Evil elves have apparently snuck into the house in the middle of the night, and stuffed my sinuses with cotton and motor oil (the dog is sitting here muttering “I told you there were evil elves out there but did you listen? ‘Stop barking at nothing,’ you said…” Or maybe that’s the drugs.). This sort of cuts down on my ability to think Deep Thoughts and post the results here.
I can, however, carry out mechanical tasks like tallying the nominations for the Greatest Physics Experiment (to go with Clifford’s Greatest Physics Paper on the theory side). The list of experiments mentioned by at least two different people in the comments comes to eleven, listed here in order of age:
- Galileo Galilei: ~1610: Discovery of the moons of Jupiter, and measurements of the acceleration of falling objects.
- Ole Roemer ~1675: Measurement of the speed of light by timing the eclipses of Io.
- Isaac Newton ~1700: Dispersion of light and measurements of circulating fluids.
- Henry Cavendish, ~1797: Measurement of the graviational constant G.
- Michael Faraday ~1831: Discovery of electromagnetic induction.
- Michelson and Morley ~1887: Disproving the existence of the luminiferous aether.
- Heinrich Hertz ~1888: Creation and detection of electromagnetic waves.
- Ernest Rutherford ~1909: Discovery of the nucleus of the atom.
- Edwin Hubble ~1929: Determination of the distance to galaxies, and measurement of the expansion of the universe.
- Rudolf Mossbauer ~1957: Discovery of the Mossbauer Effect and gamma-ray spectroscopy.
- Alain Aspect ~1981: Experimental tests of Bell’s Inequality.
(Dates are pulled off Wikipedia, and hence highly approximate. In some cases, I’ve lumped together votes for two different experiments by the same person in order to draw up the list. Newton just barely squeaks on by this method, but he’s such a prickly bastard that it wouldn’t be wise to leave him off…)
It’s a pretty impressive list, really, spanning four centuries and a great many important and historic experiments. The list of people left out (go look at the comments to the other thread) is just as impressive.
So, here’s the plan. Over the next indeterminate period of time, I will endeavor to write up short pieces describing the various experiments and observations on the list, and where they fit in the history of modern physics. After that, if I haven’t lost interest, I may put it up for another vote, which I promise will be every bit as scientific as the last one.
If you’d like to complain about voting irregularities, or castigate me for leaving out your personal favorite experiment, well, you know where the comments are.