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Physics and Its Evolution

Physics and Its Evolution

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Published by: arendale on Aug 12, 2009
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The Project Gutenberg eBook, The NewPhysics and Its Evolution, by LucienPoincare
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and withalmost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away orre-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online atwww.gutenberg.net
Title: The New Physics and Its EvolutionAuthor: Lucien PoincareRelease Date: February 28, 2005 [eBook #15207]Language: EnCharacter set encoding: ISO-8859-1***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE NEW PHYSICS AND ITSEVOLUTION*** 
E-text prepared by Jeff Spirko, Juliet Sutherland, Jim Land,and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team
The International Scientific Series
Inspéctéur-General de l'Instruction PubliqueBeing the Authorized Translation of "LA PHYSIQUE MODERNE, SON ÉVOLUTION"
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Prefatory Note
M. Lucien Poincaré is one of the distinguished family of mathematicians which hasduring the last few years given a Minister of Finance to the Republic and a President tothe Académie des Sciences. He is also one of the nineteen Inspectors-General of PublicInstruction who are charged with the duty of visiting the different universities and
in France and of reporting upon the state of the studies there pursued. Hence he is in anexcellent position to appreciate at its proper value the extraordinary change which haslately revolutionized physical science, while his official position has kept him aloof fromthe controversies aroused by the discovery of radium and by recent speculations on theconstitution of matter.M. Poincaré's object and method in writing the book are sufficiently explained in the preface which follows; but it may be remarked that the best of methods has its defects,and the excessive condensation which has alone made it possible to include the lastdecade's discoveries in physical science within a compass of some 300 pages has, perhaps, made the facts here noted assimilable with difficulty by the untrained reader. Toremedy this as far as possible, I have prefixed to the present translation a table of contents so extended as to form a fairly complete digest of the book, while full indexes of authors and subjects have also been added. The few notes necessary either for better elucidation of the terms employed, or for giving account of discoveries made while these pages were passing through the press, may be distinguished from the author's own by thesignature "ED."THE EDITOR.ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN, April 1907.
Author's Preface
During the last ten years so many works have accumulated in the domain of Physics, andso many new theories have been propounded, that those who follow with interest the progress of science, and even some professed scholars, absorbed as they are in their ownspecial studies, find themselves at sea in a confusion more apparent than real.It has therefore occurred to me that it might be useful to write a book which, whileavoiding too great insistence on purely technical details, should try to make known thegeneral results at which physicists have lately arrived, and to indicate the direction andimport which should be ascribed to those speculations on the constitution of matter, andthe discussions on the nature of first principles, to which it has become, so to speak, thefashion of the present day to devote oneself.
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I have endeavoured throughout to rely only on the experiments in which we can place themost confidence, and, above all, to show how the ideas prevailing at the present day have been formed, by tracing their evolution, and rapidly examining the successivetransformations which have brought them to their present condition.In order to understand the text, the reader will have no need to consult any treatise on physics, for I have throughout given the necessary definitions and set forth thefundamental facts. Moreover, while strictly employing exact expressions, I have avoidedthe use of mathematical language. Algebra is an admirable tongue, but there are manyoccasions where it can only be used with much discretion. Nothing would be easier than to point out many great omissions from this little volume; but some, at all events, are not involuntary.Certain questions which are still too confused have been put on one side, as have a fewothers which form an important collection for a special study to be possibly made later.Thus, as regards electrical phenomena, the relations between electricity and optics, asalso the theories of ionization, the electronic hypothesis, etc., have been treated at somelength; but it has not been thought necessary to dilate upon the modes of production andutilization of the current, upon the phenomena of magnetism, or upon all the applicationswhich belong to the domain of Electrotechnics.L. POINCARÉ.
THE EVOLUTION OF PHYSICSRevolutionary change in modern Physics only apparent: evolution not revolution the rulein Physical Theory— Revival of metaphysical speculation and influence of Descartes: all phenomena reduced to matter and movement— Modern physicists challenge this: physical, unlike mechanical, phenomena seldom reversible—Two schools, oneconsidering experimental laws imperative, the other merely studying relations of magnitudes: both teach something of truth—Third or eclectic school— Is mechanics a branch of electrical science?
: Lord Kelvin's view of its necessity— Its definition § 2.
The Measure of  Length
: Necessity for unit— Absolute length—History of Standard—Description of 
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