It’s been a great spokesperson for theoretical physics for a long time and his fame helped educate a lot of people who enjoyed listening to him or reading his books, but as far as revolutionary? Not really, no. He’s witty and entertaining and smart but he grabs us mostly by the heart and imagination but as far as the field of theoretical physics goes, I don’t think he’s had much of an impact in a long time.
For a time he did. He linked together black holes and the big bang, attempting to tie together the singularities in both.
Hawking radiation was an intriguing idea and prompted a lot of questions for information theory: can information be created or destroyed?
But I think most of his impact was like that; peripheral to theoretical physics moreso than within the field of theoretical physics itself. Then again, he’s inspired many millions of people (likely) to take an amateur and some a professional interest in theoretical physics around the world.
So for that? increasing the amount of people who take theoretical physics seriously, increasing the amounts of people who apply to University to study it, and improving the general knowledge of the world for theoretical physics?
Yes, he has definitely made an impact in that way.
He’s earned his right to be a giant. But among friends I have that are working theoretical physicists? Hawking is the old professor with old ideas that they tolerate. The same thing happened to Einstein. By the late 1920s, Einstein’s ideas were passe in quantum physics: his time has passed in that field.
But his most significant contributions remains. I don’t know if Hawking created any new math but he might have. If so, his impact there will remain.
Social revolution yes. But scientific revolution as in paradigm shift? I’d say probably not… _unless_ he helped popularize Big Bang theory over Steady State. I don’t know if he did or not. But if he helped popularize Big Bang over Steady State (this would be the late 1960s/early 1970s if so), then that would qualify as a paradigm shift.
I liked Steady State when I first learned about it in school but I always found the discarded theories more interesting than the accepted ones.
Particularly, I always felt bad for Fred Hoyle, a major proponent of Steady State and other controversial ideas. He had a cranky temperament and was not cooperative. I remember there was an award that should have gone to him but wasn’t, purely due to political reasons within the theoretical physics community.
In fact, in school and in science programs on TV, I ONLY remember him mentioned in textbooks in a negative fashion, and when they would talk about nuleosynthesis, his major work, they mention it as a simple fact and often neglect to attach Hoyle’s name properly to it.
“Nucleosynthesis is the process that creates new atomic nuclei from pre-existing nucleons, primarily protons and neutrons.”
Yes, here it is. Poor Hoyle.
“Hoyle also theorized that other rarer elements could be explained by supernovas, the giant explosions which occasionally occur throughout the universe, whose immensely high temperatures and pressures would be sufficient to create such elements. Remarkably, he had found a way of testing the theory of star formation in the laboratory, and was able to prove his earlier prediction that carbon could be made form three helium nuclei without an intervening beryllium stage. Although his co-worker William Fowler eventually won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 for his contributions to this work, for some reason Hoyle’s original contribution was never recognized.”
In fact, I would say that Fred Hoyle’s major contribution of : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple-alpha_process was far more impactful than Hawking’s work. After all, Hoyle’s colleague received the Nobel Prize for what was primarily Hoyle’s work.
Nobel prizes aren’t given lightly and often can be an indication of what might be considered a paradigm shift.
But the politics of “Intelligent Design”/”Finely Tuned Universe” (Hoyle) vs “Multiverse” (the more popular idea) makes it more difficult to decide whether it’s a paradigm shift or not.
Perhaps _because_ it sparked a long term debate of “God vs Math”, with all of the political turmoil of religion vs science (a battle that I think is entirely unnecessary) – the shift of it being increasingly unacceptable to hold a religious belief while also being in theoretical physics… changing the nature of the prevailing ideology populating theoretical physics towards agnostic/atheist…. I would say that’s a paradigm shift.
You’re right. I was having trouble deciding whether it could be considered a paradigm shift or not and I was picturing in my mind large shifting populations of ideologies across the span of a few decades, as the religious-minded moved away while the agnostic/atheist minded moved towards…. and in the process of this mental visuals filling my brain, I lost some details of what I was talking about.
wait! no on, I’ve got the wrong guy. It’s
which was reformulated by Hamilton to work perfectly for quantum physics later on.
Example: Newton’s F=ma becomes the following in Langrangian. Far more expressive, removes the need for Cartesian coordinates.
I’d say the elimination of Cartesian coordinates results in a paradigm shift.
Consider Lagrange as providing a “Rosetta Stone” between the two ways of looking at the Universe: one upon a backdrop of a single coordinate system into one where NOW you can use ANY coordinate system, or even none at all.
Well, imagine if it hadn’t happened? Without Lagrange giving the language for Hamilton and Hilbert and Einstein to use, they could not have done their work at all.
Perhaps then I could move forward in time from Lagrange and move to Lorentz. It’s is through Lorentz that we get moving reference frames. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorentz_transformation
You’re welcome. I hadn’t seen this before myself and I hadn’t realized that this goes back to Galileo.
Same. This related page is also very interesting, and it points to Poincaré transformations as the point where things changed.
I recognize these terms from working in computer graphics. Translation, rotation, etc. On a computer, time is usually a fixed thing so there’s no relativity of time when working on computer programs. But I’m wondering if “skew” is related to Einstein’s tensor math?
Ah! Shear mapping it’s called.
oh, what an interesting guy. While he didn’t go all the way into relativity, he “foreshadows it” *and* his contribution of geometric algebra certainly is related.
“The operations of geometric algebra have the effect of mirroring, rotating, translating, and mapping the geometric objects”
“Clifford was the first to suggest that gravitation might be a manifestation of an underlying geometry. ”
You’re welcome. Thank you the questions, discussion and inspiration. I love this kind of thing and it’s been a while since I visited these concepts. Each time I do I learn something I didn’t know before and I’m understanding a few things better than I did previously.
Oh I forgot about Gauss. So much to thank him for. One of them is non-Euclidean geometry which is another key shift from Gallileo/Newton to Einstein times.
Answered somebody who asked what real contributions Hawking made to theoretical physics, which led to talking about Fred Hoyle and the triple-alpha process, Steady State and Big Bang and politics in the theoretical physics and paradigm shifts and to Lagrangian mechanics to Lorentz transformations to discovering Galilean transformations (something I never knew had a name before) to “skew” and shear mapping to William Clifford and finally to Gauss like a Time Lord for two hours.
it was nice. Got my brain going again and filled in a few gaps.