The Academy Award 2009 of the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities is given to Dr. Matthias Staudacher from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Golm
Translation of the news release by the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities
The Academy Award 2009 of the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, carrying a value of 20 000 Euros, is awarded to Dr. Matthias Staudacher, theoretical and mathematical physics, Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Golm. The award is conferred for exceptional scientific achievement and is the Academy’s most prestigious award in addition to the Helmholtz Medal. The award ceremony takes place on the next Leibniz Day of the Academy, on 27 June 2009.
Matthias Staudacher is one of the most distinguished theorists among the younger generation of physicists. Born 1963 in Munich, he studied physics at the universities of Heidelberg and Munich (LMU). He earned his doctorate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1990 with a dissertation on matrix models of two-dimensional quantum gravity under the supervision of John Kogut.
Of his 45 publications up to now, already the first have been exciting, but through this award the Academy is recognizing Staudacher’s outstanding work of the last five years that helped understanding the so-called AdS/CFT duality. This duality, conjectured by Juan Maldacena in the 1990s, says that two totally different physical theories that even "live" in different dimensions describe the same physical reality if the respective observables are assigned properly. This is particularly astonishing as one of the theories involved is a conventional quantum field theory of the Yang-Mills type and the other one a so-called superstring theory. The quantum field theory can describe the structure of matter, like the standard model of elementary particle physics, as well as all fundamental interactions except gravity. The superstring theory, in contrast, includes gravity from the outset. The conjectured duality of both theories thus could help solving the problem of "grand unification" and lead to a unified theory of all fundamental forces.
Since Maldacena’s initial work there has been a huge amount of physical and mathematical papers on the topic that have revealed many astonishing connections, but there was no real breakthrough yet. This has been achieved by Staudacher and his cooperators now: They could confirm the so-called integrability of the quantum field theory which means that an exact calculation method exists in principle. After more than 50 years of vain endeavour, this would even be the first example of an exactly solvable quantum field theory. The main point is the discovery of a variant of the Bethe Ansatz that allows the exact solution of the Heisenberg spin chain model. For the first time now a formula for the energy that is valid in both partner theories could be found and successfully tested – a result supporting the duality.