Prof. Sheldon L. Glashow
1979 Nobel Laureate for Physics at Boston University, Boston/USA
Topic of Keynote Speech
How basic science drives technological progress
Abstract of Keynote Speech
Applied Research seeks to address societal or commercial goals by creating new and better technologies. Edison found it to be 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. On the other hand, Basic Research is undirected, curiosity-driven and motivated by the desire to understand nature. Doing it, can be lots of fun. During his keynote speech Professor Glashow will discuss how these disparate approaches to science reinforce one another.
A century ago Bohr, Heisenberg, Schroedinger and their friends set out to understand atoms, whose constituents, electrons and nuclei had just been discovered. By 1926 they had created the new science of quantum mechanics. Think of how happy they were when their theory explained the structure and properties of atoms and provided the basic rules governing chemistry. The founders of quantum mechanics did not commercialize their ideas. They made no non-compete agreements, no patents, no start-up companies and not one product. Yet, today a third of the American economy depends explicitly on quantum mechanics. Without it there could be no MRI or PEP scanners, no lasers, no LCDs, no smart-phones, no video games, no ipods and no ipads. Neither could there be video games, fantasy football, debit cards, laptops, GPS systems, solar panels and so on and on.
The converse is also true. New technologies foster advances in basic science. For example, the discoveries of X-Rays, Radioactivity and the Electron toward the end of the 19th century depended crucially on the technologies developed by three engineer-scientists: Geissler’s gas discharge tubes, Ruhmkor’s spark coils and Daguerre’s photography. More recently, modern research in many sciences – from studies of twin primes to those of Higgs bosons, from genetic medicine to geneology, from cosmology to climatology – depend on the development and deployment of ever more powerful computers.
Prof. Sheldon Lee Glashow was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physics together with Prof. Abdus Salam and Prof. Steven Weinberg for their complementary efforts in formulating the electroweak theory which explains the unity of electromagnetism and the weak force. Throughout his career Professor Glashow has done seminal research in the fields of elementary particle physics and cosmology, having worked at the Universities of Houston and Boston since 1982 and before at the University of California at Berkeley since 1961. His work led to the prediction of neutral currents, charmed particles and intermediate vector bosons, and he played a key role in unifying the weak and electromagnetic forces and in creating today’s successful standard model of particle physics. More recently Professor Glashow has devised novel tests of Einstein’s special theory of relativity, proposed an intriguing form of the neutrino mass matrix and has excluded the possibility of a universe that is matter-antimatter symmetric.
Professor Sheldon Lee Glashow shared the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physics with Prof. Steven Weinberg and Prof. Abdus Salam for unifying the theories of weak and electromagnetic forces. The new “electroweak” theory, which explains the unity of electromagnetism and the weak force, underlies all of particle physics and provides a framework for understanding how the early universe evolved and how the chemical elements were created.
In 1964, while working with Prof. James Bjorken, Professor Glashow was the first to predict the existence of a fourth quark, which he originally named the “charmed quark”. Through this he demonstrated that the quark pairs would largely cancel out flavor changing neutral currents as well as eliminating a technical disaster for any quantum field theory with unequal numbers of quarks and leptons – an irregularity. Along with Prof. Howard Georgi in 1973 Professor Glashow devised the first grand unified theory, and this work has become the groundwork for all future unifying work.
Professor Glashow’s research has been instrumental in our understanding of how our universe came into being. In the years since winning the Nobel Prize he has helped to further develop the Grand Unified Theory of all particles and all forces. Its predictions led to the construction of massive underground detectors, the refinement of the unification models, the first observation of neutrinos from a supernova and the recent discovery that neutrinos have mass. This has fueled an ongoing search for rare events and exotic effects that may shed further light on the evolution of the early universe.
Professor Glashow has done seminal research in the fields of elementary particle physics and cosmology, and his work led to the prediction of neutral currents, charmed particles and intermediate vector bosons, all of which were subsequently discovered by experiments. He played a key role in unifying the weak and electromagnetic forces and in creating today’s successful “standard model of particle physics”. He is the author of some 300 research papers and of books such as Interactions (with Ben Bova, 1988), The Charm of Physics (1990) and From Alchemy to Quarks (1993).
Born in Manhattan, Sheldon Glashow knew from an early age that he would become a scientist. When he was 10 years old, he became interested in the laws of falling bodies, and at the age of 15 he helped his father equip a basement chemistry lab. Educated at Cornell University (A.B. 1954) and having completed his graduate studies at Harvard University (M.A. 1955, PhD 1959 under Nobel Laureate physicist Prof. Julian Schwinger), Sheldon Glashow won a National Science Foundation (NSF) postdoctoral fellowship and planned to work at the Lebedev Institute in Moscow with the physicist Prof. Igor Tamm, who enthusiastically supported his proposal. However, he spent the tenure of his fellowship at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, with some time at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), waiting for a Russian visa that never came. Perhaps all was for the best, because in these years he discovered the SU(2) x U(1) structure of the electroweak theory.
Sheldon Glashow became an assistant professor at Stanford University and then spent several years on the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley. In 1966 he returned to Harvard University as the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics. He remained at Harvard, except for stays at CERN, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Marseilles.
In 2002 Professor Glashow became the Arthur Metcalf Professor of Mathematics and the Sciences at Boston University while remaining the Higgins Professor of Physics (Emeritus) at Harvard University. He has served the Science Policy Committee of CERN since 1979, and in 2005 he became a Member of the Advisory Board of the International Peace Foundation. He was awarded the European Physical Society Prize for Particle Physics in 2011.