Obviously, this was awarded the Nobel Prize of Physics this year, so someone thinks that it is worth awarding. But so far as I can tell, the invention of the Blue LED is basically something that was being actively investigated by many people and seems like something which basically could be accomplished by brute force effort of trying different chemicals in different mixtures, to see what happens. The practical results of discovering a mixture which works was significant to the world, and I don’t deny that, but I question whether this discovery really added much to our knowledge of the universe (as one would expect from a physics discovery)? At most, it seems like it could only have taught us some interesting chemistry.
Or was there some actual discovery made that ventures into the world of physics, that the inventors hypothesized, which their invention proved out, and the success of that hypothesis somehow changed our view of the universe?
The Nobel committee mixed up the chemistry and physics prizes this year, so I understand were you are coming from. Trying to assess a chemistry achievement from a physics POV is futile, and can often be boiled down to ‘trying different chemicals in different mixtures, to see what happens,’ BFD.
To be fair, even from a chemistry POV materials science appears particularly brainless - knuckle dragging shake and bakers. Exerting control and understanding on the process is extremely challenging - whether the blue LED was born out of brute force (burn 100 Japanese postdocs until one turns blue) or something more insightful I do not know.
One point that gets missed a lot is that the Nobel prizes weren’t intended to be for understanding, but for practical application. And blue LEDs have that in abundance: They make white LEDs possible, which makes it possible to save a heck of a lot of energy in a lot of applications.
Of course, the Nobel committee themselves often get a bit mixed up on this point, so it’s understandable if laymen get confused by it, too. Beautiful though it may be, there’s really not much practical application to QED, for instance. But it’s hard to say that they’re getting it wrong when, like this year, they go back to the original intent.