Modern einsteins

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folkhero
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby folkhero » Sun Jan 17, 2010 4:38 am UTC

Aristotle thought that flies had 4 legs, what's important isn't that he was wrong, but that he and no one else for years even thought to look. I think Aristotle set back science (insofar as it existed at the time) for a long time because people tended to regard him so highly that they forgot to challenge him at all. I guess that's mostly something out of his control.

If you want and ancient, how's about Archimedes? He's probably more of a mathematician, but he was great with machines and mechanics in general.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Jan 17, 2010 6:16 am UTC

Yeah, I don't see how Aristotle could possibly make any of these lists. You're not a scientist if you never even bother to fucking *look* at the things you're making claims about. If we want to include a nod to at least one Greek, I agree that Archimedes is far more deserving.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby BlackSails » Sun Jan 17, 2010 6:24 am UTC

Euclid isnt really a scientist, but no geometry, no physics.

Demosthenes is another cool greek dude.

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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby bigglesworth » Sun Jan 17, 2010 11:40 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:The human genome project didnt do anything groundbreaking though. Its the equivalent of taking very precise measurements of many stars - very useful and important, but nothing earthshattering
Yes, but Sanger's work was the reason it could happen, and was more fundamental.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Durin » Mon Jan 18, 2010 9:26 am UTC

Ventanator wrote:Ahem, since the whole 'science popularizers' thing is being discussed, I do believe that a man named Michio Kaku should be mentioned.

Michio Kaku helped push me into the direction of becoming a Physicist. So certainly.

The thing is Einstein is so remembered by everyone as being simply a "genius" not for his work. I mean most people know E= mc^2 but most people don't really GET what that means. So the next Einstein will probably be someone that's just sweeped into the arms of the media and society for being an eccentric genius.

My personal bet is Schon. Everyone seems to forget him.

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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:08 pm UTC

Well, yes, Einstein gets remembered not for the specifics of relativity but for just being so groundbreaking. Likewise, many people couldn't give you a good description of evolution, even fewer could give you Newton's laws, and I'm not entirely sure which scientist is next on the list of popular-ness so I won't give an example. This doesn't change the fact that Einstein was so incredibly groundbreaking. There are plenty of people the media won't remember who are also extremely smart, but won't accomplish as much.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Token » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:03 pm UTC

folkhero wrote:Aristotle thought that flies had 4 legs, what's important isn't that he was wrong, but that he and no one else for years even thought to look. I think Aristotle set back science (insofar as it existed at the time) for a long time because people tended to regard him so highly that they forgot to challenge him at all. I guess that's mostly something out of his control.

gmalivuk wrote:Yeah, I don't see how Aristotle could possibly make any of these lists. You're not a scientist if you never even bother to fucking *look* at the things you're making claims about. If we want to include a nod to at least one Greek, I agree that Archimedes is far more deserving.

This says it far better than I could. When it comes to the history of science or mathematics, I would strongly recommend that, where reasonable, you always make an effort to at least get a citation from a relevant text before believing the things you are told. There is enough repetition of baseless assertions about scientific history without more well-meaning people contributing to it.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Diadem » Mon Jan 18, 2010 9:50 pm UTC

Thanks Token. Great link.

I must admit I'm surprised at all the Aristotle-hatred here. Aristotle is widely regarded as one of the best scientists ever - he pretty much always makes the top5 in lists. That's not without reason. I wonder what those we call him a terrible scientist have done that will be remembered two and a half milleniums from now.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jan 18, 2010 10:25 pm UTC

Lots of people did things we still remember without any of it actually being science. We don't hate Aristotle, we just think he wasn't a scientist.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby folkhero » Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:09 am UTC

I guess the fly thing was a poor example, apologies for perpetuating the myth. I think my point stands anyway. Most of my hate towards Aristotle isn't really directed at him, but those who came after him who thought that everything he wrote was the height of all human knowledge. They all forgot to explore the world for themselves and come up with their own ideas. Before Socrates their was a plurality of ideas of the nature of the world. For centuries after Aristotle, philosophy (natural and otherwise) was just a series footnotes to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Talith » Tue Jan 19, 2010 1:32 am UTC

Perhaps a more apt example would be his theory of spontaneous regeneration. If you happen to be able to view BBC iPlayer, there was recently a very good documentary on Aristotle that I felt needed to be mentioned.

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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby doogly » Tue Jan 19, 2010 5:23 am UTC

Aristotle was absolutely not a scientist, and I dislike him. Furthermore, I spent a semester on De Anima, so I feel entitled to loudly complain.
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And yeah, the teeth thing. He had a wife; was he really never anywhere near her mouth?
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Ingolifs » Tue Jan 19, 2010 5:36 am UTC

The Ancient greeks, including Aristotle and plato were great philosophers and mathematicians. That is their contribution to knowledge.
At that time, the scientific method didn't exist, and in their philosophy, imperfect 'real world' concepts were often discarded in favour of idealised concepts. Instead of taking the world as it is and working backwards, they theorised on how the world should be, and tried to reason the nature of the world A Priori from there. Or at least that's the impression I have when reading their stuff.

The first true scientists were the Muslims around the 10th century, who relied on empirical evidence to explain something, rather than appeals to beauty, order, symmetry, God, etc. It really is a pity the muslim fundamentalists eventually stamped out this kind of stuff later on in the middle ages.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby BlackSails » Tue Jan 19, 2010 5:37 am UTC

Ingolifs wrote:
The first true scientists were the Muslims around the 10th century, who relied on empirical evidence to explain something, rather than appeals to beauty, order, symmetry, God, etc. It really is a pity the muslim fundamentalists eventually stamped out this kind of stuff later on in the middle ages.


Archimedes? Democritus? Thales of somewhere?

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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Username4242 » Tue Jan 19, 2010 6:17 am UTC

Sheldon Cooper.

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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Ingolifs » Tue Jan 19, 2010 8:10 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:
Ingolifs wrote:
The first true scientists were the Muslims around the 10th century, who relied on empirical evidence to explain something, rather than appeals to beauty, order, symmetry, God, etc. It really is a pity the muslim fundamentalists eventually stamped out this kind of stuff later on in the middle ages.


Archimedes? Democritus? Thales of somewhere?

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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby doogly » Tue Jan 19, 2010 2:08 pm UTC

Democritus was just as philosophical, he happened to be right.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Token » Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:41 pm UTC

folkhero wrote:Most of my hate towards Aristotle isn't really directed at him, but those who came after him who thought that everything he wrote was the height of all human knowledge. They all forgot to explore the world for themselves and come up with their own ideas. Before Socrates their was a plurality of ideas of the nature of the world. For centuries after Aristotle, philosophy (natural and otherwise) was just a series footnotes to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

I have no real knowledge in this area - is it really true that even, say, Hellenistic philosophy featured no major diversions from Socratic / Platonic / Aristotelian thinking? That's certainly very surprising if it is.

Talith wrote:Perhaps a more apt example would be his theory of spontaneous regeneration. If you happen to be able to view BBC iPlayer, there was recently a very good documentary on Aristotle that I felt needed to be mentioned.

Sure, spontaneous regeneration is wrong - clearly wrong, given our current knowledge about how the universe works. I'm not sure that it would be so clearly wrong to you if you only knew what Aristotle knew, though.

doogly wrote:And yeah, the teeth thing. He had a wife; was he really never anywhere near her mouth?

Well, the teeth issue certainly invalidates the claim that Aristotle verified everything he wrote experimentally. I don't think you'll find *anyone* claiming (or at least, reasonably claiming) that Aristotle did science as we hold the standard now. But none of this changes the fact that Aristotle made a large number of correct observations - as far as I'm aware, the vast majority of his mistakes lie in his theorising (as in, not the kind of stuff he could go and check if he had the inclination).

BlackSails wrote:
Ingolifs wrote:The first true scientists were the Muslims around the 10th century, who relied on empirical evidence to explain something, rather than appeals to beauty, order, symmetry, God, etc. It really is a pity the muslim fundamentalists eventually stamped out this kind of stuff later on in the middle ages.


Archimedes? Democritus? Thales of somewhere?

If you're going to reject Aristotle as a scientist, Democritus goes too - they're both on about the same page, as far as the range of their work is concerned, at least. Archimedes is a more likely candidate, but even then you're possibly assuming for him a modern style of thinking. For one, I don't think he viewed mathematics as being an actual descriptor of the real world. He was happy to use mechanical principles in heuristic arguments for mathematics, but that was only as a coincidentally useful way of getting a hint as to the answer he should be aiming to get with *real* methods. Thales is definitely interesting as a naturalist, but I'm not sure to what extent that makes him a scientist - he didn't seem to require evidence for his theories.

I think it's reasonable to say that no one of the Greek protoscientists was doing science as we'd think of it now (that we know of, of course) - rather, many of the pieces were there that would eventually start to coalesce under the Muslims into the concept we have today.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby doogly » Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:08 pm UTC

Token wrote:
folkhero wrote:Most of my hate towards Aristotle isn't really directed at him, but those who came after him who thought that everything he wrote was the height of all human knowledge. They all forgot to explore the world for themselves and come up with their own ideas. Before Socrates their was a plurality of ideas of the nature of the world. For centuries after Aristotle, philosophy (natural and otherwise) was just a series footnotes to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

I have no real knowledge in this area - is it really true that even, say, Hellenistic philosophy featured no major diversions from Socratic / Platonic / Aristotelian thinking? That's certainly very surprising if it is.

Yeah no, it's completely false. For two major examples, the Stoics and Epicureans were not attached to that lineage.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby tommclaughlan » Tue Jan 19, 2010 7:29 pm UTC

I'd say Weinberg deserves to be pretty high up. He's like a rock star of particle physics.

I heard a story around the particle physics department water cooler that he was 'scouted' by a university in Texas who were wanting to get bigger in the HEP field, so they asked him how much they would have to pay him to leave his current post and join them.

He asked how much their star American Football coach earned, when they told him, he replied 'That much'.

Also, I was at the 50 year anniversary of the PS at CERN in December and he was speaking as part of the proceeds along with around 15 other Nobel Laureates. The Director General had given everyone 30 minutes to do a talk. Weinberg had assumed that he'd been given an hour, so when time came to wrap up, the DG made hints.... which he promptly ignored several times.

.... It was probably funnier at the time..
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Meteorswarm » Sat Jan 23, 2010 1:40 pm UTC

I don't think there will every be any one person in biology with the effect Einstein had. Even disregarding the state of the science, biology is too reliant on experimental evidence for any person to be able to make huge leaps by themselves.

Furthermore, although the formalization of the modern synthesis or the discovery of DNA as the genetic material, its structure and DNA->RNA->protein are of the same magnitude as Einstein's discoveries, they were cobbled together from many different contributors over the span of 20 or more years. Most later discoveries have been in how some things differ from these core concepts, rather than being really revolutionary ideas.

We just don't have enough gaps in our understanding, in my opinion, for an Einstein to fit today.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Indon » Mon Jan 25, 2010 9:15 pm UTC

I think the next person (or, more likely, team of persons) to have such an impact will be the ones who bridge the 'soft' social sciences (psychology, sociology, etc) with their corresponding 'hard' physical sciences (such as neurology).

Another possibility is computational theory; the 'P=NP' problem would be revolutionary if solved - well, provided the answer is 'yes' anyway.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby BlackSails » Mon Jan 25, 2010 9:26 pm UTC

Indon wrote:
Another possibility is computational theory; the 'P=NP' problem would be revolutionary if solved - well, provided the answer is 'yes' anyway.


I will bet you a large sum of money that the answer is 'no'

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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby rho » Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:21 am UTC

How about Mitchell Feignbaum?

He fits the criteria of being alive and his work has led to an entirly new science and new ways of describing (quantitively) phenomena that were thought to be indescribable.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Krikkit_Robot » Tue Jan 26, 2010 3:38 am UTC

rho wrote:How about Mitchell Feignbaum?

He fits the criteria of being alive and his work has led to an entirly new science and new ways of describing (quantitively) phenomena that were thought to be indescribable.



Chaos was developed slowly over decades with significant contributions coming from tens of sources. Lorenz and Mandelbrot both made, IMO, at least equal contributions.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Ixtellor » Tue Jan 26, 2010 6:35 pm UTC

Smug elitists!


Without Plato, how would I know I'm a "Gold Soul".


Also, I think the obvious is being overlooked "Max Planck"



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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby doogly » Tue Jan 26, 2010 11:06 pm UTC

1) Not actually that great
2) Before Einstein
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby massivefoot » Wed Jan 27, 2010 11:10 pm UTC

This really does depend on what quality of Einstein you wish this person to possess. I'm sure I can find you someone born in Germany who has moved to America and possesses a similarly excellent 'tash. But I guess this is not what you are after.

If you want someone who has a similar status as a "genius" among the general public, it has to be Hawking. I agree with what people are saying here about his work not being as game-changing as Einstein's, but it's still more significant than many people seem to realise.
Firstly, he showed that singularities are generic features of gravitational collapse. Previously many physicists were of the view that black holes were very special cases that in real systems black holes wouldn't actually form from a collapsing star. Thus he showed that a whole class of astronomical objects really could exist.
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If you want someone with as huge an impact of physics, I'd go with Feynman. Not for Feynman diagrams but rather the path-integral approach. I'd say it makes him a modern day Lagrange. If you're prepared to be a bit more loose with what you mean by physics, and include heavily theoretical stuff that's a long way from being tested, Witten. You have serious trouble moving around some areas of physics without tripping up over his name and breaking your nose on a hard calculation.

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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby BlackSails » Thu Jan 28, 2010 1:14 am UTC

Its not that Hawking's stuff isnt important. Einstein literally changed the entirety of physics. Without Hawking, we would be missing some particular results. Without Einstein, its not certain that we would have quantum mechanics or relativity. Heck, he was one of the people who helped show that things are made of tiny particles.

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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Cobramaster » Thu Jan 28, 2010 1:41 am UTC

Well really you have to split science into pre and post theory of relativity, considering before Einstein there are only a handful of scientists per century that helped progress world knowledge and are remembered, after wards we can name dozens, really scientific advancement is on a log scale in a millennium sense. This is mostly due to people like Einstein, Nobel, Mendel, Darwin and Pasteur, plus a few others.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby BlackSails » Thu Jan 28, 2010 2:28 am UTC

You can remember more scientists post-Einstein because its more recent.

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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Ingolifs » Thu Jan 28, 2010 9:22 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:You can remember more scientists post-Einstein because its more recent.

But there are also many more people within science nowadays. The easy stuff that could be done by a lone person in a basement has already been done. Now we require large research groups just to push knowledge a tiny bit further in a small specific area.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Diadem » Thu Jan 28, 2010 1:13 pm UTC

Ingolifs wrote:
BlackSails wrote:You can remember more scientists post-Einstein because its more recent.

But there are also many more people within science nowadays.

Yeah. I read somewhere once that 70% of all scientists that ever lived, are still active today. I'm not sure how reliable that factoid is, but it might well be, since it's true for about 7% of all people, and a tenfold increase in the percentage of scientists with respect to population doesn't seem to far-fetched.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Ave » Thu Jan 28, 2010 8:34 pm UTC

Who said that Bill Nye isn't a scientist?

Not saying his work is anywhere remotely comparable to Einstein's, but he's not just an actor!

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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby emr92 » Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:43 pm UTC

Ave wrote:Who said that Bill Nye isn't a scientist?

Not saying his work is anywhere remotely comparable to Einstein's, but he's not just an actor!


Indeed. Bill Nye went to Cornell and comes back to do guest lectures. He did one last year for the Intro to Astronomy class about the possibility of life on other planets... bow tie and all. Was it awesome? Most definitely.

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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby DNA » Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:57 pm UTC

doogly wrote:Aristotle was absolutely not a scientist, and I dislike him. Furthermore, I spent a semester on De Anima, so I feel entitled to loudly complain.
"For the female is, as it were, a mutilated male, and the menstrual fluids are semen, only not pure; for there is only one thing they have not in them, the principle of soul."

And yeah, the teeth thing. He had a wife; was he really never anywhere near her mouth?

Aristotle may not have been a scientist but he definitely contributed to it. He strongly believed that you can't make generalizations about nature & the universe because our senses deceive us, so there was no inductive thinking allowed. Descartes also saw science this way - was he also not a scientist? If you link scientists and experimentation so closely, then would Einstein be one? He just used data that some other guy observed (an English scientist that recorded the bending of light during an eclipse).

Aristotle wasn't that bad. For me, I think Craig Venter will be the most popularized scientist of our time, but still not quite the Einstein.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby Meteorswarm » Sat Jan 30, 2010 2:52 am UTC

emr92 wrote:
Ave wrote:Who said that Bill Nye isn't a scientist?

Not saying his work is anywhere remotely comparable to Einstein's, but he's not just an actor!


Indeed. Bill Nye went to Cornell and comes back to do guest lectures. He did one last year for the Intro to Astronomy class about the possibility of life on other planets... bow tie and all. Was it awesome? Most definitely.


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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby folkhero » Sat Jan 30, 2010 6:19 am UTC

Ingolifs wrote:
BlackSails wrote:You can remember more scientists post-Einstein because its more recent.

But there are also many more people within science nowadays. The easy stuff that could be done by a lone person in a basement has already been done. Now we require large research groups just to push knowledge a tiny bit further in a small specific area.

I think you mean the simple stuff. That stuff is only easy in hindsight, and it's only simple relative to the huge complexity of modern science.

The large research groups of today roughly approximate the large groups of calculators that put together huge trig tables back when that was important.
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Re: Modern einsteins

Postby hideki101 » Sat Jan 30, 2010 11:12 am UTC

DNA wrote:
doogly wrote:Aristotle was absolutely not a scientist, and I dislike him. Furthermore, I spent a semester on De Anima, so I feel entitled to loudly complain.
"For the female is, as it were, a mutilated male, and the menstrual fluids are semen, only not pure; for there is only one thing they have not in them, the principle of soul."

And yeah, the teeth thing. He had a wife; was he really never anywhere near her mouth?

Aristotle may not have been a scientist but he definitely contributed to it. He strongly believed that you can't make generalizations about nature & the universe because our senses deceive us, so there was no inductive thinking allowed. Descartes also saw science this way - was he also not a scientist? If you link scientists and experimentation so closely, then would Einstein be one? He just used data that some other guy observed (an English scientist that recorded the bending of light during an eclipse).

Aristotle wasn't that bad. For me, I think Craig Venter will be the most popularized scientist of our time, but still not quite the Einstein.

There's a difference between a theoretical physicist and an experimental physicist, yes, but there is also a difference between a scientist and a philosopher. A scientist explains how things work by giving testable predictions and testing them with empirical evidence. Einstein just was a scientist who worked on the "giving testable predictions" part, thus he was a scientist. Aristotle and Descartes, regardless of the contributions that they made with regards to explaining how the world works, did not because they believed that the real world could not be understood through empirical means (or was that Plato? It's been a while since I've brushed up on the history of philosophy.). Because what they thought was true was not testable and/or falsifiable, they were not scientists.

In the topic of modern Einsteins, I would like some clarification on the phrase. How "Modern"? Born after he died? Still alive? What qualities make up an Einstein? His impact on science? His influence on popular culture?

Short, it's 3AM here, and I'm getting lazy, so I'm going to say either Hawking or Feynman are the closest to Einstein in societal impact, and maybe scientific impact.
Albert Einistein wrote:"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."

MadRocketSci2
Posts: 69
Joined: Sat Nov 21, 2009 5:31 pm UTC

Re: Modern einsteins

Postby MadRocketSci2 » Sat Feb 13, 2010 4:44 pm UTC

Hmm. Modern Einsteins.

It's sort of hard to beat unifying electricity and magnetism, energy and mass, and gravity with space-time-geometry with just one theory. And contributing a lot to early quantum physics. And discovering the photoelectric effect. And getting the manhattan project started with a letter to the president.

It would seem, if you assume the probability of getting an "Einstein", or an Edison, ect for that matter, is proportional to the population we have, that there would be more Einstein-types alive today than there were in his era.

The early 20th century though was a pretty heady time for scientific progress. We entered in the 1890s with electricity as a lab curiosity, and by the 1920s the modern world took shape, we discovered radiation, we were building radio towers, aircraft, ect.

The other weird thing I've noticed about a lot of the "great names" in math and science history is that to a very large extent they weren't unknown to each other. If you look up the academic geneologies of the big names in mathematics back in the 1700s, a lot of them were doctoral advisors to each other, students of each other, went to alma-maters in the same country. It's almost as if getting a "critical mass" of them together and talking (and teaching each other - otherwise it doesn't sustain) tends to produce the revolutions we are interested in.


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