Archive for Physics

Michael Faraday

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 Michael Faraday
Born: 22 September 1791, Newington Butts, England.
Died: 25 August 1867, Hampton Court, England
Fields: Physics, Chemistry

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Biography 

Despite having almost no formal education, Michael Faraday was one of the most influential people in the history of science thanks to his contributions to the study of magnetism. He is the most well known for having formulated the concept of an electromagnetic field, laying the foundation for electric motor technology and essentially making electricity practical for use in technology. As a chemist, he invented the precursor to the Bunsen burner and is credited with the discovery of benzene, along with some other contributions that eventually made him the Fullerian Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution of Great Britain.

Faraday’s reputation as an experimentalist made him an inspiration to other scientists that came after him. Albert Einstein, for example, had a picture of Faraday hanging next to Isaac Newton and  James Clerk Maxwell. Physicist Earnest Rutherford, the man who first split the atom, referred to Faraday as “ one of the greatest scientific discoverers of all time”.

Faraday is said to have seen faith as a vital part of his research and was an advocate of co-existence between science and religion. The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion was named in his honor with a mission to promote understanding within the two. He has been honored in many ways, especially in his native England, with numerous statues and educational facilities named after him. British 20 pound notes issued prior to 2001 had a portrait of Faraday and a visual of him giving a lecture on the back. Streets named after him are found in England, France, Germany and the United States.

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Categories : Chemistry, Physics
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Galileo Galilei

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 Galileo Galilei
Born: 15 February 1564 in Pisa, Italy
Died: 8 January, Arcetri, Italy
Fields: Astronomy, Physics

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Biography 

Galileo Galilei was an Italian physicist and astronomer and a key figure of the Scientific Revolution, when science and the occult began to part ways. He was a supporter of Nicolaus Copernicus’ theory of heliocentrism, which stated that the Sun is at the center of the universe. This upset the clergy, who had him arrested and convicted for heresy since the theory contradicted the Holy Scriptures. A popular legend says that Galilei rebelliously muttered “And yet, it moves” after being forced to recant this theory, but there is no evidence that this was the case.

Galileo’s numerous contributions to the fields of astronomy and physics include improvements to the telescope, confirmation of the phases of Venus, the discovery of Jupiter’s four largest sattelites (later named the Galilean moons), improvements to the military compass

Galileo’s arrest came after the publishing of Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. In this book, he defended his heliocentric views, which were highly controversial at the time, even among astronomers. The Dialogue was interpreted as an attack on Pope Urban VIII, which led to Galileo not only being arrested, but also alienating a lot of his supporters. He was tried, found ”vehemently suspect of heresy” and spent the rest of his life under house arrest in his villa at Arcetri, near Florence.

In recent times, the Catholic Church expressed regret over Galileo’s imprisonment on multiple occasions. In 1992, Pope John Paul II officially acknowledged the wrongdoings of the clergy towards Galileo. In 2008, Pope Benedict XIV praised his contributions to astronomy. According to Stephen Hawking, nobody had as much impact on the birth of modern science as Galileo, while Albert Einstein dubbed him the father of modern science.

 

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Categories : Astronomy, Physics
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Isaac Newton

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 Isaac Newton
Born: 25 Dec 1642, Woolsthrope-by-Colsterworth, England
Died: 20 March 1727 (aged 84), Kensington, England
Fields: Physics

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Biography 

Isaac Newton was a prominent English physicist and mathematician, who is widely regarded as the one of the most influential people in science and a key figure in the scientific revolution of the 1500s and 1600s. His most iconic accomplishment was conceiving the theory of gravity, inspired by watching apples fall from an apple tree. Contrary to popular belief, the apple did not hit Newton on the head and some even believe the whole story to be a myth told by Newton himself, even though some of Newton’s acquaintances have confirmed it as true.

In his book ”Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”, he outlined the laws of motion and the concept of universal gravitation. The book heavily influenced scientists’ perception of the universe for the next three centuries. It also showed that other celestial bodies move using the same principles as Earth, essentially removing any doubt about a heliocentric model of the cosmos.

In 1704, Newton attempted to extract scientific data from the Bible and concluded that the world will end no sooner than 2060, even though he stated that it wasn’t an attempt to predict the end of the world, but “to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end”. During Newton’s time, distinctions between science and the occult were virtually nonexistent, which is why Newton authored a number of works dealing with chronology, alchemy and Biblical interpretation. After analyzing some of Newton’s works, economist John Maynard Keynes said ”Newton was not the first of the age of reason, he was the last of the magicians”

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Categories : Physics
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Earnest Rutherford

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 Earnest Rutherford
Born: August 30, 1871 in Brightwater, New Zeland
Died: 19 October 1937 in Cambridge, England
Fields: Physics, Chemistry

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Biography 

Earnest Rutherford was physicist born in New Zealand. He is considered by many to be the father of nuclear physics, having established the structure of the atom and the concept of radioactive decay.

Even though Rutherford died before controlled nuclear chain reactions i.e. nuclear power came to existence, Leo Szilard, the Hungarian American physicist responsible for its introduction, stated that his thinking was inspired by his speech on nuclear transmutation published in the Times. The nuclear transmutation of one element into another and differentiation between alpha and beta radiation was the foundation of the work that got Rutherford a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908.

Rutherford’s most famous accomplishment is his 1917 splitting of the atom, where his theory about a nucleus being at the center of the atom was confirmed. He also discovered and named the proton. While working with Niels Bohr in 1921, he theorized about the existence of neutrally charged particles within the atom, which he dubbed neutrons. This theory was proven by his associate James Chadwick, earning him a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1935.

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Categories : Chemistry, Physics
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Michio Kaku

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 Michio Kaku
Born: Jan 24, 1947 in San Jose, CA, USA.
Fields: Physics, Science Comm.

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Biography 

Michio Kaku is an American (born to Japanese immigrants with Tibetan ancestry) theoretical physicist and science communicator. He is responsible for popularizing his field of science with a number of famous books, including the New York Time bestsellers Physics of the Impossible (2008) and Physics of the Future (2010). He has hosted specials on BBC, the Discovery Channel, Science Channel and History Channel.

As a high school student, Kaku built a particle accelerator in his parents’ garage. This earned him a Hertz Engineering Scholarship. He graduated from Harvard University at the top of his physics class before moving on to obtaining a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley and a lectureship from Princeton, both in 1972.
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Benjamin Franklin

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 Benjamin Franklin
Born: Jan 17 1706 in Boston, Massachusets Bay
Died: April 17 1790 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Fields: Physics, Engineering

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Biography 

Even though Benjamin Franklin is best known as a Founding Father of the United States, a reputation that overshadows his achievements as a scientist and inventor. As one of the leading forces behind the American Enlightenment, he has a huge place in the history of physics thanks to his theories and discoveries regarding electricity. He was one of the first to come up with the principle of a positive and negative charge, as well as the concept of charge  conservation. Some of his most well-known inventions include the lightning rod, bifocal lenses and the stove bearing his name. He was also the one to discover the fact that temperature has an effect on the electrical conductivity of a body after his experiment showed that ice does not conduct as well as water. Evidence from his famous kite experiment show that Franklin was insulated during the lightning strike Read More→

Categories : Engineering, Physics
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Dmitry Mendeleev

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 Dmitri Mendeleev
Born: 18 Feb 1834 in Verkhnie Aremzyani, Russian Empire
Died: 2 Feb 1907, St Petersburg, Russian Empire
Fields: Physics, Chemistry

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Biography 

Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleev was a Russian chemist and inventor, credited with the creation of the first version of the periodic table of elements in the 1860s. German chemist Lothar Meyer’s table of elements was published only a few short months after Mendeleev’s, so there are some who consider them independent co-creators. Despite that, the bulk of the credit is still given to Mendeleev. He was in line for a Nobel Prize for the table, but was passed up for Henri Moissan and his work on separating flourine from its compounds. It is widely believed that Svante Arrhenius had a grudge against Mendeleev over the latter’s criticism of his dissipation theory, resulting in Arrhenius using his influence over the Nobel Committee to get majority vote for Moissan. Read More→

Categories : Chemistry, Physics
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Albert Einstein

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Albert Einstein
Born: 14 Mar, 1879 in Ulf, German Empire
Died: Apr 18 1955 in Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Fields: Physics

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Biography 

Albert Einstein was a famous German-American theoretical physicist, famous for the theory of relativity and the mass energqy equivalence formula E=mc. Born in Ulm, Germany in 1879, Einstein was visiting the United States when Adolf Hitler took power in 1933 and decided to stay, becoming an American citizen in 1940.

During World War II, Einstein was one of the first to suggest that Nazi Germany is researching atomic weapons and that the United States should start similar research. Even though this would eventually lead to the Manhattan Project, Einstein later denounced the use of nuclear fission as a weapon and highlighted the dangers of nuclear weapons in the Russell-Einstein Manifesto with British philosopher Bertrand Russell. By the time of his death in 1955, Einstein had published over 300 scientific papers. Read More→

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Nikola Tesla

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Nikola Tesla
Born: July 10 1856 in Smijan, Austrian Empire (modern day Croatia)

Died: 7 January 1943 in New York City, USA

Fields: Physics, Engineering

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Biography 

Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American engineer, physicist and inventor who is best known for his design of the modern electrical supply system, as well as laying the theoretical groundwork for radio communication.

Tesla started off in the telephony and electrical fields in his native Croatia (Austrian Empire at the time) before migrating to the United States in 1888 to work for Thomas Edison. He was able to secure some financial backers and branch out on his own and later receive a lot of attention with his experiments, one of which included a failed attempt at an intercontinental wireless electrical distribution system. Not only was it his experiments that made him famous during his day, but also for his charisma in presenting his inventions. Despite making a lot of money from patents, he spent even more on new experiments, which is why he is known as a “mad scientist” today.
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Categories : Engineering, Physics
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Stephen Hawking

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Stephen Hawking
Born: Jan 8 1942 in Oxford, England
Fields: Physics – general relativity and quantum gravity

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Biography 

Stephen Hawking is a British theoretical physicist and cosmologist, who enjoys massive success with his works in popular science. He is an honorary member of the Royal Society of Arts , a lifteime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and a recepient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. His motor neurone disease has left him almost completely paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, forced to speak through a speech generating device.

Hawking was born in Oxford, England to medical researcher Frank and secretary Isobel. He initially struggled academically, but soon started showing a great aptitude towards scientific subjects. Read More→

Categories : Physics
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