Sunday, August 12, 2012

The arrival of the Milner prices of fundamental physic

This month came by surprise a new international prize for physicists. It is oriented for works of relevance in theoretic development, even if the theories worked hasn't be tested and they can't probably be for a large amount of time. It is created by a Russian physic doctorate Yuri Milner and it is named Fundamental Physics Prize.
It has been widespread announced in the English blogosphere. I also wrote a brief note about it in my Spanish blog and made publicity of it in some Spanish blogs about science. Since them I have not seen too many news about it. I neither have seen any signal of it in the TVs or newspapers of my country. That is too bad for a prize that in it's monetary recompense gives 3 million € to any winner and it has awarded, for it's first edition to NINE people,. That is, it has given a total amount of 27 million € to the physicist community. I think that only because of it it deserves a lot more of attention ;). Another point about the prize is the relevance of the winners. In the most theoretical size we have to Ed Witten, Juan Maldacena, Nima Arkani-Hamed, Nathan Seiberg and Asoke Sen. All of them are big names of string theory related research. Of course the most famous of them is Ed Witten who already had got in the ninties the field medal (the most famous and prestigious award in mathematics) for it's work in topological field theories. Probably next to him in fame is Maldacena and its broadly known correspondence. Nima is more on the phenomenological size with its work in possibly mesoscopic extra dimensions that have generated a lot of work for a few years (including the variant of them by Lissa Randal) and also had raised the possibility of creation of black holes in the LHC. Now this possibilities have something been gone with the null results of all the experimental searches but still there is a minor possibility of discovery when the LHC gets a bump in energy (or maybe when more data is available). In the last times Nima has been working in twistor techniques for amplitudes in certain kinds of maximal supersymmetric theories that, probably, can in the future be extended to more phenomenologically viable theories. Nathan Seiberg is well known by his works together wit Ed Witten. In particular he is well known for its cohomoloy. A teacher of a seminar in algebraic geometry told us that when his theory was announced during a course all the assistants started to use the new calculational tool to reobtian in a easiest and fastest way the cohomological groups of very well known spaces. Asoke Sen, on the other side, has made work in many areasm, but it is best known by it's work in tachyon condensation. I will not say any more and pont the interested reader to a post on it's work by Lubos motl: Asoke sen and tachyon condensation Well, there are winners in other subjects. For example in cosmology we have two very well known people, Andre Linde and Alan Guth. Guth is the father of inflationary theory and Linde the cofather who got the original idea and mutated it into the "eternal inflation" paradigm. Undoubtedly (at least for me) their work is the main contribution to the field of cosmology in the last decades and only the lack of a firm experimental verification of the idea has prevented them fro winning a nobel. There are also two other winner who works in quantum computing -Alexei Kitaev. and in mathematics (related to physic) Maxim Kontsevich whose work inspired Ashoke sen. I don't know about them so I will not say anything else. Overall the prize and the winners (at least the ones I know) are all really top people. Still the prize didn't get as mediatic as it should and I wonder why. Well, for sure there was a way in which the prize could have deserved a lot more attention from the mass media: awarding to Stephen Hawking who is probably the most famous physic alive. So the question is should Hawking have deserved the prize? Well, in my opinion he would. In fact I think that he was the ideal candidate to win it. It's work in emission of radiation for black holes has inspired lot, lot of work (the last line of research the "firewall" that according to some people is in the inner of old black holes). In fact it's work is considered the most firm candidate as the first quantum effect related to gravity. It the radiation would have been detected in an actual black hole (and not only in condensed matter analogues) hawking would have wined for sure the nobel prize. Hawking now is old (and as everybody knows, it¡s health is weak, because of it's illness), and it is probable that he would die without seeing it's idea tested experimentally. Sooo...YES! he would have wined the Milner prize as a recognition to it's work. Ok, there will be more editions of the prize, but unfortunately (let's hope not) the next year could be too late. Definitively not awarding Hawking looks to me both not of justice and a lost opportunity to make the prized best known. Well, even without Hawking the prize is great, and the awarded people are famous and important so let´s hope it will get the deserved media attention. Ok, I have talk about the winners of this year, who will win the next edition?. The decision is among the winners of this year (that is the dynamic of the prize). Maybe in the next 12 months it is made some really bright works that totally rocks, but among the already well known people, who should be potential winners? I see two major candidates (who, of course, could have already have win this year, but ok, it was necessary to choose someone and not everybody could win). I am talking of Cumrum Vafa and Joseph Polchinsky. I invite the readers to propose some more names. After all this kind of games are a part of the way to make a prize famous. Ok, it is too early, but still it could be interesting, when the date of the next edition arrives it could be made another round to see how the candidatures have evolved ;).


Mitchell said...

It seems it was part of Milner's plan that the winners in the first year become the judges in future years. So perhaps Hawking didn't fit this plan. Or maybe Milner thought Hawking's fame was already enough reward - these 9 don't have the same public recognition that Hawking already has.

Javier said...

Certainly Hawkings is famous enough to not need a prize to become even most famous.

But maybe he would like some official recognition of some kind. Further, some people (probably a lot) like me, would have liked it.

Another point is that all the other winners in the more theoretical side are stringers. While I admit that string theory looks like the only firm candidate nowadays the Hawkings work is prior to string theory, and still very important.

And for the next year, well, I guess that the people prized now will have a year with a lot of uninterested admires among their colleagues ;).

Anonymous said...

This is a nice and positive article about the Milner's Fundamental Physics Price, I like it :-)

But maybe one should probably better not whish a broader coverage of this happy news in the mass media than it already obtained. The reporting about it in popular science magazines such as Nature and Scientific American for example sadly contained wrong, misleading, and dishonest comments of non experts which caused a lot of unneeded controversy and trolling about Mr. Milner's very nice deed :-/

Stephen Hawking can still get the FFP in the years to come :-)


Anonymous said...

I hope Hawking was offered a prize, but he declined to accept it.