The Origin of Mass and the Feebleness of Gravity

05/13/2004 4:15 PM 10-250Frank Wilczek, Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics, MITDescription: A stunning roster of awards all identify Frank Wilczek as one of the most profound and influential theoretical physicists alive today. This lecture proves the point, as Wilczek goes after one of the deepest questions in science: What is the origin of mass? Rewriting Einstein's famous equation as m=E / c2 dramatizes that energy is the source of mass; energetic but massless quarks and gluons, Wilczek argues, give rise to mass by finding quasi-stable equilibrium states, better know as protons and neutrons. Having reinterpreted the theory of quantum chromodynamics in a brisk half hour, Wilczek plunges into another brain-straining question: What makes gravity so feeble? Here the more tentative answer derives from the unimaginably tiny dimensions of the Planck scale. Fundamental forces make sense in that realm; gravity is weak only relative to the enormously larger scales we live on. Wilczek looks forward to testing some of these speculations via experimental results as early as 2009.About the Speaker(s): Frank Wilczek is known, among other things, for the discovery of asymptotic freedom, the development of quantum chromodynamics, the invention of axions, and the discovery and exploitation of new forms of quantum statistics (anyons). Wilczek was 21 years old and a graduate student at Princeton University when he and David Gross defined the properties of gluons, which hold atomic nuclei together. In October 2004 Wilczek shared the
Nobel Prize in Physics with Gross and H. David Politzer for this work.

Wilczek is a co-recipient of the 2005 King Faisal International Prize for Science. Among other awards, Wilczek has received the 2003 High Energy and Particle Physics Prize of the European Physical Society; the 2003 Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society; and the 2002 Lorentz Medal of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Wilczek has taught at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He contributes regularly to Physics Today and Nature.Host(s): School of Science, Department of PhysicsTape #: 18727


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