By S. D'Agostino
This publication offers a standpoint at the historical past of theoretical physics during the last hundreds and hundreds years. It includes essays at the heritage of pre-Maxwellian electrodynamics, of Maxwell's and Hertz's box theories, and of the current century's relativity and quantum physics. a standard thread around the essays is the quest for and the exploration of topics that inspired major con ceptual adjustments within the nice circulate of principles and experiments which heralded the emergence of theoretical physics (hereafter: TP). the joys. damental switch concerned the popularity of the scien tific validity of theoretical physics. within the moment half the nine teenth century, it was once tough for plenty of physicists to appreciate the character and scope of theoretical physics and of its adept, the theoreti cal physicist. A physicist like Ludwig Boltzmann, one of many eminent members to the recent self-discipline, confessed in 1895 that, "even the formula of this idea [of a theoretical physicist] isn't really totally with no difficulty". 1 even supposing technological know-how had constantly been divided into concept and scan, it was once merely in physics that theoretical paintings built right into a significant examine and educating forte in its personal correct. 2 it truly is actual that theoretical physics used to be as a rule a construction of tum of-the century German physics, the place it bought complete institutional attractiveness, however it is usually indisputable that notable physicists in different ecu nations, particularly, Ampere, Fourier, and Maxwell,
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Extra resources for A History of the Ideas of Theoretical Physics: Essays on the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Physics
George Green and Gabriel Stockes in England had pursued the methods of mathematicalphysics to work out elastic theories of an optical ether. Maxwell himself contributed 11 to elasticity in one of his first scientific papers. This background is relevant for an assessment of Maxwell's initial approach to Weber's factor, explaining why he accepted that, in his first identification of this factor with the velocity of light, the elastic theory could still have a role. In fact, in part 3 of his paper he presented 12 a detailed hypothesis on the elastic properties of an "electric ether", through which the relation between the "electric displacement" and the "electric force" are deduced.
The results were therefore unreliable for any investigation of the earth's magnetic variation at a given location over a long stretch of time. Furthermore, these methods afforded only relative measures that were not comparable with others from different locations and different instruments. Gauss's method, the so-called method of "principal positions", is still described in many textbooks of elementary physics, so that only a short description is given here. The gist of the method was the usage of an auxiliary instrument in addition to the newly constructed high-precision bifilar mag- 18 CHAPTER 1 netometer.
5 Ampere's line of reasoning conceded that, in principle, a the- 14 CHAPTER 1 ory of transversal magnetism (all the currents are magnets) was admissible. However, this theory should be submitted to an experiment showing that all the properties of symmetrical interactions between currents were also properties of interactions between magnets (and not the reverse). The underlying rationale of this argument can be stated as follows: if, according to the theory of transversal magnetism, currents are magnets, the possible interactions among magnets must form a larger set than the interactions among currents; in fact, some types of interactions among free magnets would be impossible in currents.