Thu 30 Jun 2005
Today is the 100th anniversary of Albert Eintein‘s publication of the third of his four Annus Mirabilis Papers entitled On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies; the seminal work that introduced the concepts which would come to be known as Special Relativity. People discuss this on blogs and /. but what did strike me is that no one sees this like a good occasion to ask a very important question: how much further did we get in science, especially physics during those 100 years.
Of course, I’m not an expert in the field. However, I see anniversaries of past greatness rather as a reminder of current mediocrity. The ones that particularly makes me sick are subsequent anniversaries of Apollo missions. In that field we completely stalled, and since the end of cold war both American and Russian space efforts just silently died. There is much hype, but very little substance, especially when it comes to human space flight.
Is this the same with physics? I don’t know, as I said, I’m not an expert in this field. However, I’m pretty sure that Einstein’s equations, although quite elegant, are not the final explanation on how the physical reality works. And this conviction of mine is not just pure faith derived from the study of history, since, from what I recall, there is a big gap between the quantum physics explaining the microworld of elementary particles and Einstein’s physics describing the large scale interactions of Universe etc. The string theory was supposed to mend it, and while it is very attractive, it so far wasn’t confirmed experimentally and, from what I read, there are some controversies within the ranks of its supporters and even spin-off versions.
So, generally it looks like physics stalled a bit too if we didn’t have any comparable breakthroughs since Einstein (and he passed away 50 years ago). Though, since I’ve read about some experiments who yielded results not in accordance with Einstein’s predictions which looks promising.
As I said, I reject the view that our civilization has discovered all that was to be and no new Einsteins would be needed. This arrogant view was proved wrong over history so many times, that I think no one would openly admit to believing that is the case (maybe except my father). So, let’s quit with celebrating past glory and focus on discovering new physics and science in general. We, humans, need it badly. Either our civilization will manage to jump onto the next energetic level or we will perish – and all the past achievements would be in vain.