Poll: greatest physicist ever

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Who is the greatest physicist ever

Einstein
13
14%
Galileo
2
2%
Newton
30
33%
Otter
4
4%
Otter Feynman
15
16%
Otter Noether
8
9%
Duck Copernicus
2
2%
Duck
4
4%
Platypus
14
15%
 
Total votes: 92

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Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby Arkham » Thu Nov 03, 2011 7:09 pm UTC

And fight!

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LaserGuy
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:08 pm UTC

I think you're missing a few people who might also be contenders... (Galileo would probably not make my top 10, to be honest).

Also, what exactly do you mean by "greatest"?

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby Diadem » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:30 pm UTC

Comparisons like these are always kind of pointless. How do you compare greatness?

Which one knew most about science? Well of those three obviously Einstein. But pick a random grad student today and he'll know even more. Which one contributed more to science? How the fuck do you measure that? And is 'greatest contribution' the same as greatness? Do you look at how smart they were? Again, how do you measure that?

I'd say:

- Had the greatest impact on physics: Newton
- Had the greatest impact on the world: Aristotle
- Derived the most important result: Newton, Einstein or Maxwell.
- Derived the most fundamental result: Noether
- Derived the most beautiful result: Noether

This is looking only at phycisists (which the OP asked). If we include scientists in general Darwin wins the 2nd and 3rd catagories.

I guess it's possible to look at other metrics. Most difficult result perhaps? Furthest ahead of his time? But those are again hard to measure. Nicest person would be another fun metric, if you could measure it. Any other suggestions?
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby Adam Preston » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:55 pm UTC

I would agree with the post above that Newton had the most impact on physics an perhaps the most contribution, but in my opinion Einstein delivered the greatest single contribution, not to mention his great intelligence.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby eSOANEM » Thu Nov 03, 2011 9:08 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:I guess it's possible to look at other metrics.


Most stereotype-busting: Feynman

Adam Preston wrote:I would agree with the post above that Newton had the most impact on physics an perhaps the most contribution, but in my opinion Einstein delivered the greatest single contribution, not to mention his great intelligence.


If we're going on single contributions, is that blackbody radiation, SR or GR you're talking about for Einstein? Also, I'd argue that all of those pale into insignificance when compared to calculus (arguably Newton's greatest single contribution to physics), if only because there are so few things which don't rely entirely upon it.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby rflrob » Thu Nov 03, 2011 10:38 pm UTC

I voted for Galileo based roughly on "largest (mostly correct) conceptual leap based on current theory and experiment". The development of Galilean relativity was at least as groundbreaking for the time as Einsteinian relativity was.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby cpt » Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:26 am UTC

eSOANEM wrote:... I'd argue that all of those pale into insignificance when compared to calculus (arguably Newton's greatest single contribution to physics), if only because there are so few things which don't rely entirely upon it.


100% agreement

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:05 am UTC

Fixed the poll so it should work better. Those who've already voted will have to do it again, though.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby PM 2Ring » Fri Nov 04, 2011 7:47 am UTC

What happened to Archimedes, Gauss and Lambert?

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby MHD » Sun Nov 06, 2011 10:48 pm UTC

The greatest physicist ever is and will always be the guy who comes with a breakthrough next year.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby Koyaanisqatsi » Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:43 pm UTC

Newton was the greatest. Not in terms of scientific progress, but as in, he was pretty darn great. Probably the coolest guy ever.

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby BlackSails » Mon Nov 07, 2011 1:49 am UTC

Koyaanisqatsi wrote:Newton was the greatest. Not in terms of scientific progress, but as in, he was pretty darn great. Probably the coolest guy ever.


You mean apart from his hobby of having people tortured to death for counterfeiting coins?

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby yurell » Mon Nov 07, 2011 2:59 am UTC

I took his statement to be facetious.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby Koyaanisqatsi » Mon Nov 07, 2011 7:33 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:
Koyaanisqatsi wrote:Newton was the greatest. Not in terms of scientific progress, but as in, he was pretty darn great. Probably the coolest guy ever.


You mean apart from his hobby of having people tortured to death for counterfeiting coins?

Yes, of course. Apart from that.

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby Capt.Awesome » Tue Nov 08, 2011 2:34 am UTC

I personally feel like quite a few of the greatest Physicists are missing. Oppenheimer, Boyle (yes, he has more to do with chemistry, but isn't the model of the atom what creates the laws of physics?) and possibly most importantly, my vote goes to Julius Sumner Miller. But in all seriousness I feel like Oppenheimer and Boyle should be on this list somewhere. I agree that Newton is/was very important (to say the least) in many areas. However I think that most of us are also looking inside the box (No schrodinger jokes) for the answer. I think that the most important physicist is Jules Vernes.

He may not be the typical physicist, or did he perform experiments, but he did inspire generations of people into exploring ideas and concepts that were simply unheard of before him. He also accurately predicted several things that happened (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/02/pictures/110208-jules-verne-google-doodle-183rd-birthday-anniversary/#) I realize that this article took this a bit out of proportion, but I think it does point out a few important aspects and inventions.

And is it not those who inspire the creativity, who spark the change and make the biggest impacts?

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Nov 08, 2011 5:22 am UTC

I'm going to throw John Bardeen in as one of the most underrated great physicists. He invented the freaking transistor, and, effectively, all of modern electronics (and winning a Nobel). In his spare time, he also helped develop the BCS theory, the fundamental description of superconductivity, giving him a second Nobel prize.

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby Tass » Tue Nov 08, 2011 3:17 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:I'm going to throw John Bardeen in as one of the most underrated great physicists. He invented the freaking transistor, and, effectively, all of modern electronics (and winning a Nobel). In his spare time, he also helped develop the BCS theory, the fundamental description of superconductivity, giving him a second Nobel prize.


Do you read SMBC by any chance?

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Nov 08, 2011 3:57 pm UTC

Tass wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:I'm going to throw John Bardeen in as one of the most underrated great physicists. He invented the freaking transistor, and, effectively, all of modern electronics (and winning a Nobel). In his spare time, he also helped develop the BCS theory, the fundamental description of superconductivity, giving him a second Nobel prize.


Do you read SMBC by any chance?


No, actually. I was reading a book on superconductivity a few weeks ago and his name came up.

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby JWalker » Wed Nov 09, 2011 5:19 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:I'm going to throw John Bardeen in as one of the most underrated great physicists. He invented the freaking transistor, and, effectively, all of modern electronics (and winning a Nobel). In his spare time, he also helped develop the BCS theory, the fundamental description of superconductivity, giving him a second Nobel prize.


Bardeen is a great guy and all, but I believe he is disproportionately credited with the invention of the transistor when it was really an effort by many physicists. Most of the actual work done to develop it into a useful device was actually done by Shockley and not Bardeen. Not to mention patents for Field Effect Transistors were filed by Julius Edgar Lilienfeld in 1925 and Oskar Heil in 1934, and Bardeen certainly was aware of them at the time he created his prototype.

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby folkhero » Thu Nov 10, 2011 9:26 am UTC

Capt.Awesome wrote:the most important physicist is Jules Vernes.

He may not be the typical physicist, or did he perform experiments, but he did inspire generations of people into exploring ideas and concepts that were simply unheard of before him. He also accurately predicted several things that happened (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... iversary/#) I realize that this article took this a bit out of proportion, but I think it does point out a few important aspects and inventions.

And is it not those who inspire the creativity, who spark the change and make the biggest impacts?

If we want to look at who was most inspirational, sparked the most change and made the biggest impact, Francis Bacon would easily take the cake over Verne. Our world is so thoroughly Baconion, that it's hard to imagine a world that isn't, certainly a modern world that isn't. The idea that science should be done by looking at facts about how the world actually is, instead of just thinking and arguing about it very cleverly was revolutionary. The throwing off of Aristotle and the idea that there could be one method that for all the fields of science were among the most important in western thought and some of the most beneficial towards the actual study of science.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby fff888 » Tue May 29, 2012 1:46 am UTC

Werner Heisenberg is the greatest. He developed quantum mechanics theory and got 1932 Nobel Prize for his monumental discovery. And yes, the Nobel Prize was awarded to Heisenberg before Hitler came to power, so no excuses there. Quantum mechanics is the most accurate and most important theory in modern physics.

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby capefeather » Tue May 29, 2012 6:50 pm UTC

QM was developed over several decades by many people...

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby eSOANEM » Tue May 29, 2012 7:10 pm UTC

fff888 wrote:Werner Heisenberg is the greatest. He developed quantum mechanics theory and got 1932 Nobel Prize for his monumental discovery. And yes, the Nobel Prize was awarded to Heisenberg before Hitler came to power, so no excuses there. Quantum mechanics is the most accurate and most important theory in modern physics.


doogly wrote:Dirac in the 70s noted that back in the 20s and 30s, it was easy for a 2nd rate physicist to do 1st rate work (for example, Schrodinger and Heisenberg were pretty easy to call 2nd rate, I would say, especially when compared to Dirac or Fermi). There has not been a similar golden age since.


QM is not the most accurate or most important theory in modern physics, at least not in a form Heisenberg would easily recognise. Heisenberg's matrix mechanics was non-relativistic and cannot properly handle quantum fields. As such it was superseded by QFT which itself is clearly not complete lacking a description of gravity, neutrino oscillations or dark matter and energy.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby Jumble » Tue May 29, 2012 9:09 pm UTC

Can I chuck a couple of extra names into the ring? As a pioneering physicist, polymath and an advocate of physics, I've always been a fan of Carl Sagan. It's probably his fault that I went into astrophysics (and have appalling fashion sense). However, I remember as an undergraduate having my breath taken away by the beauty and genius of James Clark Maxwell's electrodynamic equations. The simplicity and mathematical beauty of his unifying theories was one of those feats that I just find awe inspiring. I know for a fact that, even with the building blocks he had, I couldn't have done that. Truly humbling.

So, sorry. I haven't voted.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby soggybomb » Tue May 29, 2012 10:43 pm UTC

Maxwell was a badass

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby doogly » Wed May 30, 2012 12:00 am UTC

1. Newton
2. Dirac / Fermi
4. Maxwell / Faraday
6. Einstein
7. Boltzmann

Feel free to jumble everyone after Newton.
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Noether is lovely but for physics? She really is a mathematician. If you are willing to blur the line between math and physics, the correct answer is Gauss, not Noether. Gauss's lesser known works are the second greatest mathematical physicist.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby Diadem » Wed May 30, 2012 1:33 am UTC

What is your metric doogly? how do you measure greatness?

I mentioned Noether in the context of most fundamental and most beautiful contributions. What fundamental result did Gauss contribute to physics? His mathematical methods are indispensable, but they are methods, not actual physical theories. Noether's theorem on the other hand may be based on mathematics, but it is a very fundamental physical theorem. The most fundamental physical theorem, in my opinion. As for most beautiful. Well, Noether's theorem blew my mind when I first saw it. Though admittedly Maxwell's equations are also pretty damn impressive.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby doogly » Wed May 30, 2012 3:15 am UTC

It is ordered, but not equipped with a metric.

Teehee. Topology joke.

Noether is good but if this is the route that is impressing you maybe you want Lagrange or Hamilton for favorites? Least Action is pretty much astounding.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby fff888 » Thu May 31, 2012 5:20 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:I'm going to throw John Bardeen in as one of the most underrated great physicists. He invented the freaking transistor, and, effectively, all of modern electronics (and winning a Nobel). In his spare time, he also helped develop the BCS theory, the fundamental description of superconductivity, giving him a second Nobel prize.

Yes, Bardeen is the greatest! Transistors is the most influential discovery of modernity. Superconductivity is quite mind bugling also.

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby fff888 » Thu May 31, 2012 5:24 am UTC

William Shockley, who was one of the co-inventors of the transistor, was another great scientist, possibly the greatest. He was not afraid to apply science to study the human evolution and resulting genetic differences. Shockley understood the effect of genes on intelligence [see here http://www.rense.com/general79/dut.htm], which is a very significant achievement by any standard. Shockley ushered us into the new era of free information flow (due to his transistors we have internet now).

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby doogly » Thu May 31, 2012 12:59 pm UTC

Sure, they're great, but you'd promote them over Maxwell or Faraday?
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby oxoiron » Thu May 31, 2012 9:25 pm UTC

fff888 wrote:Yes, Bardeen is the greatest! Transistors is the most influential discovery of modernity.
When does "modernity" start?

Your choice of date may lead to some interesting arguments.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby Diadem » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:12 am UTC

Transistors, and computers in general, seems to be one of those inventions that was inevitable. IT's not really an achievement of a single person, there were hundreds, thousands, of people working on it, and one person happened to be first.

I guess that's always true for all inventions. But you could ask "Without that person, how much longer would this discovery have taken". I believe that with transistors, it's probably closer to months than years. But evolution for example, without Darwin that would probably have been delayed by decades. There were contemporaries working on the same thing, but Darwin's argumentation is so much more complete.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby mfb » Sat Jun 02, 2012 12:01 pm UTC

"Without that person, how much longer would this discovery have taken" generally prefers earlier discoveries. The greeks did stuff which was not repeated for hundreds of years. Newton may have had some decades. Einstein probably had some years with SR, and not much more with GR.

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby eSOANEM » Sat Jun 02, 2012 12:14 pm UTC

mfb wrote:Einstein probably had some years with SR,


Except for the fact that it's observationally indistinguishable from the ultimate form of Lorentz Ether Theory which was completed the same year Einstein proposed SR.

Admittedly, LET does not extend to GR very well, but neither does SR as Einstein formulated it, it being Minkowski's view of SR as taking place in 4-space which truly laid the way open for GR.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby doogly » Sat Jun 02, 2012 3:35 pm UTC

mfb wrote:"Without that person, how much longer would this discovery have taken" generally prefers earlier discoveries.

Motherfucking Dirac. I tell ya we'd still be bumbling about with the Bohr, Heis, Schro level of understanding.
Maaaaybe Johnny von could have tidied it up without Dirac.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby JWalker » Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:23 pm UTC

doogly wrote:
mfb wrote:"Without that person, how much longer would this discovery have taken" generally prefers earlier discoveries.

Motherfucking Dirac. I tell ya we'd still be bumbling about with the Bohr, Heis, Schro level of understanding.
Maaaaybe Johnny von could have tidied it up without Dirac.


Motherfucking Dirac indeed. Guy did a simply amazing amount of work in QM and its a damn shame that he isn't recognized on the level of Einstein, or Feynmann. If it is a result in Quantum Mechanics, chances are Dirac was the one who derived it.

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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby doogly » Fri Jun 08, 2012 6:10 pm UTC

I mean Dirac > Feynman is pure style and charisma points. Feynman's biggest contribution was fleshing out a single idea of Dirac's.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby Radical_Initiator » Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:26 pm UTC

If all of physics, including theory, still must come back to experiment for validation, Faraday is a solid second choice behind Newton, IMO.
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Re: Poll: greatest physicist ever

Postby TiglathPileser3 » Sat Jun 09, 2012 5:16 pm UTC

mfb wrote:"Without that person, how much longer would this discovery have taken" generally prefers earlier discoveries. The greeks did stuff which was not repeated for hundreds of years. Newton may have had some decades. Einstein probably had some years with SR, and not much more with GR.

Here we see that the problem with this is that it is affected by politics. I don't think anyone would have rigorously derived the formula for the volume of a sphere for a good 1700 years after his death. The problem is that this is also partly because of the piss-poor Roman intellectual life (when it came to science) and the even worse dark ages. Also population growth has to be accounted for. Passage of time is not impressive, many people working on the problem is.

Diadem wrote:Comparisons like these are always kind of pointless. How do you compare greatness?

I guess it's possible to look at other metrics. Most difficult result perhaps? Furthest ahead of his time? But those are again hard to measure. Nicest person would be another fun metric, if you could measure it. Any other suggestions?

Even though "furthest ahead of his time" is a bit flawed, I would still suggest Archimedes.
For "hardest problem" I don't have any ideas.
Coolest person is Tycho Brahe; Nicest ... no ideas again.


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