God, Dark Matter, Fallen Cat: Conversation with 2022 Templeton Prize Winner Frank Wilczek

Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist and writer Frank Wilczek was announced as the recipient of the 2022 Templeton Prize, worth more than $ 1.3 million. According to a John Templeton Foundation press release, the annual award honors those who “use the power of science to explore the deepest questions of the universe and the places and purposes of mankind within it.” Previous winners include scientists such as Jane Goodall, Marceloglyzer, and Martin Rees, as well as religious or political leaders such as Mother Teresa and Desmond Tutu.

Wilchek’s Nobel Prize-winning work dates back to the early 1970s when he and his two colleagues devised a theory to explain the behavior of elementary particles called quarks. This is a feat that has proven important for establishing the Standard Model of particle physics. He also proposed the existence of several new particles and entities. Later, some such as “Time Crystal” and “Anyon” were discovered, and it seems that the development of better quantum computers is promising. Another Wilchek’s prediction, the “axion,” remains unconfirmed, but is a major candidate for dark matter, which is believed to make up the majority of the mass of the universe. He is also a prolific author, and his recent books combine his work as a physicist with his contemplation of the inherent beauty of reality, making our universe the most mathematically elegant. Claims to embody a unique structure.

Scientific American I talked to Wilczek about the interaction between science and spirituality, but a recent report states that the Standard Model is “brokenHis latest research on the search for virtual particles and the physics of falling cats.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

Congratulations on winning the Templeton Prize. What does this award represent to you?

My exploratory and science-based efforts to address questions that are often considered philosophical or religious resonate. I am very grateful and started thinking about what that meant.

Some kind of “spiritual” awakening for me has experienced how dialogue with nature is possible. Nature “talks back”, sometimes surprises you, and sometimes confirms what you have imagined. The vague hopes and concepts originally scribbled on paper become experimental proposals and sometimes successful explanations of the world.

You are no longer equating with a particular religious tradition, but in the 2021 book Basics: 10 Keys to RealityYou write: Learn what god is.. What did you mean by that?

The use of the word “God” in general culture is very loose. People can mean that it is completely different. For me, the thread of unity is a big idea. Think about how the world works, what it is, how it has become, and what it means for what we have to do.

I chose to study this partially to fill the void left when I realized that I could no longer accept the Catholic Church doctrine that had great significance to me as a teenager. .. Those doctrines include claims about how things that are particularly difficult to harmonize with science occur. But more importantly, the world is a larger, older, and more heterogeneous place than the tribalistic account of the Bible. There are some claims I find valuable about community ethics and attitudes, but they cannot be considered a declaration from “high.” Now that I have gathered enough wisdom and life experience, I think I can rethink all of this with real insight.

Please give us some concrete examples of how the wisdom you have now, but not in the early days of your scientific career, has affected your outlook.

“”ComplementaritySays that one image cannot be used to answer all meaningful questions. Even explanations that are incomprehensible or superficially contradictory may require very different explanations. This concept is absolutely necessary to understand quantum mechanics, for example, where the position and momentum of an electron cannot be predicted at the same time. I wasn’t impressed when I first encountered Bohr’s idea of ​​complementarity beyond quantum mechanics. I thought it was a bullshit on the border. However, I have found that it is much more common wisdom to promote tolerance and expansion of the mind. There is also a scientific attitude that openness and honesty enable people to prosper. Work can be frustrating and requires investment in learning fairly dry materials, which enhances the effectiveness of scientists in building a kind of loving relationship with what they are doing. And there is a lesson of beauty. When you allow yourself to use your imagination, the world rewards you with a wonderful gift.

You got a share of 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics For your work to understand the strong forces that bind subatomic particles in the nucleus. This work forms part of the backbone of the Standard Model. However, it is incomplete because it does not take into account gravity, dark matter, or the “dark energy” that seems to promote the accelerated expansion of the universe, as well as the Standard Model. As a result, many physicists, including yourself, believe that they will eventually find evidence that makes it possible to create a successor or extension to the Standard Model. In April, physicists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, announced that they had measured the mass of elementary particles called W bosons. Much heavier than expected According to the standard model.Is this an exciting sign? The reign of the Standard Model is nearing its end??

I’m skeptical. This is an impressive piece, but it is an attempt to accurately measure the mass of unstable particles that disintegrate very quickly in an exotic way. Also, according to quantum mechanics, the lifetime of W bosons is finite, so there is uncertainty in mass. The fact that the measurements are very complicated just raises the eyebrows. And even more serious, the results are inconsistent not only with theoretical calculations, but also with previous experimental measurements. It would be great if there should be this discrepancy with the mass of the W boson, but with a compelling theoretical hypothesis suggesting that there are no other discrepancies with all other tests. But that’s not the case. So for me, the jury hasn’t come out yet.

One of the recent successes Predict existence you”Time crystalBecause the particles act repeatedly like a pendulum, they do not consume energy. How did you come up with the idea?

Almost 10 years ago, I was preparing to teach a course on symmetry, so I thought: Consider a crystal that is periodic in time. Basically, a time crystal is a self-organized watch, not built, but spontaneously because you want to be a watch. Now, if you have a system that wants to move spontaneously, this sounds like a perpetual motion and scares physicists. But I’ve been confident several times throughout my career, so I’m not afraid to jump into the fear of an angel trampling. Originally I wanted to say, “The symmetry of time and translation naturally breaks down,” but my wife, Betsy Divine, said, “What the hell is that!” So they became time crystals.

Time crystals are now Created in the lab When With a quantum computer.. How can they help?

The most promising application is to make a new and better watch that is more portable and robust. Making an accurate watch is an important frontier in physics. [they are] For example, used in GPS. Since quantum computers require compatible clocks, it is also important to make clocks that are friendly to quantum mechanics.

You have the habit of coming up with catchy names. In the 1970s you Fictitious new particles Inspired by laundry detergent, it is called an “axion” because its presence eliminates annoying technical problems in the mechanics of particle physics. Since then, other physicists have suggested that if an axion is present, it has just the right properties to compose dark matter. How is the search for Axion going?

Axion is very exciting. It was totally unexpected to me at first that the theory was completely designed to explain dark matter, but the possibilities are steadily advancing. This is partly because the search for other major dark matter candidates, the so-called WIMPs (weakly interacting giant particles), has been emptied, resulting in a better-looking axion. And in the last few years, there have been some really promising ideas for detecting the dark matter axion.I am with Stockholm University researchers Alex Millar and Matt Lawson Use “metamaterial”A material designed to process light in a particular way, as a type of “antenna” for Axion. The ALPHA collaboration Has tested the prototype, but I’m optimistic and I’m confident that we’ll get definitive results within 5 to 10 years.

And “Axion” is now Oxford English Dictionary. When you are in OED, you know you have arrived.

He also created the name of another new particle, “anyon”. In the Standard Model, two types of elementary particles, “fermions” (including electrons) and “bosons” (photons, etc.), can be used. Anyon is the third category of “quasiparticles” that emerge through the collective behavior of groups of electrons in a particular quantum Predicted this in 1984But it’s just in the meantime Confirmed in recent years. What’s the latest news about Anyon?

I thought it would take several months to confirm that anyon could be taken, but it took nearly 40 years. In the meantime, there were literally thousands of papers on Anyon, but few experimental. People have also created the field of “topological quantum computing”, recognizing that anyon can serve as a way to store information, which can be generated on an industrial scale.There was now Prototype experiment Investment in China and full-scale investment by Microsoft.Microsoft last month publication What they have I made something like anyon Quantum computing applications need to be taken seriously. Therefore, all of these thousands of theoretical papers are ultimately in contact with real reality and even technology.

You obviously have the knack for coming up with a groundbreaking concept in physics. Are you brewing other innovative ideas?

Yes, but I don’t want to casually mention it here and jinx! But I would like to tell you something interesting that I am working on. There is an abstract mathematical idea called “gauge symmetry” that underpins particle physics. It’s a powerful tool, but it’s a mystery why it’s there. An interesting observation is that gauge symmetry is a squeeze and also occurs in the description of the mechanics of an object that can propel itself. Surprisingly, gauge symmetry emerges when you try out how a cat that has fallen from a tree can land on its paw, or how a diver avoids a belly flop.I realized this [physicist] Alfred Chapel Thirty years ago, recent work has generalized in several directions. It’s a lot of fun — and you may find it profound.

And finally, what is your long-term hope for the future of society?

Looking at Big History reinforces the optimism of the universe. God wants to say that it is “work in progress.” Every day there can be pandemics, wars and other retreats, but the overall trend is very positive. Things can get worse with nuclear wars and ecosystem catastrophes, but if you pay attention to them as seeds, you can build a truly bright future. For the rest of my life, I believe it is part of my mission to turn people into the future, worthy of our opportunity and not derailed. God, Dark Matter, Fallen Cat: Conversation with 2022 Templeton Prize Winner Frank Wilczek

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