Oct 17 2008
Albert Einstein was a genius who, thanks to his original ideas, shook up the world. Right? Not quite.
While Albert Einstein was a genius with original ideas, he didn’t shake up the world simply because his ideas were original. Einstein made his splash because his ideas beautifully retrofitted previously anomalous data and because they made startling predictions that were later confirmed. His ideas passed very difficult tests. And so our society has granted his work an A+.
A recent ScienceDaily post, Discovery Of ‘Broken Symmetry’ At Subatomic Level Earns 2008 Nobel Prize In Physics, reports that Yoichiro Nambu won 1/2 the Nobel Prize in Physics this year. The other half went to the team of Kobavashi and Maskawa. The work they received an A+ for was completed decades ago.
Boy, those guys on the Noble committee sure are procrastinators. Or maybe not. It seems that original ideas are a dime a dozen. For an original idea to be prize-worthy it has to stand up to analysis, evaluation, and testing.
As late as 2001, the two particle detectors BaBar at Stanford, USA and Belle at Tsukuba, Japan, both detected broken symmetries independently of each other. The results were exactly as Kobayashi and Maskawa had predicted almost three decades earlier.
Some people have already slapped an A+ on String Theory. Talk about an original idea! But I give that theory an “I” for now. Incomplete. I’m still waiting for it to pass a test.