Poll: Greatest physicist of the 20th century?

  • Thread starter covert_genius
  • Start date

greatest current physicist?

  • Michio Kaku (discovery channel)

    Votes: 5 20.8%
  • Adam Savage (myth busters)

    Votes: 3 12.5%
  • Stephen Hawkings (discovery channel)

    Votes: 13 54.2%
  • Jamie Hyndeman (myth busters)

    Votes: 3 12.5%

  • Total voters
    24
  • #1
covert_genius
the argument came up in class today, people were saying the typical newton and einstein etc but i feel the aren't really that relevant anymore. so in your opinion, who is the greatest scientist of this century? in terms of both scientific findings, educating the masses of certain theories, and current relevance in the field of research.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
jhae2.718
Gold Member
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Who is Stephen Hawkings?

And the Mythbusters guys are hardly physicists.
 
  • #3
covert_genius
Who is Stephen Hawkings?

And the Mythbusters guys are hardly physicists.
the one who is always in the chair and who speaks with his eyes, and i feel the mythbuster guys have been more consistent than anybody else with their breakthroughs

who else would you add to the list?
 
  • #4
26
0
the one who is always in the chair and who speaks with his eyes, and i feel the mythbuster guys have been more consistent than anybody else with their breakthroughs

who else would you add to the list?
going to have to say the mythbuster's crew (especially jamie) for this one. have you heard of peter beach?
 
  • #5
jhae2.718
Gold Member
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My first point, albeit a rather pedantic one, is that it is Stephen Hawking, no s.

What the Mythbusters do is not real science of any import. I would say that their biggest contribution has been promoting the concept of testing ideas by experiment among the general public, which is of course the foundation of science.

Since you list channels in your poll, I'm getting the idea you're talking about popular science.
 
  • #6
Ryumast3r
It really depends on what you give the most weight to, IE: Informing masses, greatest breakthroughs, and current relevance.

Also, this is the 21st century, not 20th.

Back to the topic at hand though:

Informing the masses, I'd definitely say Mythbusters. While they aren't really "researchers" or "scientists" by many people's definitions, they are very good at getting people involved (see archimedes mirror test episode where they got hundreds of volunteers). However, they are not very good at actual science or research in terms of relevance to current studies, etc.

Steven Hawking is very good at research and finding new things, however, he is not very good at informing the masses - with the exception of the scientific community - and is therefore not good for the same award as the Mythbusters, but is good for another award which would be most relevance, or best research.

Like another said, there's a lot more people that could be on the list, including the thousands of professors and researchers at universities and other places. The profs. are probably not very "popular" but very important.
 
  • #9
boneh3ad
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I tend to be a fan of Rayleigh and Prandtl... no idea why. :uhh:
 
  • #10
204
0
Actually Brian Cox is also in this video on keyboards!!


Must be the only physicist to have a number 1 hit single!

Comforting to know that I got 2 grades better in A level maths, I got a B got D!!

He goes on to get a Phd in physics and I only get a 3rd in Electronics!!

Something gone wrong there!!!

So whenever I disagree with something in science he agrees with I can say well be only got a D in maths so I'm probably right :wink: :biggrin:


Also he went to a grammar school, a lot better than the comprehensive I went to, had he gone to my school I bet he would have
failed his maths, like 90% of my peers.
 
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  • #11
4
0
Physics is all about understanding how the universe works. And anyone who has something to contribute to that understanding, no matter how large or small, is Ok in my book. :smile:
 
  • #12
WannabeNewton
Science Advisor
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Steven Hawking is very good at research and finding new things, however, he is not very good at informing the masses - with the exception of the scientific community - and is therefore not good for the same award as the Mythbusters, but is good for another award which would be most relevance, or best research.
How is he not good at informing the masses? A decade or so ago he published "A Brief History of Time" which was very successful in informing the masses of GR and QFT.
 
  • #13
Ryumast3r
How is he not good at informing the masses? A decade or so ago he published "A Brief History of Time" which was very successful in informing the masses of GR and QFT.
What I mean is that he typically does not just publish something and it is not immediately seen by tens of millions or hundreds of millions of people with, like I said before, the exception of people who are typically scientists or discoverers.

His work typically requires a major middle-man like other scientists/physicists to explain his works or tell people about them.

I did not mean that Stephen is bad at informing people, what I meant was that he simply wasn't as good at informing everyone (from the top-level guys to the uneducated) as Mythbusters or the other people who do things primarily as entertainment.
 
  • #14
G01
Homework Helper
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What I mean is that he typically does not just publish something and it is not immediately seen by tens of millions or hundreds of millions of people with, like I said before, the exception of people who are typically scientists or discoverers.
Sigh. Several points.

1. No one who publishes scientific results is immediately put in the public limelight because of it. Most important scientific discoveries are basically ignored by the mass media. The "exceptions" would be the scientists who have real important results and who ARE NOT ignored by the media. The press coverage a given person gets is NOT a good measure of their scientific prowess!!

2. No one on the given list has immediately published new scientific results and been immediately lambasted by media attention.

3. If our measure is going to be "informing the masses," then we are not determining the greatest physicist, we are determining the most prominent living scientific personality in popular culture. Trust me, they are not neccessarily the same!

4. What do you mean by using relevance as a measure? A scientific result can be more or less relevant to different fields, or people depending on their concerns and interests. For instance, electroweak theory has no relevance to my work whatsoever, but I won't argue that Glashow, Weinberg, and Salam don't deserve the Nobel Prize.
 
  • #15
Ryumast3r
Sigh. Several points.

1. No one who publishes scientific results is immediately put in the public limelight because of it. Most important scientific discoveries are basically ignored by the mass media. The "exceptions" would be the scientists who have real important results and who ARE NOT ignored by the media. The press coverage a given person gets is NOT a good measure of their scientific prowess!!

2. No one on the given list has immediately published new scientific results and been immediately lambasted by media attention.

3. If our measure is going to be "informing the masses," then we are not determining the greatest physicist, we are determining the most prominent living scientific personality in popular culture. Trust me, they are not neccessarily the same!

4. What do you mean by using relevance as a measure? A scientific result can be more or less relevant to different fields, or people depending on their concerns and interests. For instance, electroweak theory has no relevance to my work whatsoever, but I won't argue that Glashow, Weinberg, and Salam don't deserve the Nobel Prize.

I hate to say this, but you basically reworded my very first post, and therefore my entire point in this thread.

My point was this line from my old post:
It really depends on what you give the most weight to, IE: Informing masses, greatest breakthroughs, and current relevance.
In that post, I said that Mythbusters are good at informing a lot of people, but, like I said, they aren't very extremely relevant to most research, nor are they making the greatest breakthroughs (in fact, not even close).
 
  • #16
2,571
1
Ed Witten or me
 
  • #17
G01
Homework Helper
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I hate to say this, but you basically reworded my very first post, and therefore my entire point in this thread.

My point was this line from my old post:

In that post, I said that Mythbusters are good at informing a lot of people, but, like I said, they aren't very extremely relevant to most research, nor are they making the greatest breakthroughs (in fact, not even close).
My point is that it should not even be a question about what we use as a measure.

For a conversation like this, we want a strong definition of what we mean by a physicist. I'll take: a physicist is someone who does research into physics. Someone who works to add scientific knowledge to humanities understanding of the physical world. i.e. a practicing physicist, not just someone trained as a physicist.

Popularity, TV appearances, Pop. science books, etc. may make one a face of science or allow one to educate people about science, but those are separate tasks. Doing those things does not make one a physicist.

Sure, someone can be both a good physicist and a good educator. However, just as being a great scientist does not make one a great educator, being a public educator should not be used as a measure of one's contribution to physics.

So, yeah sure. The answer will depend on what we use as a measure of a good physicist. However, only one of the measures you gave is a good measure.

EDIT:

I should add, I think all physicists have a duty to be educators about science on some level. I consider mentoring and teaching to be responsibilities held by anyone highly educated in any field. However, I think people who are great educators but do not produce new scientific knowledge should not be considered for the title of "greatest physicist." Consider them for greatest educator/best public face sure, but not greatest physicist.
 
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  • #18
15
0
Linus Pauling!!!
 
  • #19
Ryumast3r
My point is that it should not even be a question about what use as a weight.

A physicist is someone who does new science. Someone who works to add scientific knowledge to humanities understanding of the physical world.

Popularity, TV appearances, Pop. science books, etc. may make one a face of science or allow one to educate people about science, but those are separate tasks. Doing those things does not make one a physicist.

Sure, someone can be both a good physicist and a good educator. However, just as being a great scientist does not make one a great educator, being a public educator should not be used as a measure of one's contribution to physics.

So, yeah sure. The answer will depend on what we use as a measure of a good physicist. However, only one of the measures you gave is a good measure.
I was using the measures that the original poster of the thread gave, not measures that I necessarily agree with myself. I was posting in the context given in the original post to their constraints, not personal beliefs.

Based on personal experience I'm going to say that there is no single greatest physicist in the 21st century, because, well, there's way too many to even know what they all did unless you dedicate days or even weeks to simply reading the amount of papers they've written, not to mention actually giving them enough time to fully understand what is going on, and, like you said, what determines relevance.
 
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  • #20
G01
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I was using the measures that the original poster of the thread gave, not measures that I necessarily agree with myself. I was posting in the context given in the original post to their constraints, not personal beliefs.
I am aware that you are working with the measures and choices the OP gave you. In my previous post I should not have attributed the faulty measures to you, as they are implicit in the original post in this poll.

All I am attempting to do is get everyone to stop working with these measures that I believe are fundamentally flawed and re evaluate the conversation before proceeding with it. i.e. that ability to "inform the masses" is not a good measure of a physicist, so it doesn't make sense to run with it.

Based on personal experience I'm going to say that there is no single greatest physicist in the 21st century, because, well, there's way too many to even know what they all did unless you dedicate days or even weeks to simply reading the amount of papers they've written, not to mention actually giving them enough time to fully understand what is going on, and, like you said, what determines relevance.
I totally agree. So, why are we perpetuating this discussion, flawed from the start, that biases the answers to celebrity figures? We should start over, that's my point.

Basically what I was trying to do was not nitpick the original question and answer the original question as best I could...
The original question with its given answers, is just not worth the effort.

and what I see you doing is nitpicking it to bits to the point of insulting people.
If the only choices for "greatest physicist" are Kaku, Hawking, and the Mythbuster's, then the question does need to be nitpicked. Many others should be considered. I don't think the Mythbusters should be considered at all.

I don't know what I said that could be construed as a directed personal attack, but that was not my intent.
 
  • #21
59
0
What about this one?

Who was the smallest USA president ever?
a)N. Bonaparte
b)Madonna
c)G. Washington
d)B. Pitt

I vote for a)
 
  • #22
2,685
22
I must concur with the above, the thread title doesn't agree with the pole options.

The Mythbusters, as much as I enjoy watching them, have a relatively poor scientific work standard (far too many 'holes' in their work for it to be anything outside of preliminary) and I don't see why you'd consider them physicists over, well, everyone else.

I'm also curious, out of everyone available in the 20th century you chose the Mythbusters, why? Even with the 'options' given by the OP, they still aren't up there.
 
  • #23
22,089
3,289
Wow, the mythbusters as greatest physicists?? I almost died laughing :biggrin:
 
  • #24
G01
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When this thread started in General Physics, I felt the need to take it very seriously...

Now, as the air of General Discussion fills my lungs, I want to laugh at both the thread and myself.

I still feel the same way. But why did I even bother... someone hit me with a fish please...
 
  • #25
drizzle
Gold Member
366
57
When this thread started in General Physics, I felt the need to take it very seriously...

Now, as the air of General Discussion fills my lungs, I want to laugh at both the thread and myself.

I still feel the same way. But why did I even bother... someone hit me with a fish please...

At your service!

http://files.myopera.com/Chyren/files/fishSlap1a.gif [Broken]


God I keep laughing so hard every time I see it :rofl:

We should sticky it in GD, or attach it automatically to each 'I'm new here' thread. :biggrin:
 
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