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Discovery of the atom, electron etc. Where are the experiments that pr

  1. Jul 6, 2014 #1
    I find it sad that textbooks state JJ.Thomsons, Rutherfords, Milikan, Borhs etc. discoveries as facts without actually showing the whole experiment and showing in detail how they performed the experiment and how they derived their equations. Are there any textbooks that actually do this? I feel quite dumb when I only learn equations and how to calculate different units or physical quantities from equations without gaining any intuitive understanding of how this works experimentally.
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  3. Jul 6, 2014 #2


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    Look at the first page of your books. They certainly say strongly, insistently and almost puritanically and leave no doubt about it that Physics is absolutely and utterly based on experiment, there is no doubt about it! Oh yes!

    Which then absolves them from saying anything about any experiments afterwards. :biggrin:
  4. Jul 6, 2014 #3


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    This is the right kind of feeling you should have to develop a taste for science (especially physics). This will eventually lead you to gain intuitive knowledge by your efforts and later succeed. So just don't give up!
  5. Jul 6, 2014 #4


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    Obviously, if the full report of every physics experiment was printed verbatim in a typical physics text, you would need a dump truck to haul your books around. Even abbreviated versions of the experimental reports would be unduly burdensome.

    However, most of the experimental reports were published in physics journals at the time, or collected with the papers of the individual scientists, or even entire books written by those scientists. If you want to research this information, I recommend a stop at your college or university library. Copies of physics journals may be kept in the library itself, or the librarian may be able to show you how to access them online, possibly.

    The instructor of the course sometimes provides demonstrations or derivations of key concepts during the classroom period. If you are unclear on a particular point, it doesn't hurt to ask the instructor to help clear up certain points about a particular topic.

    After all, a textbook is supposed to provide a look at a subject which has been studied for hundreds of years. Only a small part of this knowledge and how it was obtained can be included and still keep the text concise.
  6. Jul 6, 2014 #5


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    Some of these key experiments are often done (at least in simplified modern form) in undergraduate laboratory classes. For many years I taught a second-year "introduction to modern physics" class in which students did Thomson's charge-to-mass ratio experiment, a photoelectric effect experiment, Milikan's oil drop experiment, etc. Details of such labs aren't normally discusssed in textbooks because they depend on the particular apparatus being used, the instructor's preferences in analysis, etc.

    A Google search for generic "modern physics laboratory" or specific experiments will probably give you lab handouts from various colleges and universities. My own handouts used to turn up in Google searches when I had them on my web site for my students to download.
  7. Jul 6, 2014 #6


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    We did the milikan oil drop experiment in an advanced physics lab I took and nobody could ever get it to work.
  8. Jul 6, 2014 #7
    That's a similar story that my professor told us. He said the students were given the equipment and told to do the experiment with really no real guidance from the professor, and apparently some of the students spent hours and hours on it during the week, during their spare time, during weekends, and some of them got it to work, but others never did.
  9. Jul 7, 2014 #8
    So there are thousands of physics and chemistry books containing great visual and logic explanations of the results and concepts formed from experiments. Don't you guys/ladies see a big problem here? No effort is put into creating textbooks explaining experiments in great detail (with great visuals of the experimental setup and easy to follow mathematical explanations).
    It's as if textbooks only teaches you to apply what is learned so you can use it for industrial use, but not so you can think for yourself: You can Teach yourself physics (the concepts) from textbooks because it's well explained and easy to understand for the layman, but you can't teach yourself how the historical experiments were performed and how the equations were derived because no textbooks on amazon contain such knowledge. YouTube videos kind of explain the subjects, but often it's not in very great detail.
  10. Jul 7, 2014 #9

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    The prevailing opinion is that it makes more sense to actually do the labs than to read about them. That's why the textbook you want doesn't exist.

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