Friday, December 13, 2013

Green, Schwarz win the 2014 Milner Prize

As John Preskill correctly predicted, Michael Boris Green and John Henry Schwarz won the 2014 Fundamental Physics Prize "for opening new perspectives on quantum gravity and the unification of forces." See The Guardian.

Congratulations to the well-deserved $3 million to each! The ceremony will take place on January 27th and will be aired since 9 pm by the Science Channel. To appease the San Francisco liberals, Green and Schwarz will be presented as psychics. ;-)

The names Green and Schwarz appear together in 94 TRF blog entries and even though they were the candidates I know least in person, I was suckled upon their papers, kind of.

Sometime in 1986 or so, I read a popular article in VTM (Science and Tech for Youth), my favorite magazine, called "Six Extra Dimensions or a Theory of Everything" which introduced the readers to the First Superstring Revolution and rightfully presented Green and Schwarz as the heroes. Two pictures of each of them was a part of the article – I would still recognize the pictures.

In Fall 1992, I came to Prague's Charles University and could finally access all the articles in the library. That included Green and Schwarz's "Superstring Field Theory" – a no-nonsense ghost-free light-cone gauge description of the full superstring theory that became my mother tongue, sort of. This early exposure to the light cone gauge made it much easier to me to embrace Matrix theory 5 years later.

No doubt, there are billions of other kids on this planet who were similarly suckled upon their papers (OK, at least billions of nanokids). But only one of these kids could have started the Wikipedia articles on Green and Schwarz on May 10th, 2004. ;-)

To be sure, John Schwarz is one of the early heroes of the 1970s who would already develop the theory in the Biblical times when only a dozen of people appreciated its importance. Along with André Neveu, he would develop the "antiperiodic" (Neveu-Schwarz) sector of the \(D=10\) superstring. In 1974, he and Joel Scherk determined that string theory was nothing less than a consistent theory of quantum gravity. That was an important observation, one that clarified the main reason why string theory is so important.

Michael Green was a major pre-revolutionary addition to string theory in the late 1970s. They would steadily work on their superstring research in the early 1980s but the revolution erupted with the finding of a particular technical result in 1984, the Green-Schwarz anomaly cancellation.

They proved that type I superstring theory – one with unorientable and both open and closed superstrings – exactly cancels the anomalies. That was very surprising because due to the "generic" vague arguments, it was believed that the gauge, gravitational, and/or mixed anomalies in the local symmetries have to be nonzero which would mean that the theory is inconsistent.

After all, the theory was left-right-asymmetric and there were about five "random" coefficients each of which would have to be exactly zero for the theory to be consistent. They had no obvious reason to vanish so it was believed that they had to be nonzero – at least some of them (one could only adjust a single number, the number of colors, so that's not enough to make five random numbers vanish). However, they proved that when you calculate the coefficients properly, all of them vanish for the \(SO(32)\) gauge group.

That was a sufficiently nontrivial result to be sure that "something powerful must be going on" but it was also sufficiently comprehensible for many other people to follow. The resulting theory, \(SO(32)\) type I string theory, already had "all the rough kinds of matter and fields" (when it comes to the spin and chirality) that are needed for a theory of everything. Truly realistic models emerged within the \(E_8\times E_8\) heterotic string theory emerged a year later – we know that heterotic string theories are related to one another by a T-duality and the \(SO(32)\) heterotic string theory is equivalent to type I string theory via S-duality. The anomaly cancellation conditions remarkably and nontrivially work for both of these rank-16, dimension-496 Lie groups.

Quite suddenly, people had a consistent theory of quantum gravity (at least to all loops) that also had all the other "classes" of particle species (associated with gauge fields and generations of fermions) needed to describe all the known phenomena in Nature. And it had some demonstrable underlying power to cancel all illnesses that seem to go well beyond the abilities of quantum field theories to cure themselves. Since that time, no knowledgeable and up-to-date high-energy physicist had any serious doubts that string theory was, to say the least, the right next step one has to make after quantum field theory in the quest for an accurate theory of Nature's fundamental forces and matter.

The important results were announced during a theater play in Aspen, Colorado in which John Schwarz starred as a lunatic who screamed that he had found a theory of everything. Not everyone understood that the play was actually a documentary. I discussed the circumstances of the Green-Schwarz discovery in 2004 and especially in a 2009 article which also shows you the anomaly functional copied from Polchinski's textbook.


Along with Edward Witten, Green and Schwarz also wrote the first canonical textbook on the subject, "Superstring Theory" (two volumes, Cambridge University Press, 1987). A librarian in Prague saw how excited I was about those things so she has actually xeroxed both volumes for me – for free – sometime in 1993 or so. ;-)

Their activity didn't end with the First Superstring Revolution at all. Green and Schwarz wrote 150+ or 200+ papers respectively with 100 or so citations per paper in average. Lots of later papers have influenced many string researchers. Schwarz would write many influential enough papers about SUGRA, D-brane and fivebrane actions, kappa symmetry, manifest duality in actions, Chern-Simons theory, and other topics. Green would add lots of papers on D-brane actions, instantons, multiloop behavior and finiteness of SUGRA and string theory (often discussed on this blog, mainly because misinformation questioning the finiteness of string theory belongs among the favorite talking points of the anti-string cranks), and many others.

Am article about their contributions may easily get insanely long and I decided to recommend you some of the 94 blog posts with their names instead.


  1. Congratulations! Well deserved.

    BTW recently I pointed to Schwarz's latest paper:

    which I consider important (it could give us the highly effective action of difficult theories like the 6d(2,0) SCFT in the Coulomb branch). But I didn't see your take on it.

  2. Thanks for your comment. And sorry, I don't fully understand the paper, especially the claim about non-gravitational "highly effective actions" that they are diff-symmetric. I do think that consistent diff-symmetric theories have to include gravity. Otherwise the claim would look like a straightforward implication of AdS/CFT. An extra D3-brane adds one color and focusing on the probe means to consider some effective action, at any accuracy we decide is right (and he wants the exact effective action).

  3. Oh yeah, congratulations to them :-))) !

    I am still so happy that Yuri Milner installed this nice and much needed prize for fundamental physics. I think in addition for the nice physics they did and the discoveries they made, the two 2014 winners deserve that honor for bravely keep working on string theory as the environment was quite hostile to say the least before the First Superstring-Revolution as I have read elsewhere.

    This nice TRF article contains many nice links to follow, and the announcement of important results during a theater play sounds very funny, LOL :-D


  4. Congratulations to them. Can we assume that John Preskill will be receiving the psychic award?

  5. Name any consistent theory of quantum gravity that recovers general relativity. "the theory was left-right-asymmetric" Yes. A massed chiral geometric test of spacetime geometry can be string theory's only empirical success to date. 90 days at the University of Washington/CENPA will do it.

    "Schwarz starred as a lunatic who screamed A good idea need only be testable. It is believable afterward. Wall Street purchased a large number of excellent theorists to create the 2008 worldwide financial implosion. Long-Term Capital Management paved that road in 1998. Theory must survive empirical falsification.

  6. Stupid people are more dangerous than intelligent people. This will end in blood.

  7. LOL, he might deserve one. And not only a psychic one. Well, alternatively, Preskill's forecast could have been less of a forecast and more of a qualified recommendation they were actually affected by.

    It seems now that "psychic" was just a really stupid typo for a "physicist". I still remember the 2009 maths and physics conference in Prague at which a major human rights NGO official greeted the mathematicians and physicians over there. ;-)

  8. kashyap vasavadaDec 13, 2013, 9:59:00 PM

    Hi Lubos: It is nice that finally Green and Schwarz received the (FPP) prize they deserved two years back. Let me ask a general and perhaps vague question. (More detailed question would require more detailed knowledge of ST on my part!) Would you say that most of the theoretical difficulties of ST have
    been removed now and what remains is the observation of experimental verification? As far as I am concerned theoretical consistency is also a great achievement. We can wait for experimental verification.

  9. Cabinet reshuffle
    the North Korean way…

  10. North Korea is probably worse off than Czechoslovakia in 1952. I remember an execution and a following disappearance from history of Mr. Slansky and his friends. At school we had to blacken his name and any photographs with him out of textbooks - as he was near the top of the Party hierarchy, that was a lot of blackening. Czechoslovak working class categorically demanded capital punishment for those traitors.

  11. Pol Pot killed 25 percent of the Cambodian population. Obamunism's Middle East adventurism assuredly kills more than one person/day - and that not even family. Award Kim Jong Un the Nobel Peace Prize. He's Yasser Arafat (PLO) and Menachem Begin (Irgun) rolled into one - and cute as Mother Teresa.

    Don't you just love North Korean flying saucer uniform hats? I wish our guys looked as emaciated as that. It shows ascetism.

  12. The photo,of Schwartz looks like a Lubos job. Is it?

  13. Machiavelli would be proud. Let's not confuse "The Prince" for a Marxist. He's simply a Tyrant consumed with furthering his power. People be damned.

    He probably bought a copy of "The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics":

  14. LOL,, he wasn't cooperating much but you have recognized the same Harvard wood around, right? ;-)

  15. Good reminder - maybe we were not too much better than they are today.

  16. Obviously you have never read or even opened anything by Machiavelli, particularly "The Prince" and are just repeating the popular ignorant nonsense.

    "Yet it cannot be called talent to slay fellow- citizens, to deceive friends, to be without faith, without mercy, without religion; such methods may gain empire, but not glory. Still, if the courage of Agathocles in entering into and extricating himself from dangers be considered, together with his greatness of mind in enduring and overcoming hardships, it cannot be seen why he should be esteemed less than the most notable captain. Nevertheless, his barbarous cruelty and inhumanity with infinite wickedness do not permit him to be celebrated among the most excellent men. What he achieved cannot be attributed either to fortune or genius."

    Of course, Kim Jong Un is a "marxist": his regime represents the stalinist version of marxism, as did Mao's regime and that of both earlier Kims. The only thing that is new in North Korea is the dynastically nature of the regime, everything else, including the latest events has exactly parallels under Stalin, and the other Stalinist regimes. None of it can be traced to Machiavelli who did not advocate a reign of terror.

    When I was a child we had in our house the complete Great Soviet Encyclopaedia, from which I learned to read Russia. It featured a several pages, with many pictures, concerning Lavreniy Beria. In the same volume I found a group additional pages, with lots of photos of the Bering Sea.
    When Beria was suddenly arrested a meeting of the Party Presidium in 1953 and shot almost immediately, he automatically became a non-person. All subscribers the the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia, and not just in the Soviet Union, were sent these new pages with detailed instructions how to remove all the pages devoted to Beria and replace them with the new ones. Since however Stalin was already dead and the fear had declined, my father merely put these new pages inside the corresponding volume, without removing the original ones. Seeing that was one of my earliest moments of recognition of the true nature of the stalinist version of marxism.

  17. Oh hey Cynthia, they are badmouthing Dear Leader again and the Socialist Workers' Paradise, can't you do something? I see, you're wearing that uniform again and "From Russia With Love" is playing in the background... and the shoes! You're wearing the good shoes with the cyanide-tipped spikes! Euthanize them, Cynthia, euthanize them all!

  18. “Otherwise the claim would look like a straightforward implication of AdS/CFT”

    Why you are saying that?

    In AdS/CFT only in the large N approximation you can put a probe on AdS5xS5 and claim that you can
    capture (via its DBI) some physics of the field theory U(N) x U(1); Schwarz on the other hand makes the conjecture for N=1 (i.e. U(2) on the Coulomb branch).

    My understanding is that the conjecture rely solely on the symmetries of the probe DBI action on AdS5xS5 (global CFT, SO(6) i.e. R, SL(2,Z)) and not on any AdS/CFT realization.

    Another indication of course is that the U(1) lives in the world-volume of the probe and if you integrate out the massive Ws you have an action with the U(1)s which is effective and incorporates the required global symmetries (thus the term "highly" I guess)

    The local diff is fixed at some point with a static gauge providing a manifest Poincare invariant theory although he claims that the diff invariant HEAs are more fundamental.

  19. No,there's still some theoretical stuff to do:

    Also, you're question becomes surprisingly vague when one considers phenomenology. It's hardly possible to get a well-defined "Verification" till Phenomenology goes deeper. Which makes your question pretty vague, because Phenomenology is neither Theory, nor Experiment.

    Also, experimental verifcaitiion has not been *completely* unachieved yet...

  20. I just join Lucretius' nice answer. The folks in the Kim family are "lions of Marxism", to use a term coined by their fan:

    They believe in Marxism, they do everything to impose Marxism in their country (along Stalin's path although this execution resembled Mao's cultural revolution, too), and they actually managed to do it in the textbook way.

    This is what Marxism looks like. Regimes that never execute people like inconvenient uncles etc. are not really Marxist - they may be hybrid systems, democratic or capitalist societies with flavors of socialism, but not Marxist societies that would be endorsed by Marx. To achieve Marx's deeply unnatural goals, one simply *has* to be a tyrant.

  21. "Drone strike kills 15 'wedding party-goers' in Yemen"

    With gruesome news like this involving state-sponsored murder of innocent life, Eugene, I’m beginning to think that Zero – our Dear Leader – has about the same mentality as Kim Jong-un. It’s pretty evident that his narcissism is off the charts, but is he also a sociopath or a psychopath? Or, is he both? Regardless, I believe there’s little doubt that he’s one of the most evil and lawless politicians to ever inhabit the White House.

    Gays and lesbians may be living in constant fear under Putin, but at least he's not such a chicken-hawk wuss as to use Predator drones to snuff them out during a romantic marriage ceremony.

  22. Cynholt, the report doesn't say if it was the wedding of a 8 year old girl with a 50 year old pig. Anyway, the bride might have avoided her worst married night.

  23. Shit... now I'll have to go read the darn thing so I can respond. See you next year lucretius. Thanks for the passage... sounds intriguing.

    Lumo... Is he a Marxist or just playing the game? In the end it probably doesn't matter. My guess is what matters to him most is his power and not the utopian "dream". But maybe you're right and he is a hardcore commie.

  24. I noticed a subtle mistake in my post (which I have just corrected). When Beria was shot he became an "unperson" and not a "non-person", as I hurriedly wrote. An unperson (the word but not the phenomenon invented by Orwell: ) is a phenomenon typical of stalinism, a former person who has been not just "euthanised" in Cynthia's nice phrase, but deleted from history as well. Thus Kim Jong Un's uncle has now become and "unperson" and he is being systematically airbrushed from films, photographs etc. While the actual implementation of "unpersons" is due to Stalin, the concept has roots in the marxist view of history, in which what is "true" is determined not by what actually happened but by what serves the interests of the "proletariat".

  25. To put it briefly: to understand Machiavelli you need not only to read him but also to know a little about his life and purpose.
    Machiavelli was one of the earliest Italian patriots and a republican. During the short lived Florentine republic he was in charge of organizing the militia. The defeats the republic and the failures of early attempts at unification of Italy convinced him that the reason was poor understanding of what he thought was the science of power.
    “The Prince” was meant to be an “objective” and “empirical” work on how power is gained, maintained and lost. Machiavelli wanted to separate morality from the “facts” of political life. He thought that the latter could be studied scientifically but not the former. In explaining evil means to use power he did not think he was advocating evil but simply describing the way things work.
    In spite of the reputation this has got him, whenever he talks of “morals” he always advocates freedom and prudence. (Actually the earlier book “Discourses on Livy”, Machiavelli’s view of Roman history, is very clearly republican and makes Machiavelli’s own moral views much clearer). But, of course, it could be argued that Machiavelli was one of the victims of the phenomenon referred to by Nitezsche:

    “He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if you gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into you.”

    Anyway, for better or for worse, Machiavelli was no doubt the world’s first “political scientist”.

  26. You can trust Cynthia to miss the target even when firing into the air.

    Actually, there are examples that the West is also slowly moving in the direction of a Commie Utopia, and its not just the current occupant of the White House who is driving us there:

  27. Dear Leader (of TRF) ;) asks about the method of execution chosen by Dear Leader (of North Korea). I don't know, either, but presumably it was something "creative" like the execution early last year of NK's Deputy Defense Minister. They tied him to a pole in previously determined geo-coordinates ("X marks the spot"), then lobbed a mortar shell directly at that spot. Warn't nuthin' left of him anymore. Or maybe he had him dropped into daddy's shark tank :)

    Why did Baby Kim get rid of Uncle Chang? Consider that Chang had saved the Kims' bacon back in 1995 when he beat down an attempted putsch:

    When word of the 6th Corps' challenge to the leadership reached Pyongyang, the response was rapid and violent. Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law Jang Song Taek and several core military leaders deployed to the area, and disbanded the unit. Scores of commanders and officers were reportedly executed. Some accounts claim a firing squad brandishing machine guns mowed them down. Other accounts say the officers were tied up and restrained in their headquarters, which was burned down.

    So without Uncle's decisive action then, the Kim dynasty would have ended then and there. Yesterday's laurels, wilted and forgotten.

    Most media speculate that Uncle wanted to "modernize" NK and "open up the economy", cut back on the nukes program, and that Nephew put his foot down to prevent that. I've seen only one report that claims otherwise, in Germany's BILD tabloid newspaper. It claims that Baby Kim aims to "open" his country step by step, allow travel to South Korea, and make concessions on nuclear weapons. In exchange for which, he (allegedly) asks for foreign bank accounts to be unfrozen, immunity from criminal prosecution, and lifting of travel restrictions.

    I have no opinion either way.

  28. In this connection it may be interesting to note than after the fall of the Soviet Union it became clear that before his arrest and execution Beria (who saw himself as the successor of Stalin) was planning much more radical reforms than Khrushchev eventually made, and that these included agreeing to a unification of Germany in return for American economic aid and giving formal independence to the Baltic republics.

  29. Does anybody, even leaders of Communist parties, believe in Communism anymore?

    For some reason I don't think that even Fidel believes in the Worker's Paradise. As an ideology it had its heyday last century and the empiricists will point out that the experiment failed. I can't believe that Kim, schooled in Switzerland, believes in that shit. Isn't it just a religion of convenience?

    Being Canadian, I can't speak to the effects of Communism like you can. My only experience was when I vacationed in Cuba a dozen years ago. The people reminded my of seeing eye dogs. Dogs are wolves by nature, meant to be hunting etc. These dogs seemed depressed deprived of their nature. I think that Communism has a similar effect on Human's nature.

  30. Obama loves drones, and has plans to use them for US border flights...soon his own population will not be safe from them. Also, he has aggressively gone after whistleblowers more than any other president (after promising better protection for whistleblowers;
    then post-Snowden, redacting that promise from his web page.)
    I have seldom been more disappointed in a politician about whom I first felt hopeful--his rhetoric was just vacuous platitudes.

  31. This utopia started in France under our socialist president Mitterrand some 30 years ago. This "police de la pensee" has continued through Chirac, less so under Sarkozy and is back with a revenge under Hollande now, with the help of our socialist media.

  32. The UK is in a bad place, with particular enforcement of hate speech laws, which of course, do not apply to nutty Imams urging both civilizational and violent jihad.