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Thread: Einstein's Nobel Prize in Physics

  1. #1 Einstein's Nobel Prize in Physics 
    Forum Ph.D. Heinsbergrelatz's Avatar
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    im sure all of you are aware that albert einstein was awarded with his nobel prize in 1921. but what i dont get is the fact that he was rewarded due to his works on Photoelectric effect, not theory of relativity.

    Why?


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  3. #2  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Here is my take on it. (Remember that I am a humble geologist, don't understand tensor calculus, and abandoned my university physics course apart from the laboratory work.)

    The photoelectric effect opened the door to understanding the dual nature of light. Einstein's explanation was seemingly at odds with the well accepted equations of James Clerk Maxwell, but were confirmed some ten years later by experiment. This research laid some of the foundations for quantum theory, which otherwise might well have been delayed.

    I think his Nobel prize was partly for his relativity work, in that it refers to 'contributions to theoretical physics' or some such wording. Since his 1905 paper on special relativity was an ingenious combination of the works of others (Lorentz, Maxwell and Doppler, for example) the Nobel committee may have thought it lacked originality.


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  4. #3  
    sox
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    General Relativity was only about 6 years old in 1921, and many people were still taking issue to it. Or rather, to certain aspects of it.

    Whereas the photoelectric effect suffered none of this hesitancy and had 16 years of acceptance.

    Plus the photoelectric effect was tied up with quantum mechanics which was really starting to kick off in the 1920's.

    Quantum mechanics covers a much wider field of phenomena than does GR. So it's possible that when ascribing the Nobel prize this is what swung it to the photoelectric effect and not his work on relativity.

    So while his work on the photoelectric effect is nowhere near as impressive (in comparison to GR that is) as his work that gave rise to GR, the photoelectric effect was probably percieved as more beneficial to physics as a whole.

    This is just my idea on the answer ofcourse. I could be totally wrong.

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  5. #4  
    Forum Ph.D. Heinsbergrelatz's Avatar
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    thank you, for your replies. :-D
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  6. #5 Re: Einstein's Nobel Prize in Physics 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heinsbergrelatz
    im sure all of you are aware that albert einstein was awarded with his nobel prize in 1921. but what i dont get is the fact that he was rewarded due to his works on Photoelectric effect, not theory of relativity.

    Why?
    It was pretty clear that they needed to award Einstein a Nobel Prize for something. Relativity was not sufficiently well-supported by experiment at the time, and the Nobel is not awarded for purely theoretical work that is not tied to experiment. The photoelectric effect work was, handy, experimentally supported and important.

    http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/lists/1921.html

    Einstein's acceptance speech, given acouple of years or so after the award of the prize was on the subject of relativity.

    http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/p...in-lecture.pdf
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  7. #6  
    Forum Ph.D. Heinsbergrelatz's Avatar
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    thank you for the links Dr rocket
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