Physics Nobel Prize Winner MIT Professor Frank Wilczek on String Theory, Gravitation, Newton & the Big Bang
Wilczek is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Future of Life Institute, an organization that works to mitigate existential risks facing humanity, particularly existential risk from advanced artificial intelligence.
In 2014, Wilczek penned a letter, along with Stephen Hawking and two other scholars, warning that “Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks.”
Wilczek is also a supporter of the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an organization which advocates for democratic reform in the United Nations, and the creation of a more accountable international political system.
Wilczek became a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000. He was awarded the Lorentz Medal in 2002. Wilczek won the Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society in 2003. In the same year he was awarded the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics Commemorative Medal from Charles University in Prague. He was the co-recipient of the 2003 High Energy and Particle Physics Prize of the European Physical Society. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2004 was awarded jointly to David J. Gross, H. David Politzer and Frank Wilczek “for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction.” Wilczek was also the co-recipient of the 2005 King Faisal International Prize for Science. In that same year, he received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement. On January 25, 2013, Wilczek received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Science and Technology at Uppsala University, Sweden.
Wilczek holds the Herman Feshbach Professorship of Physics at MIT Center for Theoretical Physics. He has also worked at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara and was also a visiting professor at NORDITA.
Wilczek’s 2004 Nobel Prize was for asymptotic freedom, but he has helped reveal and develop axions, anyons, asymptotic freedom, the color superconducting phases of quark matter, and other aspects of quantum field theory. He has worked on condensed matter physics, astrophysics, and particle physics.
In 1973, while a graduate student working with David Gross at Princeton University, Wilczek (together with Gross) discovered asymptotic freedom, which holds that the closer quarks are to each other, the less the strong interaction (or color charge) between them; when quarks are in extreme proximity, the nuclear force between them is so weak that they behave almost as free particles. The theory, which was independently discovered by H. David Politzer, was important for the development of quantum chromodynamics. According to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences when awarding Wilczek its Lorentz Medal in 2002,
This [asymptotic freedom] is a phenomenon whereby the building blocks which make up the nucleus of an atom – ‘quarks’ – behave as free particles when they are close together, but become more strongly attracted to each other as the distance between them increases. This theory forms the key to the interpretation of almost all experimental studies involving modern particle accelerators.
Main article: Axion
In 1977, Roberto Peccei and Helen Quinn postulated a solution to the strong CP problem, the Peccei–Quinn mechanism. This is accomplished by adding a new global symmetry (called a Peccei–Quinn symmetry.) When that symmetry is spontaneously broken, a new particle results, as shown independently by Wilczek and by Steven Weinberg. Wilczek named this new hypothetical particle the “axion” after a brand of laundry detergent, while Weinberg called it “Higglet.” Weinberg later agreed to adopt Wilczek’s name for the particle.
Although most experimental searches for dark matter candidates have targeted WIMPs, there have also been many attempts to detect axions. In June, 2020, an international team of physicists working in Italy detected a signal that could be axions.
Main article: Anyon
In physics, an anyon is a type of quasiparticle that occurs only in two-dimensional systems, with properties much less restricted than fermions and bosons. In particular, anyons can have properties intermediate between fermions and bosons, including fractional electric charge. This anything-goes behavior inspired Wilczek in 1982 to name them “anyons.”
In 1977, a group of theoretical physicists working at the University of Oslo, led by Jon Leinaas and Jan Myrheim, calculated that the traditional division between fermions and bosons would not apply to theoretical particles existing in two dimensions. When Daniel Tsui and Horst Störmer discovered the fractional quantum Hall effect in 1982, Bertrand Halperin (1984) expanded the math Wilczek proposed in 1982 for fractional statistics in two dimensions to help explain it.
Main article: Time crystal
In 2012 he proposed the idea of a time crystal. In 2018, several research teams reported the existence of time crystals. In 2018 he and Qing-Dong Jiang calculated that the so-called “quantum atmosphere” of materials should theoretically be capable of being probed using existing technology such as diamond probes with nitrogen-vacancy centers.
- “Pure” particle physics: connections between theoretical ideas and observable phenomena;
- behavior of matter: phase structure of quark matter at ultra-high temperature and density; color superconductivity;
- application of particle physics to cosmology;
- application of field theory techniques to condensed matter physics;
- quantum theory of black holes.
For lay readers
- 2021 Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality, Penguin press (272 p.) ISBN 978-0735223790
- 2015 A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design,(448pp), Allen Lane, ISBN 9781846147012
- 2014 (with Stephen Hawking, Max Tegmark and Stuart Russell). “Transcending Complacency on Superintelligent Machines“. Huffington Post.
- 2008. The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-00321-1.
- 2007. La musica del vuoto. Roma: Di Renzo Editore.
- 2006. Fantastic Realities: 49 Mind Journeys And a Trip to Stockholm. World Scientific. ISBN 978-981-256-655-3.
- 2002, “On the world’s numerical recipe (an ode to physics),” Daedalus 131(1): 142–47.
- 1989 (with Betsy Devine). Longing for the Harmonies: Themes and Variations from Modern Physics. W W Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-30596-8.
- 1988. Geometric Phases in Physics.
- 1990. Fractional Statistics and Anyon Superconductivity.
- Wilczek, F.; Gross, D. J. (1973). “Asymptotically Free Gauge Theories. I”. Physical Review D. 8 (10): 3633. Bibcode:1973PhRvD…8.3633G. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.8.3633. OSTI 4312175.
- Wilczek, F.; Gross, D. J. (1973). “Ultraviolet Behavior of non-Abelian Gauge Theories”. Physical Review Letters. 30 (26): 1343. Bibcode:1973PhRvL..30.1343G. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.30.1343.
- Wilczek, F.; Zee, A.; Treiman, S. B. (1974). “Scaling Deviations for Neutrino Reactions in Aysmptotically Free Field Theories” (PDF). Joseph Henry Laboratories. doi:10.2172/4256152. OSTI 4256152.
- Wilczek, F.; Zee, A.; Kingsley, R. L.; Treiman, S. B. (1975). “Weak Interaction Models with New Quarks and Right-handed Currents”. Physical Review D. 12 (9): 2768–2780. Bibcode:1975PhRvD..12.2768W. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.12.2768. OSTI 4082874.
- Wilczek, F. (1978). “Problem of Strong P and T Invariance in the Presence of Instantons”. Physical Review Letters. 40 (5): 279–282. Bibcode:1978PhRvL..40..279W. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.40.279.
- Wilczek, F. (1982). “Quantum Mechanics of Fractional Spin Particles”. Physical Review Letters. 49 (14): 957. Bibcode:1982PhRvL..49..957W. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.49.957. S2CID 120702932.
- Wilczek, F.; Turner, M. S. (1990). “Inflationary Axion Cosmology”. Physical Review Letters. 66 (1): 5–8. Bibcode:1991PhRvL..66….5T. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.66.5. OSTI 6099352. PMID 10043128.
- Wilczek, F.; Alford, M. G.; Rajagopal, K. (1998). “QCD at finite baryon density: Nucleon droplets and color superconductivity”. Physics Letters B. 422 (1–4): 247–256. arXiv:hep-ph/9711395. Bibcode:1998PhLB..422..247A. doi:10.1016/S0370-2693(98)00051-3. S2CID 2831570.
- Wilczek, F. (1998). “Riemann-Einstein structure from volume and gauge symmetry”. Physical Review Letters. 80 (22): 4851–4854. arXiv:hep-th/9801184. Bibcode:1998PhRvL..80.4851W. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.80.4851. S2CID 10272760.
- Wilczek, F.; Fradkin, E. H.; Nayak, C.; Tsvelik, A. (1998). “A Chern-Simons effective field theory for the Pfaffian quantum Hall state”. Nuclear Physics B. 516 (3): 704–718. arXiv:cond-mat/9711087. Bibcode:1998NuPhB.516..704F. doi:10.1016/S0550-3213(98)00111-4. S2CID 119036166.
- Wilczek, F.; Alford, M. G.; Rajagopal, K. (1999). “Color-flavor locking and chiral symmetry breaking in high density QCD”. Nuclear Physics B. 537 (1): 443–458. arXiv:hep-ph/9804403. Bibcode:1999NuPhB.537..443A. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.345.6006. doi:10.1016/S0550-3213(98)00668-3. S2CID 6781304.
- Wilczek, F. (1999). “Quantum field theory”. Reviews of Modern Physics. 71 (2): S85–S95. arXiv:hep-th/9803075. Bibcode:1999RvMPS..71…85W. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.71.S85. S2CID 279980.
- Wilczek, F.; Schafer, T. (1999). “Continuity of quark and hadron matter”. Physical Review Letters. 82 (20): 3956–3959. arXiv:hep-ph/9811473. Bibcode:1999PhRvL..82.3956S. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.82.3956. S2CID 16217372.
- Wilczek, F.; Babu, K.S.; Pati, J.C. (2000). “Fermion masses, neutrino oscillations, and proton decay in the light of SuperKamiokande”. Nuclear Physics B. 566 (1–2): 33–91. arXiv:hep-ph/9812538. Bibcode:1998hep.ph…12538B. doi:10.1016/S0550-3213(99)00589-1. S2CID 14736670 From WIKI
Physics Nobel Prize Winner