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Greatest Impact on History

  1. Nov 6, 2005 #1
    What advance in physics do you feel has had the greatest impact on history? This is a question I have to answer for a research project. Currently my plan is to do John Bardeen and the transistor but I'd like to here some other ideas.
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  3. Nov 6, 2005 #2


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    You'll probably consider this math rather than physics, but I think that it would be the invention of '0'. The Romans didn't have it, and their space programme sucked.
  4. Nov 6, 2005 #3

    My teacher most likely will not permit it but it's a good idea.
  5. Nov 6, 2005 #4


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    Well an important thing to do is find out what your teacher likes. If your physics teacher loves the internal mechanics of microprocessors, maybe do the solid-state transistor. If he is a Japanese people-hater, do E=mc2 :biggrin:
  6. Nov 6, 2005 #5


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    The most important advance for the old school out there has to be Newtons Pricpia Mathematica which developed the tools we still use most widely today, as well as describing the world in a very practical if not completely true sense. Of course in not completely true i'm referring to his gravitation theory and the inability to describe quantum phenomena but he had a good crack at things considering the experimental knowledge and technology of the time.
  7. Nov 7, 2005 #6
    I would say that the most influential advance would be invention of the telescope. The impact it created socially upon our feeble perceptions of the universe paved the way for philosophers and physicists to think along the lines necessary to discover modern physics. Without the change in general perceptions of our place in the universe and the capacity to study it few of the modern physics ideas would have been developed.
  8. Nov 7, 2005 #7
    Invention of the scientific method.
  9. Nov 7, 2005 #8
    Maxwell's equations.

    Without them relativity and quantum mechanics could not have happened. Without those, the modern world as we know it would not exist. Period.
  10. Nov 7, 2005 #9
    Well, your question is not clear. Are you asking about the SOCIAL implications on society, or the technological, those are two very different but important questions. The first clearly its the ancient greeks. They were the first to think in terms of 'pure' science, in only theoretical terms. They viewed science not for the use in technology, but for the sake of perfection, (plato). As for newton, he is important, but he did not lay the ground work. He derived his work only thanks to keplers data, who in turn got his data thanks to brahe. You have to realize that newtons laws had little importance in science up to that point. Engineering and science were two distinctly different things. Engineering was not mathematical, it was all hands on. It was not even taught in colleges. Even by 1824 there was still a big gap between science and engineering. So for what your asking, physics, I would have to say something strictly in the 20th centry. I would probably say an advance in physics that lead to the computer being something cheap and useful to all of society.

    NO! The romans, did not contribute any to science in history.

    NO! Brahe did not use a telescope in his precise observations! He used a mural quadrant with the naked eye. Brahe ~ 1570's --> Telescope ~1609

    That is a good one. Thinking of science in terms of the HOW and not the WHY.

    No, sorry, that statement is horribly inaccurate.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2005
  11. Nov 7, 2005 #10
    what about fire? :rofl:
  12. Nov 8, 2005 #11

    good one :rofl:

    hmmm, a good invention would perhaps be Electricity :rolleyes:
    It did have a great impact on both social and scientific community!
  13. Nov 8, 2005 #12

    really? Even though the Michelson-Morley experiment was trying to bring to light the nature of the luminiferous ether, an assumption in maxwell's theory (and an unnecessary one)?

    Even though Einstein's derivation of Special Relativity is called "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies", a study of Maxwell's equations in seperate, moving inertial frames?

    Even though the speed of light comes right of the equations, as does its constancy in a vacuum?

    Even though none of the derivation of quantum mechanics makes much sense without the relation between the electric and magnetic fields?

    I would love to see some argument backing up that claim of yours.
  14. Nov 8, 2005 #13
    Well, you said

    "Maxwell's equations.

    Without them relativity and quantum mechanics could not have happened. Without those, the modern world as we know it would not exist. Period."

    While its true his equations lead to relativity and quantum mechanics, it in and of itself is NOT what lead to the "modern world as we kwow it." The scientific process has its roots starting from acient greece. It was then lost but rediscovered by the muslims, and taught to the europeans during the midieval ages. At this time you have to remember that the church controlled the learning. So science was NOT unconstrained as we know it today. It was unconstrained to some degree in the ancient greek times. It was indepenent of the state and private. During the progression of the middle ages, science included things like alchemy, and debates on heliocentric vs. geocentric solar systems. All of which were major problems BEFORE maxwells equations were ever considered. Also, science had a big lag behind technology. Technology for the most part came first, through trial and error, and THEN science came put known facts into formulas. There is a series of crucial steps that lead up to what we now call modern physics or modern science. And you cant simply say that maxwells equations are what gives us our modern world, because it is too specific on a certain phenomena. I would say his formulas are a vital step which leads to modern electronics. But I would not dare claim that it is the reason why we have modern world as we know it, as it does not explain everything in the modern world, and leaves out many of the imporant "social/political" obstacles. It would be better to say that it laid the foundation for the modern *theory.*
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2005
  15. Nov 8, 2005 #14
    simple answer......
    who brought us to the modern physic from classical physic?
    i really think he is the greatest because he introduced the new and deeper face of physic.
  16. Nov 8, 2005 #15
    The old folks:

    Copernicus: Heliocentric theory

    Galileo: Law of motion

    Newton: Gravity

    Keplar Laws of planetary orbit.

    Faradays experiments are pretty damn important as well
  17. Nov 8, 2005 #16


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    A lot of people misunderstand Newton's work. Not only did he see beyond the obvious to say that what holds people on the Earth is the same force that keeps the planets in the heavens. He derived Kepler's laws from this and came up with simple laws of motion which people use today. Even NASA still use Newtons law of gravitation even though Einstein's general theory is the accepted theory of gravity in modern terms. Also when you talk about Newton not laying down any of the groundwork you are completely wrong. He invented the mathematical tools to produce his theory of gravity and laws of motion. So for the impact, he invented calculus and we all know how important that is to a physicist, and used his new mathematical tools to create a completely useful and varied theory of motion and gravity that has lasted over 300 years.
  18. Nov 8, 2005 #17


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    I'd say stick with Bardeen and the transistor (if you've read my journal, this should be a surprise to you). There's plenty of arguments here to support the "greatest impact" factor. Besides, as you can already see, it will be DIFFERENT and unusual (just like me! :)). Most people think of the usual, standard response, and your instructor will probably expect the same from you and the rest of the students. So doing something unexpected is in itself an advantage. Pick someone and something not many people have either heard about, or paid any attention to, and expose to them the fact that this is such a monumentous discovery that affects ALL of our lives today and yet, hardly anyone have paid attention to it and the persons who made the discovery.

    Most people hardly even know that Bardeen is the only person so far to have been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics TWICE!

  19. Nov 8, 2005 #18
    I first learned Bardeen's name while reading your journal, and I thank you for that! :biggrin: I bought his biography too. I really like it even though some of the "physics talk" is over my head.

    Thanks for all the suggestions, I will consider them all.

    Also, I will ask my teacher what he means by "impact on history" to find out exactly what's looking for.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2005
  20. Nov 8, 2005 #19
    i would say that the mathematization of science/physics is the most significant, starting with galileo & descartes. maybe that wasn't a single discovery, but rather a movement or something like that. anyway the philosophies of those two guys radically changed physics. there's a good chapter in morris kline's "mathematical thought from ancient to modern times". you might say that they were two of the giants on whose shoulders newton stood.
  21. Nov 8, 2005 #20
    I'd stick with John Bardeen if I were you. (Of course, I'm a little biased: my school's engineering quad is named after him, and I work for a professor who knew him very well.)
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