tisdag 6 oktober 2020

Nobel Prize in Physics for Discovery of Singularity without Physics

The mathematician Roger Penrose receives half of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics

  • for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity
with the following further motivation:

  • In January 1965, ten years after Einstein’s death, Roger Penrose proved that black holes really can form and described them in detail; at their heart, black holes hide a singularity in which all the known laws of nature cease. His ground-breaking article is still regarded as the most important contribution to the general theory of relativity since Einstein.
So Penrose receives the Prize/2 for proving: in a singularity all the known laws of nature cease. Here is an illuminating illustration from the deep scientific text underlying the motivation (watch and get enlightened):

To give perspective on this perplexing message, recall that Einstein was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics with the explicit mention that it was not for his theories of relativity. The 1921 Nobel Committee did not consider Einstein's relativity theories to be physics, only mathematics closed into its own box. It is logical that the 2020 Nobel Committee gives the Prize/2 to a mathematician. 

Maybe it can be seen as a little compensation for the lack of Nobel Prize in Mathematics. The 2020 Nobel Committee concludes the theoretical presentation with the following reservation in the spirit of the 1921 Committee: 
  • The extent to which the structure of a black hole surrounded by an event horizon actually match the predictions of general relativity is still an open question. Nature may still have surprises in store.
For 100 years the Nobel Physics Committee stubbornly resisted giving the Prize to Einstein's Theories of Relativity, despite its proclaimed fundamental role in modern physics. What made the Committee change mind? Was it this (criticised) picture:

Below you find the Nobel Diploma to Einstein with the explicit mention on the first page that the Prize is 
  • independent of the value, after eventual confirmation, which can be given to relativity/gravitation theory. 

It is certainly unique in the history of the Nobel Prize to  explicitly state for which landmark contribution to science the Prize is not given!

For more juice, see Ant Elzinga's interesting book Einstein's Nobel Prize, A Glimpse Behind Closed Doors.

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