Well, as I cautioned in the post which reported this tete-a-tete, the result does not matter. However, a result has been announced* and it is in line with the views expressed by Cosmic Variance readers: Newton beat Einstein by a knockout. It was not even close. The Royal Society’s website says:
A total of 1363 members of the public voted online and 345 Royal Society scientists responded to an email questionnaire.
The results showed Newton to be the winner on all counts, although opinion was much closer on the overall contribution to humankind. When asked who made the bigger overall contribution to science the public voted 61.8% for Newton and 38.2% for Einstein and the scientists voted 86.2% for Newton and 13.8% for Einstein.
When asked who made the bigger positive contribution to humankind the public voted extremely closely with 50.1% for Newton and 49.9% for Einstein and the scientists voted 60.9% for Newton and 39.1% for Einstein.
Frankly, I’m surprised, but probably not at what you think:
Sure, I’m a bit surprised that Newton won so overwhelmingly. He should have won, of course, but so easily?
Actually, what I’m really surprised about is that so few people voted! I only announced it on the blog rather late, and we got 39 comments in about four days. Maybe half of those were votes…, the rest, interesting discussion. Thanks-see what we can do together? But the entire UK could only manage 1363 votes?! (Not counting Royal Society members, who are not members of the general public in this discussion) This even after two (three?) weeks, and with it being announced on Radio 4 (and probably BBC TV too) and with interviews and the like? I find it a bit sad that more people did not get involved, to be honest. Is this connected to the lack of people bothering to study physics beyond GCSE level in the UK? I don’t know, but I worry…. (sigh).
Undaunted, however, I think I’ll come up with a few more Celebrity Throwdown matchups for future discussion.
*thanks for the reminder, Ed Copeland.