Can a new Einstein exist in this day and age?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Magical Realist, Dec 29, 2016.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Einstein was a product of his time. Of the growing hope in science as the answer to the mysteries of the universe. He represented the mythical modernist narrative of man conquering the universe thru the power of logic and science. But do we live in a time where another Einstein might arise who can totally shift the paradigm of scientific theory? Or has science evolved into a more collective enterprise in which heroes and gurus are no longer allowed to emerge?
     
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  3. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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    Science/cosmology is still evolving as a result of the great man. Gravitational Radiation has opened up an entire new field as well as further confirming the predictions of GR.
    Another Einstein? Sure why not? It will simply take some individual, either through personal brilliant insight, or serendipity to one day extend beyond the parameters of GR.
    Time will tell.
     
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  5. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    Probably not, in terms of single-handed Herculean intellectual feats. For reasons in addition to Smolin's waxing (below) on his philosophical commitment to coherence. He didn't have the deep wall of peer review confronting him in the early 1900s. The landscape of today is too complex, diverse, and trendy; it's team oriented and highly "bureaucratic" / regulated. Hampering the lone-gun thinker in getting a substantive foot in the door, of having a pervasive impact or making as massive a contribution.

    There are also more cranks afflicting that territory or they're more identifiable now or something; like autism -- either there's an increase or the diagnosis has improved. As a result, the handful that might actually have genius insights get flushed down the toilet with the rest, due to the abundance of filters.

    Lee Smolin: Physicists I've met who knew Einstein told me they found his thinking slow compared to the stars of the day. While he was competent enough with the basic mathematical tools of physics, many other physicists surrounding him in Berlin and Princeton were better at it. So what accounted for his genius? In retrospect, I believe what allowed Einstein to achieve so much was primarily a moral quality. He simply cared far more than most of his colleagues that the laws of physics have to explain everything in nature coherently and consistently. As a result he was acutely sensitive to flaws and contradictions in the logical structure of physical theories. Einstein's ability to see flaws and his fierce refusal to compromise had real repercussions.

    His professors did not support him in his search for an academic job and he was unemployed until he found work as a patent inspector. The problem was not just that he skipped classes. He saw right through his elders' complacent acceptance of Newtonian physics. The young Einstein was obsessed with logical flaws that were glaringly obvious, but only to him. While the great English physicist Lord Rayleigh said he saw "only a few clouds on the horizon" remaining to be understood, the 16-year-old Einstein wondered what would happen to his image in a mirror if he traveled faster than the speed of light.

    [...] I think a sober assessment is that up till now, almost all of us who work in theoretical physics have failed to live up to Einstein’s legacy. His demand for a coherent theory of principle was uncompromising. It has not been reached—not by quantum theory, not by special or general relativity, not by anything invented since. Einstein’s moral clarity, his insistence that we should accept nothing less than a theory that gives a completely coherent account of individual phenomena, cannot be followed unless we reject almost all contemporary theoretical physics as insufficient.

    So is it possible to follow the path of Einstein? To do so, you cannot be a crank; you must be a well-trained physicist, literate in current theories and aware of their limitations. And you must insist on absolute clarity in your own work, rather than follow any fad or popular direction. Given the pressures of competition for academic positions, to follow Einstein’s path is to risk the price that he paid: unemployment in spite of abundant talent and skill at the craft of theoretical physics.

    In my whole career as a theoretical physicist, I have known only a handful of colleagues who truly can be said to follow Einstein’s path. They are driven, as Einstein was, by a moral need for clear understanding. In everything they do, these few strive continually to invent a new theory of principle that could satisfy the strictest demands of coherence and consistency, without regard to fashion or the professional consequences. Most have paid for their independence, in a harder career path than equally talented scientists who follow the research agendas of the big professors.

    Let us be frank and admit that most of us have neither the courage nor the patience to emulate Einstein.
    --Einstein's Lonely Path ... Sept 2004 ... Discover Magazine
     
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  7. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Well, sort of, but I do feel this feeds the myth of Einstein as outcast, which he never really was.

    It is true he could not initially get a teaching job and became a patent examiner, but this is the sort of thing that happens to very many young people. What strikes me about his career is the alacrity with which the science community of the time accepted and took up his ideas. After he produced his papers of 1905, a mere five years after graduation, he was pushing at an open door and within a decade he was a professor.

    http://www.notablebiographies.com/Du-Fi/Einstein-Albert.html
     
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  8. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    10 years! Wow!
     
  9. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Those were great ideas of course, but he had both help and also challenges to do his best work. Both are very important.
     
  10. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    All it takes is one person with the insight to ask the right questions. ("If I were travelling at the speed of light would I see my own reflection in the mirror?" was a brilliant question and insight.)
     
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  11. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    You are (traveling at relativistic speed relative to cosmologically distant objects) and you do (see your own reelection in a mirror). Time slowing down in your frame of reference does not eliminate time for all frames, which is related to quantum spin / entanglement, not the speed of light. Relativity only works for relative velocities <= c, which is not the fastest thing in the universe.
     
  12. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    True. Physics in his time was facing conceptual difficulties, problems that when reconceptualized resulted in relativity and quantum physics. My guess is that if Einstein hadn't existed, others would have produced very similar insights.

    Wasn't that more a matter of how the general public received him and how they elevated him into a demigod? He personified the myth.

    Science at the nuts-and-bolts level seems to me to be more a matter of problem-solving. Things like the Michelson-Morley experiment and the photoelectric effect created problems that physicists felt needed to be solved. Einstein proposed rather elegant (if sometimes counterintuitive) solutions that seemed to work.

    I don't see the situation today as being hugely different.

    It's conceivable that 'dark matter' represents a similar problem-situation today. Perhaps one of the theorists that have proposed different conceptual approaches such as modifying the inverse-square law for gravitation, might turn out to be right, if further astrophysical observation turns out to be consistent with the new hypothesis.

    I suppose that there are any number of problem-situations in contemporary sciences that might result in dramatically new theory. The problems needn't be big ones either, they might be obscure little things that just happen to have big implications. Who would have predicted beforehand what the late 19th century experimental problems associated with the photoelectric effect would lead to?

    That's why the experimental results concerning the so-called EM drive interest me, assuming they are real. Millinewtons/kilowatt of thrust isn't very spectacular, but it might be hugely spectacular in conceptual terms if it represents a violation of the conservation of momentum. If the experimental results hold up, it will be a great opportunity some some bright theorist to propose some extraordinary new physics.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/startsw...alls-apart-if-the-emdrive-works/#547448ce4b0c
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2016
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  13. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Special relativity, yes. General relativity - I'm not so sure.

    And Einstein made fundamental contributions to quantum mechanics, too, even though he famously opined that "God does not play dice."
     
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  14. river Valued Senior Member

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    Brillant , Genius people are given life every day James .
     
  15. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Great!

    So, do you have any thoughts on the thread topic?
     
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  16. river Valued Senior Member

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    Already did James .

    These people are born everyday
     
  17. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    And, there's one born every minute..............

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
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  18. river Valued Senior Member

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    Exactly
     
  19. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    I don't think there's an Einstein born every day.
     
  20. Counter Registered Senior Member

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    Out of every possibility, one must be correct. Eventually EVERYTHING will occur and exist, however brief. But it is possible, and therefore will, exist. Eventually. It is inevitable. No worries.

    "Kirk cheated"-The Big Bang theory.
     
  21. The God Valued Senior Member

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    OP seems to be referring to genius of Einstein.

    So we can quantify it by asking if we have someone having higher IQ then Einstein?

    Well the answer is emphatic YES.
     
  22. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I wasn't trying to criticize Einstein, the demi-god. Or on second thought maybe I was, criticizing the over-sized superhuman figure of myth in favor of Einstein the man.

    My larger point is that Einstein was the right man in the right place at the right time. That's why it all fell together for him. The situation was such that he didn't need to be super-human. If he had any special brilliance that those around him lacked, it was an ability to connect all the dots (many of which already existed) in new and fruitful ways.

    I don't think that physics today is really all that different (which the OP might have been suggesting). People have already done lots of observational/experimental work on problematic things like quantum nonlocality or dark matter. There have already been lots of theoretical hypotheses about all of it. So for some of these problems, most of the game-pieces are probably already on the board. There may be numerous opportunities for a brilliant theorist to arrive and rearrange them in new, original and pragmatically successful ways.

    It's always hard to foresee "revolutionary" events in science before they occur (natural selection, relativity, quantum mechanics) but I'm reasonably convinced that opportunities for those kind of revolutionary conceptual events still exist today.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2017
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  23. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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    I largely agree with your answer, but would emphasize a different issue: because of how far science has advanced, each additional advancement requires more work (on average) than the last. That is why science has become more "team oriented". Scientists are looking for smaller and smaller needles in bigger and bigger haystacks.
     

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