are still running down gazelle and zebras for food. They run down their prey until they literally cannot run any more. Instead of using modern technology like the most high tech running shoes made by nike or asics, these long distance runners are running barefoot or with handmade sandals. These persistence hunters are a great example of utilizing the human body at its extremes. Another super athlete tribe is the reclusive Tarahumara Native Mexicans. Much like persistence hunters in Africa, running is in their blood, and they are untouched by modern society. One thing both tribes in Mexico and Africa seen to have in common is the lack of modern running shoes. Running is in our human nature. Many consider this action to be meditative and a spiritual experience embedded in our nature. Yet, millions of runners experience gravitating injuries constantly and frequently. Author, Christopher McDougall, experienced the first hand nature of the greatest runners of our time, the Tarahumara. After personally experiencing constant injuries while performing one of his passions, running, he decided he had to either resolve these issues or to stop pursuing this sport. Upon spending thousands of dollars in world renown research centers he set out on a path to learn from the best. Watching the Tarahumara run, they seemed to glide when they ran. They ran effortlessly at blistering pace. They had no nike running shoes on but handmade sandals out of straws. It seemed almost as if humans have evolved backwards. In almost every field humans are evolving for the better, new technology allowing for space exploration, prosthetic limbs, grocery stores- eliminating the need to hunt for our own food- but we seem to be getting worse at running, our natural instinct and one of our most valuable tools for survival. After spending years with the tribe, Christopher became injury free upon following the Tarahumara of running. -LS

Ancient Views of Doomsday

For thousands of years, humans have been prophesying the end of the world. Although this end has been presented in different forms in different cultures, and has come to be known by many names—such as end time, doomsday, armageddon, and eschaton—the general concept has remained (“End-time”). Just about every society from the beginning of recorded history through present day has some form of end time ingrained in its mythology or religion. End times are either linear, meaning the world is following one path to its ultimate destruction, or cyclical, meaning that the world continuously moves through periods of decline, demise, rebirth, and growth (Conan). Of the major world religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam follow a linear cosmology while Buddhism and Hinduism follow a cyclical cosmology. Even though different sects of these religions believe in different versions of doomsday, the sects tend to follow the same general cosmology of their respective religion. -SNW

Photoelectric Effect

Albert Einstein published a paper in 1905 about the photoelectric effect. Through his data he hypothesized the Photoelectric effect, the emission of electrons and other free carriers when a light shines on a material. Electrons carried when a light is shined are called photoelectrons. His theory stated that light can transfer energy to electrons. The stronger the light the bigger change in kinetic energy of that material. Currently, these findings have become very import in the fields of physics and chemistry. In 1902 a german physicist Philipp Lenard created a experiment with a broken circuit. He left a small gap of space between two metal plates in which a line of light would shine through. Once the light shined, electrons from the light waves completed the circuit and an ammeter can even be used to find the exact amount of electrons that move from the light to the plates and between both plates. Upon the circuit being complete by shining a light he concluded this phenomenon as the photoelectric effect. Upon these finding, wave theory could not explain why this occurred because the energy in electrons do not depend on the strength of the light, electrons appear on the plate instantaneously, and no electrons are knocked free. Einsteins suggests that lights acts like a particle, not a wave. He also said that the maximum energy of ejected electrons increase linearly with the frequency of light applied. -LS

Creation Stories

For every prediction of the end of the world is a creation story—an explanation of how the world began. Before arriving on theories such as the big bang theory, civilizations had countless different mythologies and ideas to explain how the world came to be. These creation stories allow people to try to comprehend their world and the reality in which they live. While these explanations can vary a great deal, many of them also have similar structures and details. Many creation stories begin with darkness, emptiness, or chaos, and then some sort of event or being that begins a cascade of events: the creation of god(s), the earth, plants, and creatures. -SNW


Alchemy is a pseudoscientific tradition that was practised mainly throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. In Europe especially, the practise of Alchemy came to prevalence during the Renaissance era. The aim of this pseudoscience was the purification and the transmutation of materials and objects. -JH

Human Conceptualization

From Plato to Descartes, see how Human Conceptualization changed throughout history.

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit

Temperature is a massless substance that is regularly used in society. We use temperature in our daily lives. Each day we check the temperature to see what attire to wear, check the temperature of our stove to make sure our food cooks properly and use it in many other instances. When putting our hand in warm air then putting our hand in warm water, we feel no difference. If we put our hand from warm air into cold water we realize that our hand feels very cold. This has prompted the idea of temperature, a measurement of the amount of “heat” through measuring the amount of kinetic energy and motion in molecules. Our go to device to measure temperature is the thermometer, created by Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit. Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, a Dutch-German-Polish physicist and inventor, created one of the most useful devices, the thermometer, in 1709 and established our current temperature scale, the Fahrenheit scale. Daniel created the first practical and accurate thermometer in the world during his time. His mercury in glass thermometer was a small sphere of glass containing mercury attached to a glass tube. The mercury took only a small portion of the bulb and as temperature increases the volume of mercury increased. As the volume increases, the mercury begins to fill the glass tube and the change in temperature can be measured as a scale is provided on the glass tube. Besides being filled with mercury, the thermometer will be filled with nitrogen or have a partial vacuum. Daniel also create his own scale which has 2 distinct points- a freezing points, 32 degrees fahrenheit, and a boiling point, 212 degrees fahrenheit- and even named it after himself. When creating his scale, he took 3 measurements. One was taken when his thermometer was placed in a mixture of water, ice and salt which recorded 0 degrees fahrenheit. Second, he placed the thermometer in ice which read 32 degrees fahrenheit. The third measurement was when he placed the thermometer under his armpit which read 96 degrees fahrenheit. Daniel deliberately made his scale so that the freezing and boiling point would have a exact difference of 180 degrees, a convenient value that could be easily divisible into many fractions when doing experiments. Even though we have such an established tool to measure temperature, the idea of heat and temperature has really questioned the mechanistic view. How do we know something is there if it is invisible and has no mass. Still, we are able to use a thermometer to measure this phenomenon. The universal mechanics view states that the universe is reducible to mechanical principles of motion and collision of matter but heat and temperature seem to be unexplained in this doctrine. Slowly as scientists began more experiments with light, waves, electricity and heat we see these topics continually conflict with the mechanistic doctrine. Now we are accepting to things in nature and reality that cannot be explained by the doctrine and have found ways to understand it, for starts, using a thermometer. -LS

Michael Faraday

Once physicists began using field theory to describe the world around them, a whole new realm of questions and experiments to answer them soon ensued. Mechanical theory failed to explain Oersted’s experiment, in which an electric current created a force on a magnet perpendicular to the motion of the current. According to the mechanical view, forces must act parallelly to an object’s motion, not perpendicularly. Today, fields can explain this phenomenon and attribute it to the fact that a changing electric field creates a magnetic field (Infeld 136). Michael Faraday, a self-taught physicist, worked towards a deeper understanding of Oersted’s experiments. In 1821, a year after Oersted’s experiment, Faraday invented the first electric motor. Later, in 1831, Faraday proved that the reverse result as compared to Oersted’s is also true: a changing magnetic field produces an electric field. Faraday helped propel physics into the modern age through his experiments in electromagnetism. -SNW

Descartes and the Mechanical Worldview

[HL] Descartes was a mathematician, philosopher, and scientific thinker who lived in the first half of the 1600s. His biggest contribution in the field of natural sciences was proposing a mechanistic approach to nature that replaced the Aristotelian physics. Aristotelian physics divided substances into two categories, the inanimate and the animate. The inanimate matter included the four elements (earth, air, fire, water), while the animate matter referred to what Aristotle considered “ensouled” beings. The principles of studying substances included many: form, matter, privation, cause, place, time, and motion. Looking at the principles that Aristotle established, Descartes aspired to use one matter to explain the universe. This matter is infinitely divisible, constitutes space, and only has properties of size, shape, position, and motion. He hypothesized that the universe began as a chaos of moving particles and that everything formed following the pattern of the moving matter. The contact of particle on particle, Descartes believed, could explain all cases of action at a distance. For instance, he explained magnetism as particles that flow from north pole to south pole causing magnetized needles to spin. Another example was his explanation of reflection and refraction. Assuming that particles of light move in straight lines, Descartes suggests that these particles strike an impenetrable surface and bounce off in cases of reflection. In the case of refraction, particles pass from one matter of one density to another matter with a different density. Another significant theory that Descartes proposed was the application of the geometry in the construction of a worldview. Descartes believed that all things have an inner form that is only comprehensible through geometrical models. Thus, the basic laws of physics are the geometry of objects in motion. For example, Descartes’ planetary model suggests that the circular motion of planets is caused by vortices in a material fluid that surrounds them. Newton later proved the contradiction between Descartes’ planetary model and his three laws of motion as well as Kepler’s observation of the elliptical orbits of planets. The vortice theory soon died down in the academic world. While Descartes’ theory is inadequate compared to that of Newton, he did establish the framework laws for science, with which his successors were able to develop the experimental methods for material processes.

The Scientific Method

Discoveries in the field of science are often made through observations of phenomena and the deduction of reasons to explain the observations. The Scientific Method is a group of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. -JH

Ptolemy’s Universe: We Are The Center of Attention

I believe that we, humans and ourselves, think that we are always the most important thing in the world or in our conceivable universe. One great example of this is the idea of Earth being the center of the universe, the Universe according to Ptolemy. Ptolemy was an mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer and poet that lived from 100 AD to 170 AD, who was the first to believe and spread the idea of geocentrism. Being an astronomer, Ptolemy constantly studied the skies and its stars and planets. Upon examination, he saw the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Sun. Belief during this medieval time period was that God had only one child, mankind. From this point of view it is easy to conclude that Earth and humanity were the most important things in the universe. Humans were God’s only child meaning that he must have put a lot of value and importance onto our home, Earth. Having this in mind, it is easy to think why Ptolemy thought everything revolved around Earth, because we thought we were so important in the universe. Everyday we see the Sun revolve around the Earth. Everyday we see the Moon go through different phases and revolve around us. Additionally, everyday we see other planets revolve around us also. From the perspective of Earth-bound observers, Earth was motionless, solid and solitary. In Greek astronomy in the 6th century BC, people believed that the Sun, Moon and planets were holes in invisible wheels that surrounded Earth. These holes allowed fire and lite to pass through. Then in the 4th century, Plato and Aristotle coined the idea that Earth was a stationary sphere in the center of the universe. The stars and planets were then ordered from the Moon, the closest, the Sun, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and other stars, the farthest. Plato even went to further explain that the cosmos or the Spindle of Necessity was turned and moved by the three Fates, the incarnations of destiny and Sirens, Greek mythological creatures. Through these two brilliant minds of Ptolemy and Plato we see how important and big of a role religion, mythology played in their perception of the Earth and the Universe. Through each of their perceptions of higher beings we see the involvement of the geocentric theory where at first Ptolomey concludes that Earth is the center of the universe because we are God’s only child to Plato concluding that Sires and the three Fates are the ones turning the plants around Earth. Even though science is a study based on evidence and experiments, this historic theory shows just how important religion and mythology was in the past and its impact on society and its people. -LS

John Dalton

John Dalton was a chemist, physicist and meteorologist who is most famed for proposing the modern atomic theory. His key ideas of atoms and the combination of atoms to form more complex compounds still survives. -JH

Euclidean Geometry

Geometry is a specific field in the study of mathematics, and discusses about the shape, size, and relative position of geometric objects such as lines or faces. The origin of the word ‘geometry’ is the combination of greek words ‘land’ and ‘measure’. Euclid is widely considered as the father of geometry. - J.C

Ancient Chinese World View

AG: Discuss Chinese World View

The Political Influence on the Development of Science in Ancient China


Michelson Speed of Light (IK)

Michelson’s experiment on measuring the speed of light experiment marked a new chapter on the theory of special relativity. His experiment helped develop the postulate that the speed of light is invariant, meaning that the light travels at the same speed for all observers regardless of their coordinate systems. However, prior to Michelson’s speed of light experiment, several other physicists attempted to determine the speed of the light. Galileo is one of the scientists who took the chance at determining the speed of light. He disagreed with Aristotle’s belief that light travels instantaneously. Rather, Galileo believed that the speed of light is about ten times faster than the speed of

John Dalton's Contributions

[HL] John Dalton was born in 1766 and died in 1844. He was a meteorologist, an expert on color blindness, and a school teacher, but he is best known as the pioneer of modern atomic theory. He made atomism, which Democritus first proposed in the 400 BC, the fundamental theory of modern chemistry. Dalton’s atomic theory stated the following rules: first, all matter is made of atoms that are indivisible and indestructible; second, all atoms of a given element have the same mass and properties; third, compounds are formed by a combination of two or more kinds of atoms; finally, a chemical reaction is the process through which atoms rearrange. Exactly how Dalton developed his theory of atomism remains unclear, although some said that he derived it from meteorological observations recorded in his book, Meteorological Observations. Between 1799 and 1801, Dalton read before the Literary and Philosophy Society a series of papers, in which he proposed a theory on the essence of the air. The air, he argued, is a mechanical system in which each kind of gas exerts a different pressure independent of one another and the total pressure is the sum of the that of each gas. There is a possibility that Dalton’s explanation of air provided for him a model of the atomic theory that he later developed. Based on the belief that each element had its own kind of atom, Dalton dedicated himself to finding the relative masses of each kind of atom by considering the number of different atoms in chemical compounds. From these attempts, Dalton proposed the Law of Multiple Proportions: “when two elements form more than one compound, the masses of one element that combine with a fixed mass of the other are in a ratio of small whole numbers.” However, only the ratio does not indicate the exact number of atoms in each element. To resolve this issue, Dalton developed the rule of greatest simplicity, which states that two elements forming only one compound has a compound atom that consists of one atom from each element. Later observations proved the rule of greatest simplicity incorrect, but the foundation of Dalton’s theory was correct. Dalton was thus called “father of chemistry.” Even though the atomic theory that Dalton proposed is now two hundred years old, it remains recognized and applied in the field of chemistry.

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