Author's Query

  • Thread starter eae
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  • #1
eae
I'm working on a novel set in England in 1935/6.

My question is, what could a fictional physicist have won a Nobel (or not won a Nobel but produced ground-breaking science worthy of a Nobel) for that would have been controversial and have had implications/repercussions for the next half-century and beyond?

It's hypothetical - science that didn't happen, or not at that time and not for long afterwards.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
DaveC426913
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That's really broad. Can you give us any better idea of what you're looking for?

1935/36 is just leading up to WWII. If I recall my Indiana Jones accurately, Hitler was just about to start his pursuit of all sorts of wacky physics to get a jump on his enemies.
 
  • #3
eae
Yes, it is broad.

Obviously all kinds of stuff had been going on in England (and Germany, and America and everywhere else) especially in atomic physics, and yes, WWII was casting a foreshadow, which is why I wanted to ask the experts - you physicists - what might have been missing then.

The focus would tend to be on the science that led to Los Alamos, but there must have been other areas in quantum physics, for example, which isn't so obvious.
 
  • #4
FrancisZ
Particle Physics, perhaps. If memory serves me: the neutron was discovered in the early 30's.
 
  • #5
918
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Antimatter and high powered particle rays. Stranger than fiction.
 
  • #6
918
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Particle Physics, perhaps. If memory serves me: the neutron was discovered in the early 30's.
The prize was given in 1935, perfect for the story.
 
  • #7
Danger
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There are so many possibilities that your problem should be in picking one out of the pack.
One of the absolute best versions of this is "The Proteus Operation" by James P. Hogan.
For less extrapolative scenarios, you can reference "The Murdoch Mysteries", old tapes of "Hec Ramsey", "Sanctuary", etc..
Since it is fiction, take it from a long-time fiction writer... tell your story without regard to whether or not it is scientifically plausible. Examine it in retrospect, and correct if necessary to fit established physical laws. You have to make a decision at some point as to whether you want it to be accurate or entertaining. The two are not mutually exclusive, but I'd lean toward the entertainment factor over the scientific one. I'm pretty sure that nobody even bothers debating the "science" of "Star Wars", but you can't argue with sales figures.
As a writer, I firmly believe what I just said; as a scientist by nature, it galls me.
 
  • #8
Chi Meson
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Einstein had published General and Special relativity, and was well into ignoring quantum mechanics as he worked on unifying Electromagnetism with gravity.

Gosh, what if someone had unified gravity and electromagnetism and discovered a way to alter mass or gravitational force via electric signal?

I haven't read that SF book yet.
 
  • #9
eae
There are so many possibilities that your problem should be in picking one out of the pack.
One of the absolute best versions of this is "The Proteus Operation" by James P. Hogan.
For less extrapolative scenarios, you can reference "The Murdoch Mysteries", old tapes of "Hec Ramsey", "Sanctuary", etc..
Since it is fiction, take it from a long-time fiction writer... tell your story without regard to whether or not it is scientifically plausible. Examine it in retrospect, and correct if necessary to fit established physical laws. You have to make a decision at some point as to whether you want it to be accurate or entertaining. The two are not mutually exclusive, but I'd lean toward the entertainment factor over the scientific one. I'm pretty sure that nobody even bothers debating the "science" of "Star Wars", but you can't argue with sales figures.
As a writer, I firmly believe what I just said; as a scientist by nature, it galls me.
That is so true! When I write historical fiction, I tweak history, and that irks my trained brain when I think about it, but fiction's about enchantment and entertainment first and foremost. And I'm capable of suspending lots of disbelief - otherwise I couldn't watch Star Trek or Star anything.

Even so, as you say, I don't want preposterous, because there's a danger of making a mockery of a central character - the physicist.
 
  • #10
Danger
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Gosh, what if someone had unified gravity and electromagnetism and discovered a way to alter mass or gravitational force via electric signal?

I haven't read that SF book yet.
That's because I've kept my research private. :uhh:

Besides, it's not my basement. I take no responsibility for anything that might have been there when I moved in.
 
  • #11
DaveC426913
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You have to make a decision at some point as to whether you want it to be accurate or entertaining. The two are not mutually exclusive, but I'd lean toward the entertainment factor over the scientific one. I'm pretty sure that nobody even bothers debating the "science" of "Star Wars", but you can't argue with sales figures.
As a writer, I firmly believe what I just said; as a scientist by nature, it galls me.
On the other hand, book readers tend to be a much more demanding lot than moviewatchers. To the point that, if a bookreader really wanted to be entertained by implausible science - he'd go see a movie instead!
 
  • #12
Danger
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On the other hand, book readers tend to be a much more demanding lot than moviewatchers. To the point that, if a bookreader really wanted to be entertained by implausible science - he'd go see a movie instead!
I respectfully disagree. My influences while growing up were not my utterly useless teachers (with 2 exceptions); they were rather Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Ursula le Guin, Andre Norton, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, et al.
All of them had very serious scientific backgrounds (Asimov was a professor of biochemistry; Heinlein and Anderson had degrees in physics, Clarke was one of the inventors of radar during WW II...) Almost all of their stories were not strictly in line with reality. Asimov's concept of the positronic brain for his robots, which has extended into current entertainment, doesn't even begin to address the issue of how the positrons are constrained or how they can interact with the external circuitry while avoiding cataclysmic cancellation. As a fan, even knowing better, I just don't care. I love his works.
 
  • #13
DaveC426913
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I respectfully disagree. My influences while growing up were not my utterly useless teachers (with 2 exceptions); they were rather Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Ursula le Guin, Andre Norton, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, et al.
All of them had very serious scientific backgrounds (Asimov was a professor of biochemistry; Heinlein and Anderson had degrees in physics, Clarke was one of the inventors of radar during WW II...) Almost all of their stories were not strictly in line with reality. Asimov's concept of the positronic brain for his robots, which has extended into current entertainment, doesn't even begin to address the issue of how the positrons are constrained or how they can interact with the external circuitry while avoiding cataclysmic cancellation. As a fan, even knowing better, I just don't care. I love his works.
Uuuh. OK. Initially, your only example was Star Wars, but if you've decided that your idea of "erring on the side of entertaining over plausibility" is Asimov, Heinlein, Anderson, le Guin, Norton and Clarke, then who am I to argue? He could do a lot worse than emulating them...
 
  • #14
Danger
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Uuuh. OK. Initially, your only example was Star Wars, but if you've decided that your idea of "erring on the side of entertaining over plausibility" is Asimov, Heinlein, Anderson, le Guin, Norton and Clarke, then who am I to argue? He could do a lot worse than emulating them...
Yes, I apologize for perhaps giving a distorted version of my opinion by referencing "Star Wars". It was, to me, the most extreme example available. There are multiple layers of complexity involved.
 
  • #15
FlexGunship
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Uuuh. OK. Initially, your only example was Star Wars, but if you've decided that your idea of "erring on the side of entertaining over plausibility" is Asimov, Heinlein, Anderson, le Guin, Norton and Clarke, then who am I to argue? He could do a lot worse than emulating them...
Amen.

Although, I would certainly argue that reading Heinlein could sometimes be like reading the best textbook ever (except for his later years when he got all fanciful... I suspect he was on pain meds or something).
 
  • #16
DaveC426913
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I suspect he was on pain meds or something).
I suspect he had a not-so-secret desire to have sex with himself and wrote it into practically every one of his books.
 

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