Monday, March 5, 2012

No prizes for theoretical physics

A reader commented that proving the impossibility of quantum computers would surely win a Nobel Prize. I doubt it.

I cannot think of an example of a Nobel prize for something similar. The prize usually goes to experimental discoveries of various sorts. Here is a list of some of the more important advances in theoretical physics of the 20th century. None of these won a Nobel prize directly, altho applications of these ideas did win a few prizes. For examples, many prizes were given for relativistic theories, but no prize for relativity itself. For another example, no prize has been given for the Higgs yet, even tho prizes have been given for the consequences. The current Economist magazine says:
Without the Higgs to spur spontaneous symmetry-breaking, it turns out, the edifice of fundamental physics — and no fewer than eight of the Nobel prizes awarded to 20 physicists over 35 years — would stand on shaky ground. No wonder boffins have their eye on the news from Geneva.
I am deliberately omitting the supposed great breakthrus of the last 30 years, such as String theory, Supersymmetry, Multiverse, and cosmological inflation. These are very unlikely to ever win Nobel prizes.

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