physics

Walter Schottky and the Image Potential Energy

Walter Schottky and the Image Potential Energy

On July 23, 1886, German physicist Walter Hermann Schottky was born. Schottky played a major early role in developing the theory of electron and ion emission phenomena. He invented the screen-grid vacuum tube in 1915 and the pentode in 1919 while working at Siemens, co-invented the ribbon microphone and ribbon loudspeaker in 1924 and later made many significant contributions in the areas of semiconductor devices, technical physics and technology. Walter Schottky –…
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Anders Ångström and the Science of Spectroscopy

Anders Ångström and the Science of Spectroscopy

On June 21, 1874, Swedish physicist Anders Jonas Ångström passed away. Anders Ångström is considered one of the founders of the science of spectroscopy. His pioneering use of spectroscopy is recognized in the name of the angstrom, a unit of length equal to 10-10 metre. Youth and Education Anders Ångström was born into a wealthy, upper class family in Logodo, Medelpad, Sweden, to Johan Ångström, a preacher at Lögdö Ironworks and later…
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Alexander Friedmann and the Expanding Universe

Alexander Friedmann and the Expanding Universe

On June 16, 1888, Russian mathematician and physicist Alexander Friedmann was born. Friedmann is best known for his pioneering theory that the universe was expanding, governed by a set of equations he developed now known as the Friedmann equations. The Youth of a Mathematician Alexander Friedmann was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, to the composer and ballet dancer Alexander Friedmann and the pianist Ludmila Ignatievna Voyachek. However the parents divorced when Alexander…
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Pierre Duhem and the Role of Theory in Science

Pierre Duhem and the Role of Theory in Science

On June 10, 1861, French physicist, mathematician, historian and philosopher of science Pierre Duhem was born. He is best known for his work on chemical thermodynamics, for his philosophical writings on the indeterminacy of experimental criteria, and for his historical research into the science of the European Middle Ages. As a scientist, Duhem also contributed to hydrodynamics and to the theory of elasticity. “A physical theory … is a system of mathematical…
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Edward Lorenz and the Butterfly Effect

Edward Lorenz and the Butterfly Effect

On May 23, 1917, American mathematician, meteorologist, and a pioneer of chaos theory Edward Norton Lorenz was born. He is best known for pointing out the “butterfly effect” whereby chaos theory predicts that “slightly differing initial states can evolve into considerably different states.” In his 1963 paper in the Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, he cited the flapping of a seagull‘s wings as changing the state of the atmosphere in even such a…
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Roy Kerr and Mysterious Rotating Black Holes

Roy Kerr and Mysterious Rotating Black Holes

On May 16, 1934, New Zealand mathematician Roy Kerr was born. Kerr is best known for discovering the Kerr geometry, an exact solution to the Einstein field equation of general relativity. His solution models the gravitational field outside an uncharged rotating massive object, including a rotating black hole. Roy Kerr – Early Years Roy Kerr was educated at the private school St Andrew’s College. His talent for mathematics was first recognized during…
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Theodore von Kármán and his Advances in Aerodynamics

Theodore von Kármán and his Advances in Aerodynamics

On May 11, 1881, Hungarian-American mathematician, aerospace engineer and physicist Theodore von Kármán was born. Kármán was active primarily in the fields of aeronautics and astronautics. He is responsible for many key advances in aerodynamics, notably his work on supersonic and hypersonic airflow characterization. “I came to realize that exaggerated concern about what others are doing can be foolish. It can paralyze effort, and stifle a good idea. One finds that in the history…
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Pieter van Musschenbroek and the Leyden Jar

Pieter van Musschenbroek and the Leyden Jar

On March 14, 1692, Dutch scientist Pieter van Musschenbroek was born. Musschenbroek is credited with the invention of the first capacitor in 1746: the Leyden jar. He performed pioneering work on the buckling of compressed struts. Musschenbroek was also one of the first scientists (1729) to provide detailed descriptions of testing machines for tension, compression, and flexure testing. Youth and Education Pieter van Musschenbroek was born in Leiden, Holland, Dutch Republic. His…
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Emilio Segrè and the Discovery of the Antiproton

Emilio Segrè and the Discovery of the Antiproton

On February 1, 1905, Italian physicist and Nobel Laureate Emilio Segrè was born. Segrè is best known for his discovery of the elements technetium and astatine, and the antiproton, a sub-atomic antiparticle, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1959. “If some nuclear properties of the heavy elements had been a little different from what they turned out to be, it might have been impossible to build a…
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Lev Landau – Superfluidity, the Hydrogen Bomb and Sarcastic Remarks

Lev Landau – Superfluidity, the Hydrogen Bomb and Sarcastic Remarks

On January 22, 1908, Soviet physicist and Nobel Laureate Lev Landau was born. Landau made fundamental contributions to many areas of theoretical physics. He received the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physics for his development of a mathematical theory of superfluidity that accounts for the properties of liquid helium II  at a temperature below 2.17 K (−270.98 °C). Lev Landau – Early Years Lev Landau was the son of the Caspian-Black Sea Joint-Stock Company…
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