Greatest living physicist?

  • #1
In your opinion. Or who is your favorite. Freeman Dyson is my favorite. I think he is the best too.:!!)
 

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  • #2
nicksauce
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IMO Weinberg as the greatest, and 't Hooft and Wilczek for being cool guys. I don't particularly like Freeman Dyson due to his religious views and his views on global warming.
 
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  • #3
IMO Weinberg as the greatest, and 't Hooft and Wilczek for being cool guys. I don't particularly like Freeman Dyson due to his religious views and his views on global warming.
What is wrong with his religous views and his views on Global Warming? Quite frankly, Weinberg seems like an ******* and Dyson seems like a cool guy.

"I'm heretical because I was studying climate change at least 30 years ago before it became fashionable"

-Dyson

Dyson was being published on climate change before Al Gore even heard of it.
 
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  • #4
Danger
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I think that there are too many branches of physics to pin down a 'best'. I know nothing of Dyson's or Weinberg's political or religious standpoints, but they're both giants in the field. I wouldn't discount Hawking, or even our own ZapperZ and Arildno. Just because you don't make headlines or publish popular books doesn't detract from your value to the scientific community.
 
  • #5
nicksauce
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What is wrong with his religous views and his views on Global Warming?
Frankly, I find it odd for any physicist to be a religious and to be a Christian. I also disagree with attempts to reconcile science and religion, since I believe religion to be antithesis to science. I also believe, based on the way I understand the current overwhelming scientific consensus, that he is downplaying the dangers of global warming. Maybe I'm wrong. Since this is a forum to discuss physics and not religion or climate change, I won't make any further comments. That said, Freeman Dyson is obviously a great legend with respect to his particular works in physics.

Weinberg, may seem like an "*******", but I am just quite impressed that not only did he make huge contributions to theoretical high energy physics, but also to gravitation and cosmology. I also find his texts and his "The first three minutes" to be exceptional reads.
 
  • #6
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. I also believe, based on the way I understand the current overwhelming scientific consensus,
Science is more about standing up against consensus (if it was consensus in the first place). Also http://www.mc.maricopa.edu/~bfvaughan/text/lex/defs/consensus.html [Broken].
 
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  • #7
Science is more about standing up against consensus (if it was consensus in the first place). Also http://www.mc.maricopa.edu/~bfvaughan/text/lex/defs/consensus.html [Broken].
I couldn't have said it better myself!
I happen to like some of Dyson's views, like Anthropogenic global warming hasn't been proven beyond a doubt, but a bit of game theory would spur me to agree that it's a good idea to curb our emissions, just in case, and even if we're wrong at least then the world will have less smog.

As for his religious views, I won't say much just that they hint of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-Overlapping_Magisteria" [Broken]

However I digress, my vote goes to Roger Penrose.
 
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  • #8
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Frankly, I find it odd for any physicist to be a religious and to be a Christian. I also disagree with attempts to reconcile science and religion, since I believe religion to be antithesis to science.
One of the main things science teaches us is how little we really know and understand so how can science be used to discount religion?I am agnostic and I am not promoting religion.
Anyway,I also digress and my vote goes to Hawkins, not that I understand what he has done but because of his success as a science populariser.
 
  • #9
Frankly, I find it odd for any physicist to be a religious and to be a Christian. I also disagree with attempts to reconcile science and religion, since I believe religion to be antithesis to science. I also believe, based on the way I understand the current overwhelming scientific consensus, that he is downplaying the dangers of global warming. Maybe I'm wrong. Since this is a forum to discuss physics and not religion or climate change, I won't make any further comments. That said, Freeman Dyson is obviously a great legend with respect to his particular works in physics.

Weinberg, may seem like an "*******", but I am just quite impressed that not only did he make huge contributions to theoretical high energy physics, but also to gravitation and cosmology. I also find his texts and his "The first three minutes" to be exceptional reads.
Some of the best scientists ever managed to reconcile science and religion. Dyson is just another one of them.

Maybe some of the claims do need to be moderated. It is bordering on fear mongering.

Dyson:

"It's a real problem, but it's nothing like as serious as people are led to believe. The idea that global warming is the most important problem facing the world is total nonsense and is doing a lot of harm."

A climate scientist who served on the IPCC:

There are some of us who remain so humbled by the task of measuring and understanding the extraordinarily complex climate system that we are skeptical of our ability to know what it is doing and why. As we build climate data sets from scratch and look into the guts of the climate system, however, we don't find the alarmist theory matching observations. (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite data we analyze at the University of Alabama in Huntsville does show modest warming -- around 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit per century, if current warming trends of 0.25 degrees per decade continue.)

It is my turn to cringe when I hear overstated-confidence from those who describe the projected evolution of global weather patterns over the next 100 years, especially when I consider how difficult it is to accurately predict that system's behavior over the next five days.

Mother Nature simply operates at a level of complexity that is, at this point, beyond the mastery of mere mortals (such as scientists) and the tools available to us. As my high-school physics teacher admonished us in those we-shall-conquer-the-world-with-a-slide-rule days, "Begin all of your scientific pronouncements with 'At our present level of ignorance, we think we know . . .'"

I haven't seen that type of climate humility lately. Rather I see jump-to-conclusions advocates and, unfortunately, some scientists who see in every weather anomaly the specter of a global-warming apocalypse. Explaining each successive phenomenon as a result of human action gives them comfort and an easy answer.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119387567378878423.html
 
  • #10
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Freeman Dyson, the claim that 'some of the best scientists ever managed to reconcile science and religion' is so full of fallacies that I'm not going to say much more than to outline what fallacies you've committed in that one sentence.

- Appeal to Misleading Authority
- Vagueness
- and, well, rank subjectivity, in that to all factual indications it is impossible to reconcile science, which is rational, and religion, which is absurd and utterly idiotic!
 
  • #11
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Science is more about standing up against consensus (if it was consensus in the first place). Also http://www.mc.maricopa.edu/~bfvaughan/text/lex/defs/consensus.html [Broken].
I wouldn't say science is more about standing up against consensus. Science is about finding the truth of empirical claims, regardless of whether the consensus agrees with the conclusions or not.

That said, if you were a Zoologist, would you not accept the claims of the long held consensus of physicists on quantum theory (or some other in-depth physics claim) simply because it is consensus? Of course you would accept them. It is well and good to test claims yourself, and go through reasoned arguments to get to the conclusions of quantum theory, but not everyone can do this for every claim they accept. Sometimes you just have to trust the professionals. If we tested every in-depth claim about the world before we believed it, then we would never get anything done. It's great to challenge the consensus on things you really can test or logically figure out for yourself, but you simply can't do this for *everything*.

One of the main things science teaches us is how little we really know and understand so how can science be used to discount religion?I am agnostic and I am not promoting religion.
Anyway,I also digress and my vote goes to Hawkins, not that I understand what he has done but because of his success as a science populariser.
By definition science doesn't deal with religion (where religion is "a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny."), due to the invocation of the supernatural. This isn't true for every single claim a religion makes, of course. For instance, the virgin birth is an empirical claim that a human female has given birth without the sperm of another human male, but when you say a supernatural "God did it," it is out of the domain of science. You can't test or predict things like that.

EDIT: Also, it seems sort of inconsistent for a scientist to be religious because, by the definition of a scientist, he or she accepts the validity of a claim based on empirical evidence and reasoned argument. So it'd be like he or she saying "I accept claims based on evidence and inferred reasoning. Oh, and also I accept a bunch of these supernatural untestable and or untested facts as well."
 
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  • #12
- Appeal to Misleading Authority
- Vagueness
- and, well, rank subjectivity, in that to all factual indications it is impossible to reconcile science, which is rational, and religion, which is absurd and utterly idiotic!
Is the essence of Beauty rational? no, should it then be cast into the ''absurd and utterly idiotic''?

Your wording suggests you are trying to be inflammatory and frankly I think that is closed minded. so as to not let this thread but sucked into yet another theological debate, I attach a conversation held between Paul Dirac and some eminent Physicists of his day, Wolfgang Pauli, Heisenberg and Bohr, I hope you enjoy it!

Dirac said: "I cannot understand why we idle discussing religion. If we are honest—and as scientists honesty is our precise duty—we cannot help but admit that any religion is a pack of false statements, deprived of any real foundation. The very idea of God is a product of human imagination.... I do not recognize any religious myth, at least because they contradict one another...." Heisenberg's view was tolerant. Pauli had kept silent, after some initial remarks, but when finally he was asked for his opinion, jokingly he said: "Well, I'd say that also our friend Dirac has got a religion and the first commandment of this religion is 'God does not exist and Paul Dirac is his prophet.'" Everybody burst into laughter, including Dirac.
 
  • #13
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"Freeman Dyson":

Are you sure you can use Freeman Dyson's name (unless, I suppose, it's also your real name)? Do you have his permission? I encountered a situation on another site where a member's user name was identical to a physicist's name (he's best known to the public for his pop science). This was a poorly managed site where lurid personal attacks and profanity were rampant and the individual in question was among the worst offenders. You've referred to Dr Dyson in the third person and on this thread at least, you haven't broken any rules. However, I'm not sure it's OK to knowingly use a another real person's name without that person's permission (unless, of course, you are THE Freeman Dyson since you haven't specifically said you aren't.)
 
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  • #14
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Are you sure you can use Freeman Dyson's name (unless of course it's also your real name)? Do you have his permission? I encountered a situation on another site where a member's user name was identical to a physicist's name (he's best known to the public for his pop science). This was a poorly managed site where lurid personal attacks and profanity were rampant and the individual involved was among the worst offenders. You've referred to Dr Dyson in the third person and on this thread at least, you haven't broken any rules. However, I'm not sure it's OK to knowingly use a another real person's name if it's not also your name without that person's permission (unless, of course, you are THE Freeman Dyson since you haven't specifically really said you weren't.)
He would be one egotistical bastard if he were the real Freeman Dyson.

It's not illegal or bad to have the forum name of a real person.
 
  • #15
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Another pointless discussion on the greatest physicist... It is already pointless to ask who was the best physicist ever, since they build on each other. Now today's physicists, it is even worse defined... well, how can you judge something ongoing ? How can you compare (names did not appear above) Ed Witten versus Alain Connes versus Carlo Rovelli versus Roger Penrose ? First of, they contribute quite differently, second we do not know yet which contribution will end up most influential.

The best physicist alive is Greg for contributing the world with PF.
 
  • #16
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He would be one egotistical bastard if he were the real Freeman Dyson.
I threw that out as a possibility, but it's not serious. As far as egotistical bastards, academia (in all fields) is full them.
 
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  • #17
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It's not illegal or bad to have the forum name of a real person.
I do think it is bad. Using a known physicists name may deceive some people into thinking that he/she is in fact that person (even if they make no attempt to intentionally impersonate beyond picking the name), and it may also slander that person's reputation (especially since this is a physics forum).
 
  • #18
Danger
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I think that the real Freeman Dyson would either lurk in the shadows as an observer, or register under a pseudonym.
I love the 'sphere' concept, by the bye, but I think that Niven improved upon it with the 'Ringworld' concept.
 
  • #19
Is there a reason people are picking Hawkings and Penrose beyond their pop sci books? Are people really that enamoured of their contributions to physics that they think they stand up to the "big hitters" in the actual physics community? Hawkings, for example, has like a third the h-index of weinberg and witten (I know h-index isn't the greatest indicator but that's a huge disparity).

Now, best living physicist? I'd definetly have to go with Phil Anderson. I remember reading an article where they did an analysis and found that he was "the most creative physicist" (i.e. the highest ratio of number of times his papers were sited vs. number of citations he made in his papers) http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/25623 . This is probably due to the fact that the guy CREATED like 3 to 4 fields. But he doesn't do cosmology or HEP and he's never written a science popularizer book which means a lot of people outside the field probably havent heard of him (his h-index is like 2-3 less then weinberg and witten).
 
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  • #20
Another amazingly important physicist who most people have never heard of despite being the only person to win TWO nobel prizes in physics and both of them for discoveries that changed the face of technology forever (his first arguably created the digital age), is Bardeen. He's not living (he died in 1991) but, one again, if you don't do cosmology and HEP or write sciene populizer books you remain relatively obscure. Even if you did contribute to the invention of the transistor (the basis of all modern electronic nad microchips) AND the theory of superconductors.
 
  • #21
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What about Gell-Mann? "Quarks" surely top anything Dyson, Weinberg or Hawking have done? Good point about Witten et. al., string theory is still only theoretical. But quarks *are* out there...

P.S. People have started calling Gell-Mann's popular science book "The Jerk and the Quagmire" :-) But there is no reason why the greatest physicist should be a person of admirable character or write good prose -- just look at Newton!
 
  • #22
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Is there a reason people are picking Hawkings and Penrose beyond their pop sci books?
You see, there is a reason those two wrote really good books. The reason people pick Hawking (please check spelling) and Penrose is related to the absurdity of the initial question. One usually is forced to assume we are talking about fundamental physicists, merely to restrict the list of possible names. In a precise, even almost technical (yet simple), sense, Hawking and Penrose have made seminal contributions to the study of space and time. Hawking from the quantum point of view, and Penrose from the Relativity point of view.

Your two picks are excellent physicists for sure. Bardeen was, in a precise sense, the best physicist alive at some point : in the evaluation of the Nobel committee.
 
  • #23
Kurdt
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Dyson does make a decent vacuum cleaner too. Hawking and Penrose have contributed significantly more than pop sci books. Try reading a biography of them. I adore Penrose.
 
  • #24
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I adore Penrose.
Note that there is not a single week, maybe even a single day, without work published on arXiv based on Penrose's ideas. He is the grandfather of spinfoam models, and his twistor geometry has applications ranging from string theory to noncommutative geometry.
 
  • #25
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Is there a reason people are picking Hawkings and Penrose beyond their pop sci books?
I wouldn't call Penrose's "The Road to Reality" a "pop-science" book.
 

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