2004 Nobel Colloquium
published: May 21, 2010, recorded: October 2004, views: 3248
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There’s no magic formula for winning the Nobel Prize. But you can’t find a more classic model than the career of Frank Wilczek, Feshbach Professor of Physics and 2004 Nobel laureate.
Wilczek was a 21 year-old graduate student at Princeton when he made his breakthrough discovery. High energy physics was baffled by the “strong force,” which binds the quarks that make up protons and neutrons. Wilczek (with two colleagues who share the prize) was brave enough to entertain a really startling idea: the strong force works in just the opposite way from the more familiar forces in nature – the closer together the particles are, the weaker the force becomes, an idea Wilczek captured in the phrase "asymptotic freedom.” This profound insight into the fundamental forces of nature has astonishing explanatory power, not only for physics but also for cosmology. We now understand the early universe – the first few minutes of existence – better than we understand the universe around us today.
Far from resting on his Nobel laurels, Wilczek is still working at the most puzzling frontiers of his science – for example, struggling to explain The Origin of Mass and the Feebleness of Gravity, the subject of his previous Physics Colloquium.
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