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What has been the greatest discovery in physics in the last 25 years?

  1. Mar 3, 2012 #1
    And what has been the greatest discovery in the last 50 years? QED?

    For 100 years, it's clearly general relativity.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2012 #2
    I think quantum physics is more important than GR. And I'm talking about modern QM, like Heisenberg, Shrodinger, and Dirac, not Planck and Bohr, so it would definitely qualify for the last 100 years. QM wins over GR especially because GR without "dark matter" fails to explain the rotation of galaxies. (The fact that Einstein invented SR to do away with the ether makes me think he'd be ashamed of today's GR experts cooking up dark matter.) Also, without QM, where would we be technologically? Transistors are the cornerstone of modern technology. GR can't really claim to have yielded anything technological or otherwise practically useful. (I guess there are gravitational-dilation-corrected clocks on satellites... that's about it.)

    Greatest discovery since 1961? Could be Bell's Theorem and Aspect's experiments. I feel like QED was already being developed by Schwinger and Feynman by 61. The development of string theory may or may not turn out to be a great discovery.

    Greatest discovery in the last 25 years? that's pretty tough. 1986... Possibly the CMB and inflationary cosmology. Ed Witten's unification of string theory, possibly. And of course (if you're mathematically inclined,) the proof of the Poincare conjecture.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
  4. Mar 4, 2012 #3
    thanks. i didnt even know about "Bell's Theorem and Aspect's experiments"

    even though i'm a layman, i will agree with you on CMB for the last 25 years. EDIT: actually this does not fall in the last 25 years. also, Ed Witten & Grigori Perelmann might have solved some of the hardest mathematical problems known to man, I don't see how the poincare conjecture falls into the domain of physics and how Ed Witten's M-theory can be experimentally verified.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
  5. Mar 4, 2012 #4

    Andy Resnick

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    Just my opinion, but the greatest discovery since:

    1987: High T superconductivity, or maybe optical communications
    1962: The laser or the renormalization group
    1912: Transistor.
  6. Mar 4, 2012 #5


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    For the past 25 years, these come to mind:

    1. Accelerating expansion rate of the universe
    2. Neutrinos are not massless
    3. High Tc superconductors

    I'm not quite sure if Supernova 1987A qualifies as a discovery.
  7. Mar 4, 2012 #6
    when it comes to practical applications, yes. i should have specified the question to be at the natural/theoretical level.
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