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The 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics

CmdrTaco posted about 10 years ago | from the still-waiting-for-mine dept.

Science 156

azatht writes "The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2004 "for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction" jointly to David J. Gross, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA, H. David Politzer California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, USThe 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics, and Frank Wilczek Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, USA."

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Some quicky info (5, Informative)

gowen (141411) | about 10 years ago | (#10438131)

Asymptotic freedom [wikipedia.org] in the theory of the [wikipedia.org] Strong Interaction [wikipedia.org]

Re:Some quicky info (1, Offtopic)

mirko (198274) | about 10 years ago | (#10438265)

I kinda liked the Wiki article which mentioned the quarks' colours...
with the antiquarks anti-colours, I just wonder whether anti red would be cyan, anti-green, would be magenta and anti blue would be yellow, as suggested by this [tasi.ac.uk] ?

Of course, I understood this colour case is only a paradigm and doesn't reflect any visible characteristics (also because there's no such thing as a colour, at this subatomic scale)...

But I would not be surprised if some colour-coordination actually reflected what happens at the quark level.

Re:Some quicky info (2, Informative)

yourmom16 (618766) | about 10 years ago | (#10440265)

It has absolutely nothing to do with the normal use of color, except the name. All it is is a quantum number with 3 possible values, which Gell-Mann decided to call red, green, and blue.

Red, white, and blue (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10440365)

Actually, Gell-Mann originally decided to call them red, white, and blue, in honor of the French flag. (Not sure why; he's American!) But it made more sense to change it to red, green, and blue, which (as light) combine to a neutral color (white), suggestive of the fact that quarks are bound into color-neutral configurations.

Re:Some quicky info (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438670)

SO, nothing to do with Iraq ? :>

English (2, Insightful)

tod_miller (792541) | about 10 years ago | (#10439583)

The closer the quarks are, the more free they reign.

The farther apart the more force is exerted on them.

They describe it as an elastic band. It sound more like the 'proximity' provides some kind of countering effect, which is removed when they drift apart, or indeed, merely they reach the boundary of thier movement (this is me know knows nothing about all this stuff)

But it does say that we know nothing about gravity, where it comes form, what its favourite colour is, or, perhaps topically, who it will vote for.

It says something about humanity, they don't see something until it falls on thier head (literally).

I used to think that gravity shouldn't be explained, but bouyancy. If you know why things float, you know why things fall.

c'mon I was like 4 years old. The only rubber sheet I had heard of was my matress. Yes, I wet the bed. *hands head in shame*

I stopped well before my 22nd birthday though :-)

Not quite! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10439803)

Don't attribute the theory of the strong interaction to these guys! That mostly already went to Gell-Mann in 1969. What these guys did was explain asymptotic freedom, which explains why, in the already-invented theory of the strong interaction, free quarks can't be seen. (Before them, everyone knew experimentally that they couldn't be seen, and we had a theory which supposedly could explain it, but nobody actually knew how to extract that particular prediction from the theory.)

I GOT YOUR NOBEL PRIZE RIGHT HERE (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438133)

*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*
g_______________________________________________g
o_/_____\_____________\____________/____\_______o
a|_______|_____________\__________|______|______a
t|_______`._____________|_________|_______:_____t
s`________|_____________|________\|_______|_____s
e_\_______|_/_______/__\\\___--___\\_______:____e
x__\______\/____--~~__________~--__|_\_____|____x
*___\______\_-~____________________~-_\____|____*
g____\______\_________.--------.______\|___|____g
o______\_____\______//_________(_(__>__\___|____o
a_______\___.__C____)_________(_(____>__|__/____a
t_______/\_|___C_____)/______\_(_____>__|_/_____t
s______/_/\|___C_____)SLASHDOT__(___>___/__\____s
e_____|___(____C_____)\______/__//__/_/_____\___e
x_____|____\__|_____\\_________//_(__/_______|__x
*____|_\____\____)___`----___--'_____________|__*
g____|__\______________\_______/____________/_|_g
o___|______________/____|_____|__\____________|_o
a___|_____________|____/_______\__\___________|_a
t___|__________/_/____|_________|__\___________|t
s___|_________/_/______\__/\___/____|__________|s
e__|_________/_/________|____|_______|_________|e
x__|__________|_________|____|_______|_________|x
*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_


# Please try to keep posts on topic. # Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. # Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. # Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. # Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) # If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.# Please try to keep posts on topic. # Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. # Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. # Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. # Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) # If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.# Please try to keep posts on topic. # Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. # Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. # Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. # Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) # If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

phirst phost (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438135)

foist

Eat my Karma (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438145)

BBC Article [bbc.co.uk]

Well . . . (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438148)

This discovery cemented the theory of quantum chromodynamics, which describes the interactions of quarks and other subatomic particles inside the atomic nucleus.

It also filled a critical remaining gap in what physicists refer to as the Standard Model, the theory that governs physics at the microscopic scale. It accounts for the behavior of three out of nature's four fundamental forces - electromagnetism, the strong force and the weak force, which governs radioactive decay. Which brings us a few step forwards towards the answer of 42.

Re:Well . . . (4, Informative)

gowen (141411) | about 10 years ago | (#10438317)

It accounts for the behavior of three out of nature's four fundamental forces
Err, no. QCD accounts for one of the fundamental forces, the strong force. Quarks (and their asymptotic freedom) don't really have anything to do with the electroweak forces, which are carried by W and Z bosons and photons.

Re:Well . . . (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438379)

'it' usually refers to the object of the most recent sentence or part sentence.

now apply that rule to the AC's post.

Re:Well . . . (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438480)

The object of the previous sentence was the initial "It ..." of "It also filled...". By recursion, that "It" referred to the object of the previous sentence, which was "quantum chromodynamics".

But hey, thanks for playing.

Today's lesson -- when writing complex sentences containing subclauses, avoid dangling participles.

Re:Well . . . (0, Offtopic)

a whoabot (706122) | about 10 years ago | (#10438687)

Yeah. Let's attack the physics someone is talking about because they had a dangling participle that made it, in the literal, confusing. That's real syncretism right there.

Re:Well . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10439966)

"It" refers here to the 'Standard Model', wich accounts for the three interaction whereas QCD only accounts for quarks/gluons systems' behavior.
But the guy is wrong though: there is no answer to 42, there's only a question to it... :P

Re:Well . . . (4, Informative)

Pi_0's don't shower (741216) | about 10 years ago | (#10438866)

This discovery cemented the theory of quantum chromodynamics...
Not to be too nit-picky, but it's worth mentioning that their work shows that quantum chromodynamics (QCD) accurately describes the strong force only at HIGH energies. The use of asymptotic freedom, or QCD at large energy scales, agrees very well with experiment. However, the theory does not give reliable predictions in the low-energy (sometimes non-perturbative) regime. To say that QCD is now completely understood ignores this problem, which is the most serious problem left (other than the Higgs) in the Standard Model today. Some possible solutions to the low-energy QCD problem (or the confinement problem) are the people working on Lattice QCD and the people working on the B-T worldsheet formalism. Sorry for the deluge of information, but I thought it was worth pointing out that there is still plenty of work to be done in understanding this theory. And as an interesting aside, even with these three brilliant men and their work, theoretical calculations only agree with experiment to about a 10% level!

Re:Well . . . (1)

khallow (566160) | about 10 years ago | (#10439764)

And as an interesting aside, even with these three brilliant men and their work, theoretical calculations only agree with experiment to about a 10% level!

What does that mean? How many significant digits of agreement do we currently have?

Second, I'm puzzled by your characterization of QCD. My understanding is that QCD breaks down whenever gravitation/curvature effects need to be considered. Eg, at "high" energies or in the presence of sufficient mass. The "confinement problem" as far as I can tell is the problem of why quarks cannot be (or at least have not been) observed. This sounds more like a misinterpretation of the theory than a valid issue, but I haven't yet studied QCD in detail to determine whether predictions of quark observations is required or even implied by the QCD theory.

My suspicion is that in QCD quarks are a label not a particle. Ie, people confuse quark labels with the gauge irreducible representations (which are hadron(?) particle classes: protons, neutrons, muons (several representations), etc) that they label.

Where will this take us ? (2, Insightful)

mirko (198274) | about 10 years ago | (#10438152)

Is it some 100% theoretical stuff or will it have technical repercussions in the short term ?

Re:Where will this take us ? (-1, Offtopic)

heitikender (655816) | about 10 years ago | (#10438185)

one thing is sure: it will mean smaller mobile phones for regular folks. here could be your ad.

Re:Where will this take us ? (2, Interesting)

Gil-galad55 (707960) | about 10 years ago | (#10438229)

It is of immense importance to the theory of elementary particles, but the forces it governs involve quark interactions, and it is doubtful any technology will explicitly need a model of quark interactions for some time! Then again, I could be shortly eating my shorts...

Re:Where will this take us ? (3, Funny)

daveaitel (598781) | about 10 years ago | (#10438367)

Due to, ya know, quantum tunnelling and stuff, some of the atoms in your shorts are, kinda, in your mouth. So technically you already are.

-dave

Re:Where will this take us ? (1)

gowen (141411) | about 10 years ago | (#10438516)

Quantum tunneling is nothing to do with Quantum Chromodynamics or the strong interaction. That comes from pure quantum mechanics, you don't need to explain the in-particle nuclear binding forces to understand tunneling.

Re:Where will this take us ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10439406)

He made a joke, so stfu. ...god that pisses me off. Always some retard who's gotta "correct" someone when it matters least.

Re:Where will this take us ? (1)

gowen (141411) | about 10 years ago | (#10439506)

Unfortunately, it was unrecogniseable as a joke, if you know anything about QM. It's a joke if he says
Due to, ya know, Schrodinger's Uncertainty Principle some of the atoms in your shorts are, kinda, in your mouth.
But UP, or superposition of quantum states (which is what this "joke" relies on) is not tunneling either, so the "joke" doesn't work.

Re:Where will this take us ? (3, Insightful)

tgibbs (83782) | about 10 years ago | (#10438307)

Is it some 100% theoretical stuff or will it have technical repercussions in the short term ?

Generally, by the time somebody receives the Nobel Prize for a discovery, the "short term" is already over.

Re:Where will this take us ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438322)

no, no technology even in the medium term.

It appears the Nobel committee has completely given up on the idea that the research must confer benefit on mankind.

they might as well just give awards to mathematicians (which is pretty much what these people were, there are many more experimental results now of course, although QCD is still not an easily testable model)

good physics and all that, but so was relativity, but relativity didn't get Einstein the nobel, because it was useless.

Begone, ye troll! (4, Insightful)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about 10 years ago | (#10438508)

I realise I may be feeding a troll, but too many people have that serious opinion. Let me jsut layout some coutner arguements:

Relativity is not 'useless' satalite communication would not be work if we didn't make relitivistic corrections. So unless you consider cellphones "worthless", then the theory is worthwhile. Not only does cellphone technology rely on satalites, but also on the precise atomic clocks contained with in them. And those atomic clocks rely on our quantum mechanical understanding of atoms. Thats not to say that this particular research directly led to our widespread cellphone usage, but its just an example of how much basic research affects our daily lives.

Now, every now and then pure mathematicians will come up with an obscure field that they will decalre as being unaplicable to anything ever ( see group theory). Then a few years later a group of physicsists will discover that it has a real application in physics. Then they will speculate wildly about the potential applications in an attempt to gain greater funding, while privately thinking that it has no possible use. Then some crazy engineer will discover some such use ( usually one the physicists never thought of) and whoila it has a real world benifit to all of mankind. The more tools we have to solve problems, the easier the problems become. The tools have a trickle down effect. More mathematical tools lead to more physics tools which lead to more engineering tools which lead to more solutions to our everyday problems.

Re:Begone, ye troll! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438570)

oh I agree, and also that pure mathematics is worthwhile.

I'm just not sure it's what Nobel left his legacy for.

(but that doesn't really matter).

however, when I was in physics, as an experimentalist, I used to kind of like the fact that nobel prizes were won by people who invented neat ways of making detectors, or neat uses of physics - whilst the smart-ass fancy pants theorists got nothing ;-)

I brought up Einstein because he's the classic case - how could anyone have a prize for physics and not give it to him? so they bent the rules a little. Bending the rules a little for Einstein os ok, now they just have ditched the rules.

oh, and no-one had a mobile phone or a satellite when Einstein got his prize.

Re:Begone, ye troll! (4, Informative)

Dr. Evil (3501) | about 10 years ago | (#10438851)

Einstein never won a Nobel prize for Relativity, he won it for the photoelectric effect.

Re:Begone, ye troll! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438999)

"but relativity didn't get Einstein the nobel", as was said from the start.

Re:Begone, ye troll! (1)

Ayaress (662020) | about 10 years ago | (#10439411)

oh, and no-one had a mobile phone or a satellite when Einstein got his prize

We wouldn't (and couldn't), now, if it weren't for him, since all our orbits would be off slightly and they wouldn't stay up for very long. You need conceptual understanding first, and engineering applications after. If you were really a physicist, you'd know that. It would be a monumental waste of energy to absolutely no gain to launch a GPS system with only Newtonian level physics and only figure out that there's a relativisitic correction a year later when the entire network comes crashing down on Australia.

Re:Begone, ye troll! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10440427)

Don't be silly. While relativistic corrections are important for GPS clocks, they're quite unimportant when it comes to simple satellite orbits. Those orbits are routinely calculated neglecting relativity, and satellites don't come crashing down as a result. The relativistic correction is tiny, even for satellites that in orbit for decades.

Re:Begone, ye troll! (1)

pavon (30274) | about 10 years ago | (#10439014)

Actually, cell phones do not use satellites. They use towers, and a system which allows the communication to be passed off from one tower to another as the user changes between the area (cell) that the tower services. Real sattelite phones are large and cumbersome, and are only used in locations that have no other form of outside communication. But your point is valid, just substitute cellphone with GPS.

Re:Begone, ye troll! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10439790)

Actually, cell phones do use towers, which use satalite communication.

Re:Begone, ye troll! (1)

MrRage (677798) | about 10 years ago | (#10439108)

Group theory is, from my understanding, is used is certain areas of quantum mechanics.

Re:Begone, ye troll! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10439477)

Begone yourself!

1) learn to spell
2) since when do cellphones have (need) an atomic clock? Either just a cheap quartz or they sync with some network time signal.
3) We (=humans) built the atomic bomb long before really understanding the inner workings of atoms.
4) Cellphones have far too little power to directly reach satellites; Iridium cellphones are the only exception and practically no one uses those.

Troll elsewhere!

Re:Begone, ye troll! (1)

Xilman (191715) | about 10 years ago | (#10439603)

Relativity is not 'useless'

The original poster said was useless, not is useless. At the time Einstein created relativity, and afterwards when the Nobel committee was thinking about giving hin a prize, it was indeed almost useless, especially his general theory.

Paul

Re:Where will this take us ? (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about 10 years ago | (#10440592)

E = mc^2 is the main well-known derivative of the theory of relativity. Since then, this little equation has opened the doors to nuclear energy and all particle experiments that paved the way to some useless things like TEP (or I think PET in english for Positron-Electron Tomograph) heavily used in medicine to save many lifes on a daily basis.

For sure, the relativity was much more useless than the explanation for the photoelectric effect which granted the Nobel prize the Albert Einstein.

Re:Where will this take us ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438762)

Is it some 100% theoretical stuff or will it have technical repercussions in the short term ?

Well, it took us to QCD 30 years ago when the actual work was done...

better understand electromagnetism & radioacti (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 10 years ago | (#10439632)

Currently all of our engineering physics is based on electricity and magnetism which depends on electrons and whole protons & their anti-particles (PET scans), plus radioactivity which depends on the weak force. However the math of the strong force was worked out first due to the weird large hadron zoo particle physicists discovered in the 1950s and 1960s. Then this mathematics was extended to unify two of the other forces- weak with E&M.

Big engineering breakthroughs are anticipated if gravitation can be added to this mix. This predicts blackholes, wormholes, non-inertial acceleration and other possibilities. So far standard unification mathematics hasnt worked. And exotic math like strings hasnt made a testable prediction yet.

Re:Where will this take us ? (5, Informative)

Theory of Everything (696787) | about 10 years ago | (#10439881)

Is it some 100% theoretical stuff or will it have technical repercussions in the short term ?

I just attended Frank Wilczek's press conference. He was asked this very question. His answer, in short, was "No." In medium, "The are no real-world applications I can think of." In long, "Maybe, someday, it could benefit nuclear power production because we better understand the nucleus. And there are side-benefits: the WWW was developed at CERN, and young people are inspired to science-related careers."

Re:Where will this take us ? (1)

mirko (198274) | about 10 years ago | (#10439978)

I hope you get upmodded as it was the very kind of answer I was expecting :)

JOHN KERRY IS A FAGGOT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438156)

FUCK John Kerry. Go Georgie.

Re:JOHN KERRY IS A FAGGOT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438421)

One more reason to vote for Kerry. Offensive, offtopic, trolling assholes like Bush, and by virtue, hate real science.

If God had wanted us to understand the subatomic, He would have made it larger!

Re:Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438712)

I hear that eating geek liver increases ones life expectancy by an average of 1 year per pound.

Not for the geek, of course... for the consumer...

How can you select a couple people anymore..... (4, Insightful)

Sethseekstruth (599784) | about 10 years ago | (#10438157)

It just seems to me,with what little I know of research and physics, that these things are now such large scale enterprises that the awards should actually go to the institions and not the people.

Re:How can you select a couple people anymore..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438216)

Read their original papers. The stuff they discovered fed into ideas about what experiments could be done to verify the new theories they came up with.

Re:How can you select a couple people anymore..... (1)

DenDave (700621) | about 10 years ago | (#10438222)

I disagree entirely. There are too many things in fundamental research which are known exclusivly through the names of their makers.

http://web.mit.edu/8.712/www/lecture3/tsld008.ht m

above is but one of many

Re:How can you select a couple people anymore..... (5, Insightful)

trtmrt (638828) | about 10 years ago | (#10438238)

These guys were theorists. For what they came up with they didn't need an army of graduate students and engineers turning bolts on an accelerator. Fortunately there is still some room for people that just know a lot and are smart enough to do discover things by themselves (of course in the context of other people's work).

Re:How can you select a couple people anymore..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10439772)

I don't mean to denigrate the accomplishments of these individuals. They clearly have contributed to the field, and are deserving of this Nobel prize.

Being in research myself, though, I'm not sure that any domain of science--whether theory or experiment--is immune from the increasing trend toward discoveries being a joint phenomenon. I'm not sure that it ever wasn't a joint phenomenon, but it seems to be increasingly the case.

I am constantly amazed at how many times people are lauded as "the discoverers of X" or the "first person to develop the theory of Y", only to find out that someone else had delineated the same thing a year before, but in a slightly different form. You might say this slight difference matters, and I would agree, but often the small difference isn't enough to make up for the fact that fundamentals were incrementally realized through the process of many individuals having a discussion.

I just don't believe any more in attributing discoveries or theories to single individuals, for a variety of reasons. I've just seen too many instances of fraud, or lack of credit, or development by a group of people, or incremental progress, to believe that giant individual contributions are truly possible. I think there are certainly brilliant individuals who contribute a lot, more than others, but everyone is riding on the shoulders of someone else, and often to a very large degree.

Re:How can you select a couple people anymore..... (4, Insightful)

QuantumMajo (744804) | about 10 years ago | (#10438311)

Good point, but these guys really did pioneer a huge field ... quantum chromodynamics. Which is not interior design for quantum physicists by the way, but how quarks join together to create the particle zoo we have. As good as CERN or SLAC is, for example, without these three guys, the accelerators at those labs would have nothing to do. Many of my friends in high energy physics work at experiments specifically designed to probe the QCD effects that David Gross, David Politzer and Frank Wilczek theorized. So ... should we give the award to the numerous validators or to the first pioneers. I go for the first pioneers. But hey, I am a theorist.

Re:How can you select a couple people anymore..... (5, Insightful)

footNipple (541325) | about 10 years ago | (#10438667)

It just seems to me,with what little I know of research and physics, that these things are now such large scale enterprises that the awards should actually go to the institions and not the people.

Why does this comment aggrevate me so? Maybe it's because political correctness has run amok, Maybe it's because the importance of individual acheivement is being marginalized because we don't want others to feel "left out".

These prizes damned well should be awarded to individuals in recognition of their acheivement. Then, by proxy, their institutions will will receive their due recognition. Just my $.02

Re:How can you select a couple people anymore..... (1)

pr0t0plasm (183810) | about 10 years ago | (#10438759)

http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/whyte-m ain.html

One of the main points of this uber-famous book is that large organizations are intrinsically incapable of creative thought. They can equip and support brilliant, creative individuals, but the those individuals are not interchangeable parts; while the individuals could carry out their work with any random source of funding, the organization behind them could not reproduce their results with any random individuals.

Re:How can you select a couple people anymore..... (1)

KjetilK (186133) | about 10 years ago | (#10439361)

I was fortunate enough to meet Jack Steinberger [nobelprize.org] (physics 1998), and he said pretty much the same thing. They had pretty much administered a huge project, and the only leader of the project who had actually done a lot of science was long dead. The real work was done by armies of graduate students, but Jack took every opportunity to give them credit.

I have also met Doug Osheroff [nobelprize.org] and he actually got the nobel prize in 1996 for something he did as a graduate student. So, they exist too.

USA! USA! USA! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438167)

Suck on THAT, Frenchie!

Coralised link (-1, Redundant)

Gentlewhisper (759800) | about 10 years ago | (#10438172)

I need to catch up on my physics (5, Informative)

FLOOBYDUST (737287) | about 10 years ago | (#10438173)

It always amazes me how little I know when I look at what these folks do. http://web.mit.edu/physics/facultyandstaff/faculty /frank_wilczek.html/ [mit.edu] Interesting reading.

Re:I need to catch up on my physics (1)

Jugalator (259273) | about 10 years ago | (#10438273)

Gives 404 here.

Did they just take it down?

Don't see how else you'd got that informative score, unless we have lazy mods on crack again.

Re:I need to catch up on my physics (1)

Gentlewhisper (759800) | about 10 years ago | (#10438302)

That server's DNS was just put out this morning.. kinda toasty still =)

Re:I need to catch up on my physics (2, Informative)

huge (52607) | about 10 years ago | (#10438408)

Please remove the trailing slash.

Corrected URL (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438313)

http://web.mit.edu/physics/facultyandstaff/faculty /frank_wilczek.html

The parent's URL won't/didn't work cause it's got a slash after .html

Re:I need to catch up on my physics (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 10 years ago | (#10439211)

Wilczek wrote Longing for the Harmonies [amazon.com] along with hs wife Betsy Devine, "an engineering scientist and freelance writer [theosophy-nw.org] ". This is a highly accessible primer on quantum physics. They also co-authored a book called The Music of the Spheres which apparently tries to tie the universe in with music somehow, but I haven't read that one :)

Great... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438183)

More prizes for men in labcoats to pat each other on the back with and to secure more jillions of dollars. No practical application in this, mind you, just conjecture and theories. Just enough to get that next research grant or huge chunk of our tax money.

Meanwhile...millions of people slowly starve to death or get sick and die from other equally gruesome, prolonged deaths. Stop the world please, I want to get off.

Re:Great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438547)

Sure, no problem, we'll let you off as soon as you donate all your money to charity, then we'll let you go!

The Elegant Universe (5, Informative)

MonkeyDev (810880) | about 10 years ago | (#10438266)

If you want a good description of what Superstrings is all about, read Brian Greene's book "The Elegant Universe". It's about superstrings, hidden dimensions, and the quest for the ultimate theory. His book was also made into a PBS special a few months ago. Brian Greene is a master at making these complex issues understandable. And he's fun to watch too. I'm not sure how much pure research he does anymore, but he's probably one of the best things that's ever happened to science because he helps people like me understand what people like him do - and tells us why we should care!

Or watch the show (2, Informative)

Baron Eekman (713784) | about 10 years ago | (#10438351)

Although this is slightly offtopic, I recommend spending three hours behind your computer to watch Greene's NOVA program The Elegant Universe [pbs.org]

Re:The Elegant Universe (1)

Moby Cock (771358) | about 10 years ago | (#10438685)

Another option is Greene's newest book (2004) "The Fabic of the Cosmos". I'm only about a hundred pages into right now, so I'll let you know how it turns out. Having said that, I read "The Elegant Universe" and found it fantastic. The sequel, so far, is just as good or better.

Later taters,

Re:The Elegant Universe (2, Informative)

Too Much Noise (755847) | about 10 years ago | (#10438830)

No, he's actually a master at giving you the impression of understanding. No offense - with the scarce funding that's going into String Theory right now, it's a necessary skill.

Just because he paints a picture it doesn't imply one understands its meaning.

Re:The Elegant Universe (0)

jpflip (670957) | about 10 years ago | (#10438859)

"The Elegant Universe" is a very good book, and I recommend it. It's worth noting, however, that the Nobel Prize award just given has nothing to do with string theory at all.

Re:The Elegant Universe (1)

Tanktalus (794810) | about 10 years ago | (#10439152)

This is probably a good example of why commercial theoretical advances should be weighted down in considerations for Nobel prizes. Commercial success is already a goal - smart people can make money this way. I think that the encouragement of smart people to make money from Nobel prizes is a good thing - spurring advances in fields which may not see commercial return in the discoverer's lifetime.

Brian Greene is obviously making money on books and TV shows - perhaps not the million or so that a Nobel prize brings, but that's his choice. Probably still more than an average university professor, as the average Nobel prize winner (in the sciences) probably is.

After T'Hooft prize (2, Informative)

colores (766507) | about 10 years ago | (#10438278)

It is long waited prize in the the High Energy Physics comunity. It wasn't awarded before because some dispute about the original idea claimed by Gerard T'Hooft but never published [cerncourier.com] . Only after T'Hooft got the nobel prize in 1999 the path to the "QCD nobel prize" was really open.

Re:After T'Hooft prize (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438327)

His name is spelled 't Hooft, FYI.

Re:After 'T Hooft prize (2, Informative)

colores (766507) | about 10 years ago | (#10438399)

The full history is here: Gerardus 't Hooft - Autobiography [nobelprize.org] :

"At CERN, I became interested in the quark confinement problem. I could not understand why none of the expert theoreticians would embrace quantum field theories for quarks. When I asked them, why not just a pure Yang-Mills theory?, they said that field theories were inconsistent with what J.D. Bjorken had found out about scaling in the strong interactions. This puzzled me, because when I computed the scaling properties of Yang-Mills fields, they seemed to be just what one needs. I simply could not believe that no-one besides me knew how Yang-Mills theories scale. I mentioned my result verbally at a small conference at Marseille, in 1972. The only person who listened to what I said was Kurt Symanzik. He urged me to publish my result about scaling. 1f you don't, someone else will", he warned. I ignored his sensible advice. I had also made a remark about scaling in my 1971 paper on massive Yang-Mills fields. No-one had taken notice.

Veltman told me that my theory would be worthless if I could not explain why quarks cannot be isolated. He attached more importance to another project we had embarked upon: we had started a lengthy calculation concerning the renormalizability of quantum gravity models. Although complete renormalization would never be possible, it was still worth-while to study these theories at the one-loop level, and there were some important things to be learned. Our work would be continued by Stanley Deser and a fellow PhD student of Veltman's, Peter van Nieuwenhuizen, who discovered patterns in the renormalization counter terms that would lead to the discovery of supergravity theories.

But I also continued to think of gauge theories for the strong interaction. Quark confinement was indeed a problem, and I started to work on it. It was this question that led me to discover the magnetic monopole solutions in Higgs theories, the large N behaviour for theories with N colours (instead of 3, the physical number), and later the very important effects due to instantons. In the mean time, the scaling properties were rediscovered by H. David Politzer and by David Gross and Frank Wilczek in 1973, who now realized that this invalidated the age-old objections against simple, pure Yang-Mills theories for the strong interactions. The pure Yang-Mills theory with gauge group SU (3) was finally being accepted as the most likely explanation for the strong interactions, and it received the beautiful name "Quantum Chromodynamics" (QCD). "

Well... (2, Funny)

Chaotic Evil Cleric (622653) | about 10 years ago | (#10438284)

... I'm glad to see freedom is alive SOMEWHERE.

Re:Well... (1)

bdcrazy (817679) | about 10 years ago | (#10438703)

Asymptotic Freedom... Where you think you have freedom, til a fair time later, where you realize you have a lot less freedom than you had before? Though the conditions hadn't changed?

These guys need to get out more (1, Troll)

mdp1173 (815076) | about 10 years ago | (#10438336)

As much as I'd love to have a "Theory of Everything" I think the scientific community needs to do something about the names given to the different "flavors" of quarks before we move any further with this theory. For those of you who don't know, there are six flavors of quarks that we know of, their names are (and I swear I am not making this up) Up, Down, Charm, Strange, Top and Bottom. Charm and Strange? Do you ever think this was a joke among physicists that just got out of hand

Re:These guys need to get out more (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438456)

for some fun you should check quark dance [quarkdance.org] out.

Re:These guys need to get out more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438462)

Do you ever think this was a joke among physicists that just got out of hand

Err, that's precisely what it was, some lame Feymannian geek humor.

Re:These guys need to get out more (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438518)

some lame Feymannian geek humor.

So these guys would be classified as uber-geeks, so geeky that other geeks get to make fun of them. Now that's a theory of relativity for you

Re:These guys need to get out more (1)

kahei (466208) | about 10 years ago | (#10438493)


It's a Bob Calvert reference.

They already have (1)

Genady (27988) | about 10 years ago | (#10438630)

Top and Bottom were originally known as Truth and Beauty. Okay maybe not originally, but I've sure seen them presented that way. Hell I even saw Feynman refuse to name them in his QED Lecture Series [vega.org.uk] , and I'm betting it's because he couldn't bring himself to call them Truth and Beauty.

Re:These guys need to get out more (4, Insightful)

UnHolier than ever (803328) | about 10 years ago | (#10438901)

In fact, the original name (and one that is still used by many physicists) for the top and bottom quarks were Truth and Beauty. Now, of course, joykillers like you say that's not technical enough and that it can't be serious. As if Top and Bottom meant something more....If you want to do any anything technical, they should be called 1,2,3,4,5, and 6. Otherwise, give any name you want, they're just names.

Re:These guys need to get out more (2, Insightful)

mdp1173 (815076) | about 10 years ago | (#10439225)

Joykiller?

If anyone deserves to be a little whimsical from time to time, it's the guys who sit around and figure out why the Universe is the way it is. I wasn't saying that the names aren't technical or serious enough, there's enough complexity in the name Quantum Chromodynamics to make most undergrads head's spin, they don't need the names of the elementry particles to be alpha, beta, gamma, etc.

I just find it funny that in trying to discover a theory of everything, we use a phrase from Finnegan's Wake

Re:These guys need to get out more (1)

gowen (141411) | about 10 years ago | (#10439268)

the original name for the top and bottom quarks were Truth and Beauty.
Ah, yes. But the famous physicist John Keats demonstrated (in his ground breaking URN experiments in Greece), that these two were the same thing.

Re:These guys need to get out more (1)

Danny Rathjens (8471) | about 10 years ago | (#10440359)

This used to be my /. .sig for a couple years:

Truth decays into beauty, while beauty soon becomes merely charm. Charm ends up as strangeness, and even that doesn't last, but up and down are forever.

I think I just copied it from someone's .sig in nntp://sci.physics

Mandatory joke (-1, Offtopic)

rexguo (555504) | about 10 years ago | (#10438397)

I, for one, welcome our Colorful Quarky overlords...

Prize money?? (2, Interesting)

wetlettuce (765604) | about 10 years ago | (#10438488)

I hadn't realised that the Nobel Prize actually had a cash prize. Considering these guys were just doing there job, the payout is not bad. 10M swedish krona (763K GBP or 1.36M USD).

Re:Prize money?? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10438865)

I hadn't realised that the Nobel Prize actually had a cash prize. Considering these guys were just doing there job, the payout is not bad. 10M swedish krona (763K GBP or 1.36M USD).

Excuse me? "Considering these guys were just doing there job"? What does that have to do with anything?

1. Your grammar needs improvement: you should have written "their" and "jobs".

2. Anyone that wins the Nobel prize in physics is an awful lot smarter and has done an awful lot more work than "just doing his job".

3. You imply that a prizewinner would deserve a larger sum if he was an amateur working in his shed. Can you justify yourself?

That is the same as my girlfriend (2, Funny)

lcsjk (143581) | about 10 years ago | (#10438489)

"for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction" It's her way of saying you can approach freedom, but you will never quite get there. - not as long as I'm around.

A plug for Caltech and good teaching. (5, Interesting)

DrRobin (33359) | about 10 years ago | (#10438499)

Hey! One of these guys (Politzer) was my Phys 1 prof when I was a frosh at Caltech *cough* 27 years ago, and I actually _remember_ his explanation of asymptotic freedom to us (even though I am a only a biology guy)! I also remember Feynman's guest lecture on numerical methods for "solving" otherwise impossible problems in Quantum Mechanics (which he demonstrated with a hand calculator!). We (the undergrads) were for the most part cocky know-it-alls with no clue what a privilege it was to have these folks (and many others of their caliber) teaching us up close and personal. Now, I look back with amazement at being able to discuss/joke/plead with these folks like it was no big deal. Seriously, if there are any gung-ho Slashlings out there looking for an intense science education, Caltech is hard to beat. Of course, if hazy memory serves in this matter, more than half the class flunked that first Phys1 midterm, so this is not for the faint of heart...

Re:A plug for Caltech and good teaching. (4, Interesting)

4of12 (97621) | about 10 years ago | (#10439035)


Hey! One of these guys (Politzer) was my Phys 1 prof when I was a frosh at Caltech *cough* 27 years ago

I remember taking "Track B" with Politzer and Gomez back about that time, with class notes distributed on pink paper, brutal take-home quizzes on relativity, etc.

Politzer is a pretty good and patient prof, answering questions, explaining basic physics points, etc. although one time he did get annoyed at a cocky youngster (I don't think it was you - this was 26 years ago) slouched up in the front row.

Cocky youngster: "I don't see why you just don't use Stoke's Theorem."

Politzer: "I could just do this, too! (writes down what I later learned was manifestly covariant form for Maxwell's equations), but I'm teaching the class (erases equations) and this is how I want to do it."

The silenced cocky youngster sitting up front was spared the further embarrassment of seeing his classmates behind smiling at his long overdue comeuppance.

I agree - Caltech can't be beat for pure science education. It helps, too, that the freshman year is graded Pass/Fail and that they have an honor system, unlike most any other school, actually trusts you to take a closed-book, limited-time,take-homeexamination.

Re:A plug for Caltech and good teaching. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10439120)

We (the undergrads) were for the most part cocky know-it-alls with no clue what a privilege it was to have these folks

Still true today. Go to ratemyprofessors.com and see the drivel students write about Nobel prize winners and other such.

Re:A plug for Caltech and good teaching. (1)

Sigy (324374) | about 10 years ago | (#10439354)

I had Wilczek as a recitation instructor first semester freshman year at MIT. It was his first term at MIT too so it started off a bit odd - he tried teaching Einstein summation notation the first day, but after that he was great. He had over the summer solved every problem in the text book himself - so if you ever wanted to do some practice problems he would let you check the answers. It also meant that he never stumbled through the problems (but I am sure he would have been fine without the solutions). He was also very availble and willing to help - I spent several hours in his office getting one on one help studying for tests.

Of course at the time I thought he was just some goofy new guy, which was probably good or else I might have been more intimidated.

Re:A plug for Caltech and good teaching. (1)

drerwk (695572) | about 10 years ago | (#10439492)

Politzer was a terrific lecturer ('85). And one of the most approchable physicists at Tech. I remember my Ph12 TA (Randy Kamien) saying this work was likely to get him the Nobel!
Shout out to Kip and Charlie, and RIP to Gomez.

This is physics, right? (-1, Troll)

node 3 (115640) | about 10 years ago | (#10438528)

the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction

You mean George W. Bush won the Nobel Prize for his cock-up of a war in Iraq?

Politzer? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 10 years ago | (#10438793)

A Politzer prize!

ah yes, highbrow for a day (2, Funny)

Trepidity (597) | about 10 years ago | (#10439350)

This is where we pretend we care about the nobel prize in physics for a day.

Now back to Linux.
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