My talk at “The Origins of the Expanding Universe”

You may recall that I gave a talk recently at a meeting called The Origins of the Expanding Universe in Flagstaff, Arizona. I put the slides up here. Well, the organizers have now put videos of the presentations online so you have the chance to see mine, warts and all.

I was relieved when I saw this on Youtube that the organizers were kind enough to edit out the embarrassing bit at the start when my laptop refused to talk to the data projector and I had to swap to another one. Sorting all that out seemed to take ages, which didn’t help my frame of mind and I was even more nervous than I would have been anyway given that this was my first public appearance after a rather difficult summer. Those are my excuses for what was, frankly, not a particularly good talk. But at least I survived. Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.

20 Responses to “My talk at “The Origins of the Expanding Universe””

  1. Steve Jones Says:

    I thought it was a really interesting talk. Seeing as Nobel prizes are in the news, is there a standard answer as to why Einstein never got a one for General Relativity?

    If, as you say in this talk, the eclipse results were such a media sensation, it would seem like a natural time to award it.

    • telescoper Says:

      There’s an article about just that question here:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/across-the-universe/2012/oct/08/einstein-nobel-prize-relativity

      although there’s no real evidence to back up the accusation of anti-semitism.

      You also have to remember that in 1919 the result was still controversial. Later, better, eclipse measurements were needed to really settle the story.

      • He did get a Nobel Prize for something else, so anti-semitism seems irrelevant here. What is more, he got it for the explanation of the photoelectric effect, the experimental side of which was Philip Lenard’s claim to fame. Lenard later became notorious as an anti-semitic advocate of “Deutsche Physik” and its attempt to cleanse physics of Jewish influence. (There is the story that a Nazi politician asked David Hilbert how mathematics in Göttingen had improved since the Jewish employees there had been ousted. Hilbert replied that there was no more mathematics in Göttingen.)

        Why not a Nobel Prize for relativity? Special relativity was “in the air” and someone else would have come up with it if Einstein hadn’t. General relativity was not well understood and experimentally wasn’t clearly proven (sort of like inflation today, for which there has been no Nobel prize, even though the number of papers on this topic is, well, inflationary). Also, maybe the committee took the “invention or discovery” clause more seriously back then.

      • The Guardian article says:

        “It has been argued that this work, which introduced the concept of photons, has had more impact than relativity. I’m not sure. With relativity, Einstein gave us a way to understand the Universe as a whole. It was a staggering leap forward in our intellectual capability.”

        In the excellent Subtle is the Lord…, Pais (who knew Einstein personally and spoke German with him, the language Einstein thought in until the end of his life), shows quite extensively that the photoelectric effect, at the time, was deemed to be more important by relativity, by all in the field, including Einstein, who remarked that this was the one time he had been truly radical. Pais points out that no elementary particles needed as log to become accepted as the photon. The Guardian author should have checked the standard scientific biography on Einstein before writing such nonsense.
        Einstein didn’t get a Nobel Prize for relativity because of anti-semitism…so they gave him one for the photoelectric effect. Yeah, right. If anything, giving the prize for the photoelectric effect could be seen as a dig against Lenard and anti-semitism.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Others have since won two Nobels for their scientific research; Einstein should have. Or was it regarded as a once-a-lifetime thing early on but not later?

      • Who has one more then one Nobel Prize in the same field? Not that many.

      • telescoper Says:

        http://almaz.com/nobel/double.html

        Only Bardeen won the Physics prize twice.

        I agree that it Einstein should have had it for GR, but perhaps not until radio measurements had made the light bending thing incontrovertible.

      • But the prize is (normally) not awarded posthumously.

      • telescoper Says:

        Yes, I forgot that Einstein died in 1955. Accurate radio measurements were not made until the late 60s…

      • Siegbahn won it twice, but those were father and son. Marie Curie’s daughter also won the prize (and of course Marie had 2 herself, in different fields). Any more parent-child pairs?

      • telescoper Says:

        Bragg (William and Lawrence) for Physics. At the same time. Bragg junior is the youngest-ever winner of the Physics Nobel Prize.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Neils and Aage Bohr.

      • Steve Jones Says:

        JJ Thompson and his son George both won Nobel Prizes in physics. I remember reading in my physics text book that this was a bit of a paradox because JJ won it for showing that the electron is a particle and George won it for showing that the electron is a wave.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        “the prize is (normally) not awarded posthumously.”

        Has there been an exception Philip? If so, that would be interesting.

      • Yes, last year. The recipient had died shortly before the announcement and the committee didn’t know. In this case, they decided to make an exception and award it posthumously (perhaps because it had already been announced).

      • From http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/nobelprize_facts.html

        Posthumous Nobel Prizes

        From 1974, the Statutes of the Nobel Foundation stipulate that a Prize cannot be awarded posthumously, unless death has occurred after the announcement of the Nobel Prize. Before 1974, the Nobel Prize has only been awarded posthumously twice: to Dag Hammarskjöld (Nobel Peace Prize 1961) and Erik Axel Karlfeldt (Nobel Prize in Literature 1931).

        Following the 2011 announcement of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, it was discovered that one of the Medicine Laureates, Ralph Steinman, had passed away three days earlier. The Board of the Nobel Foundation examined the statutes, and an interpretation of the purpose of the rule above lead to the conclusion that Ralph Steinman should continue to remain a Nobel Laureate, as the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet had announced the 2011 Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine without knowing of his death.

      • So, before 1974, Einstein could have been awarded a posthumous Nobel Prize. To be honest, though, I don’t see much point in this.

  2. >>> when my laptop refused to talk to the data projector and I had to swap to another one.

    You didn’t swap to a Mac did you? I see a little glowing apple there!

  3. Brilliant talk, well done!

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