news highlights

Big Win for Physics

ICTP Dirac Medallists, Stephen Hawking among this year's Fundamental Physics Prize recipients

11/12/2012 - Trieste, Italy

Stephen Hawking and a group comprising the leaders of CERN's Large Hadron Collider who led the efforts to discover a Higgs-like particle have received special prizes of US$3,000,000 each from the Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation.

In addition, a group of scientists--most of who are ICTP Dirac Medallists--have been nominated for the Foundation's prestigious Fundamental Physics Prize, to be announced in March 2013.

The Foundation has announced these and other prizes to recognize transformative advances in the field of fundamental physics.

The prizes given to Hawking and CERN are special "ad hoc" prizes that can be given by the Foundation at any time, and are in addition to the annual Fundamental Physics Prize, also worth US$3,000,000 each, which was awarded in 2012 to nine physicists, most of who have an affiliation with ICTP. For the 2013 prize, which will be announced in March 2013, the Foundation has nominated the following:

  • Charles Kane (University of Pennsylvania), Laurens Molenkamp (University of Wuerzburg, Germany) and Shoucheng Zhang (Stanford University) for the theoretical prediction and experimental discovery of topological insulators.
  • Alexander Polyakov (Princeton University) for his many discoveries in field theory and string theory including the conformal bootstrap, magnetic monopoles, instantons, confinement/de-confinement, the quantization of strings in non-critical dimensions, gauge/string duality and many others. His ideas have dominated the scene in these fields during the past decades.
  • Joseph Polchinski (Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics) for his contributions in many areas of quantum field theory and string theory. His discovery of D-branes has given new insights into the nature of string theory and quantum gravity, with consequences including the AdS/CFT correspondence.

Most of the nominees are ICTP Dirac Medallists. Kane and Zhang shared the 2012 Medal with F. Duncan M. Haldane for their many important contributions to condensed matter physics, including their independent work preparing and opening the field of two and three dimensional topological insulators. Polchinski won in 2008, sharing the prize with Juan Maldacena and Cumrun Vafa for their fundamental contributions to superstring theory. Polyakov received the Medal in 1986 for being among the first to emphasize the importance of scale invariance in quantum field theory, particularly in connection with the theory of critical phenomena. Molenkamp recently lectured at an ICTP workshop on Energy Transport in Low-Dimensional Systems.

In addition, the Foundation announced the laureates of its 2013 New Horizons in Physics Prize for promising young researchers; the winners are:

  • Niklas Beisert (E.T.H. Zurich) for the development of powerful exact methods to describe a quantum gauge theory and its associated string theory.
  • Davide Gaiotto (Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Canada) for far-reaching new insights about duality, gauge theory, and geometry, and especially for his work linking theories in different dimensions in most unexpected ways.
  • Zohar Komargodski (Weizmann Institute, Israel) for his work on the dynamics of four-dimensional field theories. In particular, his proof (with Schwimmer) of the "a-theorem" has solved a long-standing problem, leading to deep new insights.