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Recent discoveries?

  1. Apr 3, 2012 #1
    I hear a lot of people talk about how physics has hit a dry spell in recent decades, but I don't know whether I'm convinced. But I have to admit that whenever people talk about the history of physics, I rarely hear about any significant discoveries beyond the early to mid twentieth century. You don't hear about much on the timescale of, say, 1980-2012 (which should cover the lifetime of most physics students, just for relevance). The only things that really come to mind would be dark matter and dark energy, and I get the impression that not much has happened there except "Well, they exist." And particle physics seems to be more about confirming predictions right now than discovering things. Maybe these impressions are wrong, so please correct me if so. But my point is, what else has been going on? Note that by discovery I mean empirically verified, as opposed to untested theories, which I'm sure are prolific. What have been some of the biggest physics discoveries of recent decades?
     
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  3. Apr 3, 2012 #2
    First of all: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_fundamental_physics_discoveries

    Going beyond that I would say you are partially right, but you are being limited in your thinking of whats significant. In terms of general physics in general I'd say theres a massive amount of stuff thats been discovered in the past couple decades. If you are talking about fundamental physics/particle physics I'd say your sort of right.

    We have had theories for all of the fundamental forces for a couple decades now, so the work left to be done is a) proving them right and b) unifying them. Both which are currently happening. I wouldn't say thats a lack of discovery, in fact I would say empirically verifying something is how you discover it, in which case there is lots of discovery taking place.
     
  4. Apr 4, 2012 #3

    ZapperZ

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    Wow! You must have not been awake during that time!

    1. Dark Energy

    2. High-Tc superconductors

    3. Fractional Quantum Hall Effect

    4. Graphene

    5. Topological insulators

    ... and those are just the stuff that passed through my head at this moment. I'm sure there's a plenty more.

    Zz.
     
  5. Apr 4, 2012 #4

    mfb

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    Particle physics?
    - W and Z boson found (1983)
    - top quark found (1995)
    - good sign for Higgs particle (2011), with a possible confirmation in late 2012 or early 2013
    - direct CP violation found
    - a lot of mesons and bayrons found
    - dark energy and dark matter, and a lot more than "it exists" is known (see the wikipedia articles for example)
    - determined many parameters of the standard model for the first time and measured others with much more precision
    (- ruled out a lot of new models beyond the standard model)
    (- made up even more models)
    - improved the knowledge about many baryons, including proton and neutron, and the possibility to predict their values
    - improved the calculations of fundamental processes
     
  6. Apr 4, 2012 #5
    I include this. I went on to say that there has been a lot of experimental discovery regarding particle physics but most of the theorizing (at least for the time being) is completed.
     
  7. Apr 4, 2012 #6
    Haha, no, I've been awake. But you have to admit a lot of this stuff doesn't filter down to laypeople. And I've only been a physics student for less than a year. Thanks for the examples, though, they're all great and interesting.
     
  8. Apr 4, 2012 #7

    ZapperZ

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    Then if you are in a US school, find if your school as an SPS chapter, and join it! You'll get monthly issues of Physics Today, and you'll no longer have any excuse for not knowing what is going on in the world of physics.

    Zz.
     
  9. Apr 5, 2012 #8

    mfb

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    That is a different issue. If laypeople don't know about the quark model, how do you explain the discovery of the top-quark to them? Or even CP violation in more detail than "matter and antimatter behave different and that is not obvious"?
    Applications would help, but their development is too indirect or laypeople do not see the connection to (particle) physics.

    Even the Higgs (which did get famous) was modified to some "god particle" in the media, which is just horribly wrong.
     
  10. Apr 5, 2012 #9

    Claude Bile

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    Chiming in from the field of Optics (off the top of my head);

    1. Metamaterials;
    2. Super-resolution imaging;
    3. Femtosecond-pulsed lasers;
    4. Plasmonics;
    5. Quantum Optics;
    6. Integrated Optics;
    7. Semiconductor lasers;
    8. Plus all manner of Astronomical wizardry (exoplanets etc);

    Claude.
     
  11. Apr 5, 2012 #10
    the theory of graphene had been published in 1960. Throughout all of the year we just have been trying to make it mass product. We still have not achieved yet what a shame :(
     
  12. Apr 5, 2012 #11
    i totally agree with opus. in my opinion since 1980 period the number of disturbing things such as chat facebook internet(i do not say anything for people who utiluze internet for research or business) have been getting much. Entertainmnt industry is getting bigger and bigger because they have to compansate for entertainment desires of people. i belive humans are loosing their disciplanaries on stdying and researching because of the rise of entertainment industry. i belive that due to the excessive products of entertainment ind it is becoming hard to dedicate ourselves in an issue which is an integral part for inventing something
     
  13. Apr 6, 2012 #12

    ZapperZ

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    Er.. I'm not talking about the "theory". I'm talking about actual discovery and the impact that won the Nobel prize! Theories, in general, are not "discovered", and this thread is all about discoveries.

    Zz.
     
  14. Apr 6, 2012 #13

    Andy Resnick

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    Like!
     
  15. Apr 6, 2012 #14

    Andy Resnick

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    I guess I should add:

    1) Laser cooling and trapping
    2) scanning probe microscopy
    3) Protein structure determinations
    4) NMR spectroscopy
    5) Thermodynamics of motor proteins
    6) Correlation optics
    7) Soft matter physics
     
  16. Apr 6, 2012 #15
    Are we sharing the same brain? You took the words out of my mouth. It's all entertainments.
    May be real discoveries in science died with rock and roll in the 80s.
    All we are now seeing are the extensions of fundamental discoveries before 1970s.
    Some discoveries a few posters mentioned above are all theoretical. String theory, I heard (correct me), almost negated by LHC.

    Human creativity will come to a stop someday, but I do not think that day is here yet.
     
  17. Apr 6, 2012 #16

    ZapperZ

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    Come again? Which ones are "all theoretical"?

    String theory hasn't been "negated" by LHC, since the LHC has no ability to probe any part of String theory. You must be confusing String with Supersymmetry, and no, the LHC has NOT negated Supersymmetry either, even though the lack of any of the predicted observation from the last LHC run is troubling for Supersymmetry.

    So how is High-Tc superconductors an "extension" of discoveries before 1970? The same with CP violation, topological insulators, fractional quantum hall effect,dark energy, etc...etc. It is irresponsible to make such a cavalier claim, especially if one has no knowledge of what's going on beyond at the superficial level.

    Zz.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2012
  18. Apr 6, 2012 #17
    Dear Zapper;

    I was confused about something I would be pleased if you help me. At the discussions above some of our friends were classified quantum hall effect under top magnificant discoveries after 1980. I know that quantum hall effect is a theoritical discovery. Experimental physicist especially solid state physicist utilize this phenomena to test the unique properties of graphene near zero Kelvin. I do not how far you are related with experiments in graphene but testing the properties of graphene near zero Kelvin is strictly associated with the issue that whether these properties could be comparable with approved theories which are theory of graphene and quantum hall effect especially. If these are only theories that far away form being a discovery what leads physists to research on this material throughout 40 years ?

    You mentioned about Nobel Prize. I have some suspicions about whether demonstrating exfolation of graphene could worth for a nobel prize. I belive that many groups already discovered the way of making graphene with exfolation of it in that time interval. The groups that work on graphene have stucked in method with limited production rate which are generally CVD, exfolation and epitaxial growth. When we achieve (if we can) a new way or develop the ways that we have to make mass production of graphene, a real discovery will be supposed to make. The product of this real discovery will probably be cheap transparent touch screen.
     
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