So what exactly has changed in physics in the last 20 years?

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"So what exactly has changed in physics in the last 20 years?"

So I was at a Christmas party joking around with one of my friends who is in electrical engineering and he said something basically to the effect of "Well physics hasn't changed in like 50 years"

Which is actually not a bad point, much of my undergraduate curriculum is material that is the product of work from 50+ years ago.

And on top of that, it really does (at least at a cursory glance) seem like not much has changed. We have stuff like string theory and the standard model now, theories that are incomplete and not fully tested. And we've got some fancy new lasers and accelerators, and something that's probably the Higgs Boson. But it does really seem like the truly momentous breakthroughs are all in the distant past now and progress has just slowed to a crawl.

I also don't really read a huge amount of popular science or science news, but while the stuff I do hear about seems cool, nothing really seems to point to be anything particularly huge.

So what I'm wondering is, if you were asked this question how would you respond?

PS: I responded by pointing out that at least my education won't be obsolete the week after I graduate ;)
 

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  • #2
D H
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Which is it -- 50 years per the opening post, or 20 years per the thread title?

That physics hasn't changed in 50 years is a ludicrous proposition. In quantum mechanics, Bell's theorem, now viewed as a cornerstone of quantum mechanics, had not yet been published. In particle physics, protons and neutrons were still viewed as elementary particles because the idea that they were composed of quarks held together by gluons had not yet been developed. In cosmology, quasars were newly observed objects, but nobody knew what they were. The cosmic microwave background radiation hadn't been detected yet. Dark matter, dark energy, supermassive black holes? Those discoveries were even further in the future.

I can't think of a single part of modern physics that hasn't changed immensely in the last 50 years.
 
  • #3
phinds
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... "Well physics hasn't changed in like 50 years"
A statement CLEARLY made by someone who has no idea what he is talking about. DH gave a lot of great examples. There are others.
 
  • #4
Bobbywhy
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Have a look at the “Top 25 stories of 2013, from microbes to meteorites” from Science News. Just ONE YEAR!! See how many are in the field of Physics.
https://www.sciencenews.org/
 

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