Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Profile of Harry Lipkin

This is an interesting profile of theorist Harry Lipkin. While many of his colleagues certainly know him due to his body of work, many others certainly know of him due to his highly provocative essay in Physics Today several years ago titled "Who Ordered Theorists?" In it, he argued that many of the discoveries and amazing advances in elementary particle physics (and possibly physics in general) have not be due to theorists, and in fact, might have been hindered by them.

Of course, being an experimentalist, I'm not going to argue with that. Still, it brought out a lot of "heated" discussion and rebuttals after the letter was published. Still, I can say with definite certainty that many of the emergent phenomena in condensed matter, for example, such as superconductivity and fractional quantum hall effect, were never predicted by theory. The experimental discovery of the phenomena inevitably always came first.


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