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Greatest Theorist ?

  1. Jan 16, 2012 #1
    "Greatest Theorist"???

    Alright, so I was reading through Ed Witten's wikipedia page since I knew he was big in String Theory, but I'm not really all that into Strings and didn't know to what extent. I'm reading the article and there's a quote out of an article in time [ http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,994019,00.html ] about him being (generally) considered the greatest theorist in the world.

    Now, I'm not trying to start any sort of flame against string theory or any sort of controversy like that, but I would think it kind of silly to talk about a "greatest" theorist in any context. From what I have heard (and I'll admit it is very little!) one could maybe discuss the most important theorist within a given field, but even that is going to be up for debate.

    While I know that the article says generally, I'd like to know if anyone has any strong opinions about this. I personally believe that it's unlikely for any one person to have that title, though people may have personal favorites, and that it was (probably) wrong to put that in Time. Though, I cannot say for sure since as I mentioned before, I'm not all that familiar with him.

    In general though, it would be nice an undergraduate looking at graduate school to know who the "big names" are in my field (probably HEP) so if anyone knows anyone else worth looking into who is considered a big name and is still publishing, I'd like to look into them. I've seen estimates that the HEP community is anywhere from 1000-3000 people depending on how you count graduate students, postdocs, emeritus etc.

    Out of curiosity, does anyone have any favorites in terms of prolific scientific contribution?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 17, 2012 #2
    Re: "Greatest Theorist"???

    Ya, that's just dumb. At least they didn't say someone like Garrett Lisi or Brian Greene or Stephen Hawking.

    Best living theorist depends on the field but I'd say:
    -Particle physics: Steve Weinberg (literally wrote the book on quantum field theory and the standard model)
    -Condensed Matter Physics: Phil Anderson (literally wrote the book on condensed matter)

    I dunno, just look through the list of Nobel laureats, find the ones that are theorists and still alive and WHAM you've got a better candidate then anyone on the public's/time magazine's radar.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2012
  4. Jan 17, 2012 #3


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    Re: "Greatest Theorist"???

    Ed Witten looks uncannily like Egon Spengler in the Ghostbusters (played by Harold Ramis). :biggrin:
  5. Jan 17, 2012 #4
    Re: "Greatest Theorist"???

    Haha, will do. I suppose that the living Nobel laureates are probably still pretty good, though I'm not sure that they're all still publishing.

    Weinberg is a boss, I have his QFT vol I and Gravitation texts.

    I don't know anything about Phil Anderson, so I guess I'll have to look into that. Condensed Matter isn't really my thing.
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