Friday, October 08, 2004

Words about 2004 Physics Nobel Prize

On October 5, 2004, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 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 three US professors [1]. The two of them, David Gross of the University of California at Santa Barbara and Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported their discovery in Physical Review Letters in 1973 [2]. The other recipient David Politzer of the California Institute of Technology published his papers in the same issue of the journal [3]; Wilczek and Politzer were only graduate students at the time [4].

The force of the strong interaction they studied is also called "color force." Thus the press release [1] of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences was humorously entitled "A 'colorful' discovery in the world of quarks." Quarks are the particles that constitute the proton and the neutron. The title of the Nobel Prize news [2] at PhysicsWeb site, maintained by the Institute of Physics, is also funny: "Strong-force theorists scoop Nobel prize." This sounds as if the theorists got the prize by their brute strength.

The Asahi Shimbun of Japan posted an English article "On a par with Einstein: Nambu ahead of his time for Nobel" at its website [5]. The article says, "While acknowledging 83-year-old Yoichiro Nambu's achievements, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences took the rare step of explaining why it did not award him the Nobel Prize in Physics," and cites the words of the academy, "As we shall see, Nambu's field theory had all the relevant details of the correct theory, but it was perhaps too early and the focus was on other problems at the time."

Surely, Nambu did a pioneering work related to the strong interaction. However, the report of the Asahi is written somewhat too sensationally. It makes the reader think that a mention about Nambu was especially made in the press release, but the fact is that the citation is taken from a detailed account of the discovery made by the three Nobel laureates [6]; the account includes the historical background of the study on the forces of nature made by Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, James Clark Maxwell, Hideki Yukawa and many others, though a lot of lines are devoted to Nambu.

It is regrettable for Nambu that he missed the Nobel Prize, but he is well known to have been a "prophet" of physics. I believe that this fame is a great award for him not inferior to the Nobel prize.
  1. "Press Release: The 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics," Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Oct. 5, 2004).
  2. "Ultraviolet Behavior of Non-Abelian Gauge Theories," D. J. Gross and F. Wilczek, Phys. Rev. Lett. Vol. 30, p. 1343 (1973).
  3. "Reliable Perturbative Results for Strong Interactions?," H. D. Politzer, ibid. p. 1346 (1973).
  4. "Strong-force theorists scoop Nobel prize," PhysicsWeb (Oct. 5, 2004).
  5. "On a par with Einstein," The Asahi Shimbun (Oct. 7, 2004).
  6. "Advanced Information: The 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics," Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Oct. 5, 2004).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here is what I have to say about the 2004 Nobel Prize for Physics: