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Historically Important Problems in Physics

  1. Aug 11, 2011 #1
    Hi, I'm trying to make a list of Physics problems that were "the problem" of their day. I want things like the precession of the perihelion of Mercury or the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron. I'd appreciate it if you could name and briefly describe any interesting problems that were solved by a new development in Physics but I don't want currently unsolved problems. Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 11, 2011 #2
    That must be a long list. I would seriously recommend some restrictions eg by topic or date.

    How about

    Continental Drift - radio distance measurement
    Chemical composition determination - spectroscopy
    Photoelectric effect - quantum theory
    Why do real gasses not obey the gas laws? - Van derWaals forces
  4. Aug 11, 2011 #3


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    I see Studiot is a young man, having memory lasting for not much more than 100 years :uhh:

    Why it is easy to pull empty cart, but two strong oxen are needed to pull fully loaded one?

    Why every morning the Sun appears on the eastern horizon to set in the evening on west?

    What makes the Sun shine?

    Why the Moon changes its shape?

    Why dropped pebble falls?

    Why dropped feather falls, but much slower than pebble?

    Why during very cold nights, water transforms into transparent stone?

    Why wind blows?

    Why two strings of lengths in proportion 3/4 sound nice, while these of proportion 17/18 sound disgusting?
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2011
  5. Aug 11, 2011 #4
    Actually I used an old passport photo, taken when I was a young man, as my avatar.
    I am not nearly so handsome nowadays.

  6. Aug 11, 2011 #5
    Hhhhmmm...by the same token, I see xts must be a few thousand years old :biggrin:
  7. Aug 12, 2011 #6
    Thanks for your responses so far. Regarding rules, I'm not sure how to specify them so I'll just give you my motivation for wanting such a list. I have decided to give myself a series of small physics projects that involve learning how the famous problems in physics were solved and hence, hopefully I can gain some prowess this way - the idea came from the line on Feynman's blackboard "know how to solve every problem that has been solved". I thought it'd be a fun and original way to become a better physicist if I took that quote at face value.

    I would guess then that any kind of regulation would be of the sort - problems from which the most can be learned by studying their solution. I'd like to see some problems that are a little bit difficult mathematically I suppose - those whose solutions are not immediately obvious even when the correct physical concepts are known. However I really would welcome any suggestion as long as it's interesting and those suggested already certainly fit that category.
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