Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein

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  • #26
f95toli
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Me neither.
Which also seems to imply that the human race is getting smarter(comparing people with the two greatest physicists before the 21st century)!

No, but physics is getting more and more complicated and today it would be impossible to be active in as many different areas as e.g. Newton was. It has nothing to do with intelligence, there just wouldn't be enough time.
A 100 years ago the total number of full time physicists in the world was probably about a hundred or so (at most); i.e roughly the number of people that belong the physics department at a major university today.
Another example: at the turn of the century Kammerling Onnes had the biggest and best research lab in Europe (probably the world), most of the time he had 4-5 people working for him (most of which became famous).
Compare that to modern projects like e.g. the LHC.

The point is that there are plenty of very intelligent and dedicated researchers around; it is just that in order to get somewhere today you have to focus on an extremely narrow field and you need a LOT of resources. Hence, no single physicist working today could even have the kind of impact on science Newton and Einstein had in their days.
 
  • #27
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Most discoveries have implications that at the time aren't seen.
Shannon for example, blithely calculated that space and time, or rather the information we see in it, is exactly like thermal entropy when we "encode" them with "messages"; this is modern communications and computers. But space and time existed in Newton's and Einsteins paradigm.

There may be something deep about the 5/2 anyon state and BEC and other condensates that we "only just invented". It may be a connection to the 2,3 symmetry of Cartesian dimensionality (here in our space and time paradigmatic universe).

Galileo didn't see what Newton did, about inertia, Newton didn't connect visible light to electromagnetism because there wasn't any science for the latter, at the time.
Maxwell didn't realize something, Einstein spotted it though; that's how it happens, usually.
 
  • #28
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No, but physics is getting more and more complicated and today it would be impossible to be active in as many different areas as e.g. Newton was. It has nothing to do with intelligence, there just wouldn't be enough time.
This is exactly my point of view too. I was just being sarcastic in the part you quoted.

The likes of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein still exist. Today's scientific scene is much richer and wider however, making the contributions of those people seem like drops in the ocean.
Simply because the field of physics has grown significantly, does not validate comparisons of today's physicists with Einstein and Newton. We can never know unless we could resurrect the two of them in their prime today and see what they do with modern technology.
 
  • #29
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This is exactly my point of view too. I was just being sarcastic in the part you quoted.


Simply because the field of physics has grown significantly, does not validate comparisons of today's physicists with Einstein and Newton. We can never know unless we could resurrect the two of them in their prime today and see what they do with modern technology.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but if it hadn't been Newton or Einstein, it would have been someone else. They aren't gods. It's common sense that with the advent of better and more widespread education that people like those two are even more common today than in their time. People aren't getting any dumber, and the far larger number of physicists today make the last claim almost certain.
 
  • #30
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Sorry to burst your bubble, but if it hadn't been Newton or Einstein, it would have been someone else. They aren't gods. It's common sense that with the advent of better and more widespread education that people like those two are even more common today than in their time. People aren't getting any dumber, and the far larger number of physicists today make the last claim almost certain.
What bubble? I am not saying that I am Einstein or Newton!
Again all I am saying is that there is no way you can prove that people like Einstein and Newton exist today. Also bear in mind these two didn't have the best education, as say compared to most of their peers.
I have heard arguments that Special Relativity would have been discovered quite soon, even if Einstein had not come up with it. But General Relativity was at least several decades ahead of its time. I agree that education has made people "smarter" in some sense, but the fact that a large number of physicists exist today does not convince me that even a few of them may be as good as Einstein or Newton. There is no way to know.
 
  • #31
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Sorry to burst your bubble, but if it hadn't been Newton or Einstein, it would have been someone else.
Probably not. It was 2000 years between Aristotle and Newton during which time there was nothing preventing anyone from seeing and explicating what we know as Newton's Three Laws of motion. Why didn't, for instance, Archimedes arrive at the equivalent of these? Newton's 3 laws can be read, understood, and accepted by any reasonably bright person in a few minutes, so they seem trivial and even obvious, but that is deceptive: failure to arrive at this way of analyzing motion lingered, literally, for millenia, with only parts of it cropping up rarely here and there.

Has modern education really generated huge numbers of people making such massive cognitive leaps all over the place that we just don't know about because their field is too narrow and specialized to get public attention? It's obvious there are more educated people, and it can be argued that people aren't getting any dumber, but are people actually getting smarter, such that there are considerable numbers of Newtons and Einsteins today? I don't think so. What we have are far greater numbers of educated people each contributing much smaller insights to the pool.
 
  • #32
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What bubble? I am not saying that I am Einstein or Newton!
Again all I am saying is that there is no way you can prove that people like Einstein and Newton exist today. Also bear in mind these two didn't have the best education, as say compared to most of their peers.
I have heard arguments that Special Relativity would have been discovered quite soon, even if Einstein had not come up with it. But General Relativity was at least several decades ahead of its time. I agree that education has made people "smarter" in some sense, but the fact that a large number of physicists exist today does not convince me that even a few of them may be as good as Einstein or Newton. There is no way to know.

Yes I am aware that the statement is not a logically necessary one, if this is the only point you're advancing. Neither is the statement that today's athletes are better than those who lived three and half century ago.

Probably not. It was 2000 years between Aristotle and Newton during which time there was nothing preventing anyone from seeing and explicating what we know as Newton's Three Laws of motion. Why didn't, for instance, Archimedes arrive at the equivalent of these? Newton's 3 laws can be read, understood, and accepted by any reasonably bright person in a few minutes, so they seem trivial and even obvious, but that is deceptive: failure to arrive at this way of analyzing motion lingered, literally, for millenia, with only parts of it cropping up rarely here and there.

Has modern education really generated huge numbers of people making such massive cognitive leaps all over the place that we just don't know about because their field is too narrow and specialized to get public attention? It's obvious there are more educated people, and it can be argued that people aren't getting any dumber, but are people actually getting smarter, such that there are considerable numbers of Newtons and Einsteins today? I don't think so. What we have are far greater numbers of educated people each contributing much smaller insights to the pool.

Newton is a product of his time, as Aristotle was. Had it not been for the likes of Copernicus, Descartes, Galileo and Kepler who came before him, Newton would not have been able to state his laws of motion or gravity. This is why there aren't many Western scholars in the domain of science that we remember from, say, the Middle Ages; those were times where people like these were unlikely to live. Putting it like you did is absurd; Newton stood on a higher mountain than did those who lived before him by as little as a century.
 
  • #33
DaveC426913
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The fact that you have no interest in a particular field of study does not make it nonsense.
True in principle, but what is "Bible code"?
 
  • #34
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If Einstein were alive today he'd still be getting nowhere on his Theory of Everything.
 
  • #35
CRGreathouse
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If Einstein were alive today he'd still be getting nowhere on his Theory of Everything.

If Newton were still alive today he'd still be working on charting Hell based on its biblical descriptions.
 
  • #36
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Newton is a product of his time, as Aristotle was. Had it not been for the likes of Copernicus, Descartes, Galileo and Kepler who came before him, Newton would not have been able to state his laws of motion or gravity. This is why there aren't many Western scholars in the domain of science that we remember from, say, the Middle Ages; those were times where people like these were unlikely to live. Putting it like you did is absurd; Newton stood on a higher mountain than did those who lived before him by as little as a century.
No. Newton, et al, are remarkable to the extent they refused to be products of their time and thought independently of the people around them. They changed the religio-mystical downward trend started by Aristotle that lead to the middle ages: they changed their times.
 
  • #37
Pyrrhus
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Newton, a physicist?, you mean alchemist..
 
  • #38
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If Einstein were alive today he'd still be getting nowhere on his Theory of Everything.

Can you prove that?
 
  • #39
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No. Newton, et al, are remarkable to the extent they refused to be products of their time and thought independently of the people around them. They changed the religio-mystical downward trend started by Aristotle that lead to the middle ages: they changed their times.

The shift away from the middle ages is due to more than a few men of science appearing at the right time. You are inverting cause and effect. Factors such as the recapture of Spain, the introduction in Europe of Indo-Arab numerals, the invention of the printing press, and so forth are what pushed Europe away from the middle ages. It's the circumstances created by those events that brought us "Newton et al", not so much the other way around. Newton is very much a factor of his time: he devoted much of his time to alchemy and obscure studies of the Bible. As shown by Leibniz's independent discovery of the calculus some twenty years after Newton, Newton's results came in a time that was propitious to their discovery. Poincaré was very close to Einstein's results, which we now know as special relativity, when the latter published his 1905 paper.
 
  • #40
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The shift away from the middle ages is due to more than a few men of science appearing at the right time. You are inverting cause and effect. Factors such as the recapture of Spain, the introduction in Europe of Indo-Arab numerals, the invention of the printing press, and so forth are what pushed Europe away from the middle ages. It's the circumstances created by those events that brought us "Newton et al", not so much the other way around. Newton is very much a factor of his time: he devoted much of his time to alchemy and obscure studies of the Bible. As shown by Leibniz's independent discovery of the calculus some twenty years after Newton, Newton's results came in a time that was propitious to their discovery. Poincaré was very close to Einstein's results, which we now know as special relativity, when the latter published his 1905 paper.
In all cases you mention the "circumstances" were created by the actions of men. Men create the times. "Circumstances" do not just happen, unless you're talking about floods and climate changes. People either accept circumstances and adapt to them, or they take circumstances and change them. When circumstances change it's because of the actions of prominent people. Sometimes it's a little nudge, sometimes it's great, startling revolution.

Newton's pursuit of alchemy and Bible Numerology, unfortunate as they are to us, does nothing to invalidate Principia Mathematica. He stands apart from his times, and the 2000 years preceding it, for his physics.
 
  • #41
Hurkyl
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True in principle, but what is "Bible code"?
(To my knowledge) a field of study only recently settled by a clever application of modern statistics.
 
  • #42
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If ANYONE can live a century or more after their natural time(and keep sanity), I believe they could be making great strides in Physics.

Man, if only I could live 200 years.
 
  • #43
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Can you prove that?

Can I prove that? hmmm what do you think?
 
  • #44
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Can I prove that? hmmm what do you think?

I think it's easy to sit here decades after Einstein has passed and discredit his work. How many of today's best could work without a computer?
 
  • #45
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In all cases you mention the "circumstances" were created by the actions of men. Men create the times. "Circumstances" do not just happen, unless you're talking about floods and climate changes. People either accept circumstances and adapt to them, or they take circumstances and change them. When circumstances change it's because of the actions of prominent people. Sometimes it's a little nudge, sometimes it's great, startling revolution.

Newton's pursuit of alchemy and Bible Numerology, unfortunate as they are to us, does nothing to invalidate Principia Mathematica. He stands apart from his times, and the 2000 years preceding it, for his physics.

Of course the circumstances are created by men. The argument, I will remind you, is on whether Newton and Einstein were irreplaceable - to which I answer no, because it appears clear to me that they both lived in times propitious to their discoveries, this being evidenced by the work of their respective contemporaries.
 

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