From Fields to Strings: Circumnavigating Theoretical Physics (Ian Kogan Memorial Collection)

2 November 2005

by Misha Shifman, Arkady Veinshtein and John Wheater (eds), World Scientific. Hardback ISBN 9812389555 (three volume set), £146 ($240).

On the morning of 6 June 2003, Ian Kogan’s heart stopped beating. It was the untimely departure of an outstanding physicist and a warm human being. Ian had an eclectic knowledge of theoretical physics, as one can easily appraise by perusing the list of his publications at the end of the third volume of this memorial collection.


The editors of these three volumes had an excellent idea: the best tribute that could be offered to Ian’s memory was a snapshot of theoretical physics as he left it. The response of the community was overwhelming. The submitted articles and reviews provide a thorough overview of the subjects of current interest in theoretical high-energy physics and all its neighbouring subjects, including mathematics, condensed-matter physics, astrophysics and cosmology. Other subjects of Ian’s interest, not related to physics, will have to be left to a separate collection.

The series starts with some personal recollections from Ian’s family and close friends. It then develops into a closely knit tapestry of subjects including, among many other things, quantum chromodynamics, general field theory, condensed-matter physics, the quantum-hole effect, the state of unification of the fundamental forces, extra dimensions, string theory, black holes, cosmology and plenty of “unorthodox physics” the way Ian liked.

These books provide a good place to become acquainted with many of the new ideas and methods used recently in theoretical physics. It is also a great document for future historians to understand, first hand, what physicists thought of their subject at the turn of the 21st century. There is much to learn and profit from this trilogy. Circumnavigating theoretical physics is indeed fun. It is unfortunate, however, that it had to be gathered in such sad circumstances.

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