50 Years of Theoretical Physics

10 January 2023

Frank Wilczek: 50 Years of Theoretical Physics, edited by Antti Niemi, Kok Khoo Phua and Alfred Shapere, World Scientific

Frank Wilczek: 50 Years of Theoretical Physics

This carefully crafted edition highlights the scientific life of 2004 Nobel laureate Frank Anthony Wilczek, and the developments of theoretical physics related to his research. Frank Wilczek: 50 Years of Theoretical Physics is a collection of essays, original research papers and the reminiscences of Wilczek’s friends, students and followers. Wilczek is an exceptional physicist with an extraordinary mathematical talent. The 23 articles represent his vivid research journey from pure particle physics to cosmology, quantum black holes, gravitation, dark matter, applications of field theory to condensed matter physics, quantum mechanics, quantum computing and beyond.

In 1973 Wilczek discovered, together with his doctoral advisor David Gross, asymptotic freedom through which the field theory of the strong interaction, quantum chromodynamics (QCD), was firmly established. Independently that year, the same work was done by David Politzer, and all three shared the Nobel prize in 2004. Wilczek’s major work includes the solution of the strong-CP problem by predicting the hypothetical axion, a result of the spontaneously broken Peccei–Quinn symmetry. In 1982 he predicted the quasiparticle “anyon”, for which evidence was found in a 2D electronic system in 2020. This satisfies the need for a new variant for 2D systems as the properties of fermions and bosons are not transferable. 

Original research papers included in this book were written by pioneering scientists, such as Roman Jackiw and Edward Witten, who are either co-inventors or followers of Wilczek’s work. The articles cover recent developments of QCD, quantum-Hall liquids, gravitational waves, dark energy, superfluidity, the Standard Model, symmetry breaking, quantum time-crystals, quantum gravity and more. Many colour photographs, musical tributes to anyons, memories of quantum-connection workshops and his contribution to the Tsung-Dao Lee Institute in Shanghai complement the volume. The book ends with Wilczek’s publication list, which documents the most significant developments in theoretical particle physics during the past 50 years.

Wilczek is an exceptional physicist with an extraordinary mathematical talent

Though this book is not an easy read in places, and the connections between articles are not always clear, a patient and careful reader will be rewarded. The collection combines rigorous scientific discussions with an admixture of Wilczek’s life, wit, scientific thoughts and teaching – a precious and timely tribute to an exceptional physicist.

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