ar X iv : h ep - p h / 04 01 03 5 v 1 7 J an 2 00 4 From Concept to Reality to Vision ∗


I take a brief look at three frontiers of high-energy physics, illustrating how important parts of our current thinking evolved from earlier explorations at preceding frontiers. Elucidating the basic nature of the strong interaction was a vast enterprise to which many gifted scientists devoted their best efforts and made wonderful contributions. While the subject is far from finished – the dramatic developments I’ll be discussing this afternoon [1] bring that home! – I think it is clear that the foundations are secure. QCD, as the basic theory, is here to stay. It is a marvelous theory, which cleanly embodies mathematical ideas of great depth and beauty. Above all QCD demonstrates, in a unique way, the power of relativistic quantum field theory to produce an amazing wealth of phenomena (asymptotic freedom, jets, confinement, mass generation, resonance spectroscopy, chiral symmetry breaking, anomaly dynamics, ...) in harmony with the observed facts of Nature. David Gross has just described for you the whirlwind of events and discoveries that led us to propose this theory for the strong interaction, reinforced with concrete reasons to believe in it (and no other!), and packaged with proposals for critical, quantitative experimental tests. I don’t want to repeat the details, but only want to endorse what David has already emphasized, that he and I were fortunate indeed to be in a position to leverage a vast accumulation of knowledge and technique built up by a big international community of scientists over decades of dedicated work, much of it frustrating and not properly recognized. As members of this community we should all be proud of our joint achievement. I’ll freely admit that back in 1973 I didn’t begin to anticipate the progress in experiment and theory that would bring our subject to the level where it is today. I had some hope that deep inelastic scattering experiments and perhaps measurements of electron-positron annihilation (the total cross section) would be made more precise, maybe precise enough that with careful analysis one would see hints of scaling deviations in the form we predicted, and thereby gradually build up a case for the correctness of QCD. Of course, reality has far outrun these expectations. One of the great joys of my life in physics has been to participate in the process – something like parenthood – whereby unshaped concepts mature in surprising ways into concrete realities, which then engender new visions. I’d like briefly to share with you three examples, in each case mixing a little nostalgia with pointers to the future. Speech in acceptance of European Physical Society prize for high energy physics, Aachen, August 2003.

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Wilczek2008arXI, title={ar X iv : h ep - p h / 04 01 03 5 v 1 7 J an 2 00 4 From Concept to Reality to Vision ∗}, author={Frank Wilczek}, year={2008} }