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Greatest work of physicist done in their 20s?

by Fizicks1
Tags: greatest, physicist, work
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zoobyshoe
#19
Jan24-13, 10:05 PM
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Quote Quote by DiracPool View Post
Are you effing serious?! Is this the kind of message you want to send to all us old farts out there trying to solve the TOE? How dare you?!
I thought you were trying to unravel the mysteries of the human mind. Talk about too many irons in the fire.
DiracPool
#20
Jan24-13, 10:10 PM
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I thought you were trying to unravel the mysteries of the human mind.
Well, the mind is kinda part of everything, isn't it?
PeteyCoco
#21
Jan24-13, 10:48 PM
P: 36
I don't agree with this way of thinking. People may seem to "plateau" at 25, but I wouldn't treat that as a law. Greatest work is also a vague term to use since it doesn't necessarily have to be groundbreaking to be great, it just has to become famous. If fame is what the ultimate goal of your science career is, you might want to rethink things.
micromass
#22
Jan24-13, 11:40 PM
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Quote Quote by zoobyshoe View Post
Here's what I'm saying: no one ever picked up their first physics book at age 25 and went on to do something great in physics. No one ever started learning their first musical instrument at age 25 and went on to become a virtuoso. No one ever learned to read and write at 25 and went on to write the great American novel. When people do remarkable things all the important training and learning for that happened before 25. This is not some controversial cranky opinion of mine. It's universally understood to be true. It's why we send people to school as kids and don't wait till they're 20.

I think people should continue their education indefinitely. It's great if someone picks up their first guitar or book on neurology at age 50. It will enrich their life. However, I think it would be foolish for anyone doing something like that to think they're going to become groundbreakers in those fields with that late of a start. Likewise, if you're a mediocre mathematician or physics student at 25 it's extremely unlikely you're going to have some kind of miracle, late blooming into a ground breaker.
Take your choice:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albrecht_Fr%C3%B6hlich
http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/...phies/Lie.html
http://icps.u-strasbg.fr/~clauss/Ehrhart.html
http://books.google.be/books?id=BCML...***%20&f=false (link doesn't always work, just search for Weierstrass till you get to his biography)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Smale
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preda_Mih%C4%83ilescu
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Kirkman
Timewalker6
#23
Jan25-13, 12:28 AM
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Quote Quote by DiracPool View Post
"the truth is?" Are you sure about that? Sounds like a cop out to me, an excuse for not doing anything significant. I'll tell you right here why the mid 20's seem to be the magical time for creative works, it is because the brain develops rostro-caudally into the visual areas starting at about 23. This is a "flash in the pan" window where physicists/scientists/artists of any kind get some kind of mojo to do their great works. I know this, because I was a beach bum in Hawaii in my early 20's content as could be when all of a sudden I had this nagging urge to solve the mysteries of the human mind. At that point I was cursed to solve it.
After that point the urge isn't really there. You have to be motivated. You have to want to learn in order to make discoveries if you are fortunate enough to find something.
Fizicks1
#24
Jan25-13, 01:56 AM
P: 39
Thank you all for your input! It was all very enjoyable to read.

It's very true that things are very different nowadays compared to, say, back in the 1920s. First off, the way physics research is conducted nowadays is greatly different. And of course, just the large amount of physics knowledge existing today would take a long time for someone to be competent in. For example, most physics students will probably be at least in their mid to late 20s before they're competent in QFT.

DiracPool brings up an interesting point. If a very revolutionary new idea appears in physics it will likely be a young bunch pushing it forward.

And thanks to those who pointed out great discoveries made by mathematicians/physicists in their later years. I'd also like to point out that Schrodinger was 38 when he formulated his equation. And his equation is definitely a pretty big deal!
ZapperZ
#25
Feb22-13, 06:47 AM
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There are numerous examples of physicists still making significant contributions well beyond their 20s.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/...d-second-acts/

Zz.
zoobyshoe
#26
Feb22-13, 11:39 PM
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Sorry, I missed this when you posted it.

Quote Quote by micromass View Post
This guy had his life and education interrupted by the Nazis, and there's no indication he was math illiterate or mediocre before that interruption.
The Wiki says this guy published his first work in Math in 1869 when he would have been about 27. Just a little bit of a late bloomer.
Your link says:
He was a mathematic teacher in several lycées (french high schools) and did a lot of research just for his personnal pleasure.
He clearly wasn't starting from scratch when he did his best work later in life.
http://books.google.be/books?id=BCML...***%20&f=false (link doesn't always work, just search for Weierstrass till you get to his biography)
I don't feel like hunting him down.
This guy "astounded the world" at 28.
This guy did not publish anything of note till his 50's, but he also did not start math at 25.
This guy...
...was recognized as the best scholar at the school...
But his school happened not to have any math courses. Then his father denied him further education until he was 23. This is the only guy I'll grant puts a dent in my 25-years-old limit because it doesn't look like he had any opportunity to get a foundation in Math till he was 23. In all the other cases all the important training and learning seems to have taken place before 25. Kirkman, it must be noted, did demonstrate superior academic aptitude in the absence of exposure to Math.

The one singled out for seeming mediocre in college is the same one who suddenly published in Math at 27. He didn't quite make his mind up till he was out of school.
Jorriss
#27
Feb24-13, 12:39 AM
P: 1,042
Your 'average' physicists seems to do solid work from their 20s through retirement, in smaller, consistent strides. Most of the people I know who graduated with PhDs have done generally insignificant work compared to what they'll likely do over the next decade or so now that they have some semblance of what research is and what it entails.

The fact the greatest physicists seem to do their best work in their 20's is because the greats are incredibly smart and they start doing great work early on. Einstein, Newton, etc are geniuses. They don't mean anything when talking about generic 'physicists.'
jimmyly
#28
Feb24-13, 01:37 AM
P: 190
Quote Quote by zoobyshoe View Post
Here's what I'm saying: no one ever picked up their first physics book at age 25 and went on to do something great in physics. No one ever started learning their first musical instrument at age 25 and went on to become a virtuoso. No one ever learned to read and write at 25 and went on to write the great American novel. When people do remarkable things all the important training and learning for that happened before 25. This is not some controversial cranky opinion of mine. It's universally understood to be true. It's why we send people to school as kids and don't wait till they're 20. .
Its possible. To me age isn't a big factor. Someone picking up physics at 25 and another person at 14 are both at the same level. If they both go on to get their phds how do YOU know who is smarter or who will make an impact on science? Its life, young or old you can still make breakthroughs.
jimmyly
#29
Feb24-13, 01:41 AM
P: 190
to add to my last post I think there are a lot more SIGNIFICANT factors that would come before age. Like motivation, dedication, work ethic etc.
micromass
#30
Feb24-13, 04:11 AM
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Quote Quote by zoobyshoe View Post
Sorry, I missed this when you posted it.


This guy had his life and education interrupted by the Nazis, and there's no indication he was math illiterate or mediocre before that interruption.

The Wiki says this guy published his first work in Math in 1869 when he would have been about 27. Just a little bit of a late bloomer.

Your link says:

He clearly wasn't starting from scratch when he did his best work later in life.

I don't feel like hunting him down.

This guy "astounded the world" at 28.

This guy did not publish anything of note till his 50's, but he also did not start math at 25.

This guy...

But his school happened not to have any math courses. Then his father denied him further education until he was 23. This is the only guy I'll grant puts a dent in my 25-years-old limit because it doesn't look like he had any opportunity to get a foundation in Math till he was 23. In all the other cases all the important training and learning seems to have taken place before 25. Kirkman, it must be noted, did demonstrate superior academic aptitude in the absence of exposure to Math.

The one singled out for seeming mediocre in college is the same one who suddenly published in Math at 27. He didn't quite make his mind up till he was out of school.
Most of the links were actually counterexamples to this claim:

Likewise, if you're a mediocre mathematician or physics student at 25 it's extremely unlikely you're going to have some kind of miracle, late blooming into a ground breaker.
All of these people either had no math education at 25 or were seen as mediocre, but turned out to be ground breaking.
zoobyshoe
#31
Feb24-13, 02:33 PM
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Quote Quote by micromass View Post
All of these people either had no math education at 25 or were seen as mediocre, but turned out to be ground breaking.
But I went through each example and showed that all but one had a math education before 25 and none but one was singled out as mediocre.
DiracPool
#32
Feb24-13, 03:01 PM
P: 534
I think people are losing sight of the spirit of this thread. It's difficult to argue that the thousands of professional physicists employed by the worlds' universities don't make important contributions to science. They obviously do or they wouldn't be employed.

The distinction I think though, again, being made by the OP, is the qualitative nature of these contributions. In my mind they are what one may refer to as "evolutionary" contributions, meaning that are relatively modest advances on the, pardon the cliche, existing paradigm of the art.

Truly "revolutionary" advances or "quantum leaps" are not typically pioneered by peoples over, say, 30 or 35.

Shrodinger is not a good example. Heisenberg, Einstien, Planck, DeBroglie, and Dirac had already done the pioneering work in QM before he developed his equation, beautiful as it was (and still is). However, all he really did was apply the Hamiltonian to the wave equation and follow the logic. Heisenberg and Dirac had already pioneered the core concetual revolution with their matrix model.
ImaLooser
#33
Feb26-13, 02:53 AM
P: 570
Quote Quote by zoobyshoe View Post
Here's what I'm saying: no one ever picked up their first physics book at age 25 and went on to do something great in physics. No one ever started learning their first musical instrument at age 25 and went on to become a virtuoso. No one ever learned to read and write at 25 and went on to write the great American novel. When people do remarkable things all the important training and learning for that happened before 25. This is not some controversial cranky opinion of mine. It's universally understood to be true. It's why we send people to school as kids and don't wait till they're 20.
This interests me too. Someone did start golf at a late age (35?) and make the PGA tour, though I don't recall the name. So it can be done. A retired farmer learned to climb at the 5.13c grade, which is hard to believe, but he did it. Nobody really knows what the limits are, so why worry about it?
zoobyshoe
#34
Feb26-13, 12:51 PM
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Quote Quote by ImaLooser View Post
This interests me too. Someone did start golf at a late age (35?) and make the PGA tour, though I don't recall the name. So it can be done. A retired farmer learned to climb at the 5.13c grade, which is hard to believe, but he did it. Nobody really knows what the limits are, so why worry about it?
Odds against starting something late in life and getting anywhere with it are heavily against. Of course you can find exceptions to anything. I'm afraid people tend to identify with the exceptions and falsely suppose they can break their own patterns and surge later in life. The golfer and climber were almost certainly already doing something by the age of 25 that could be plugged into what they later excelled at.


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