Potsdam scientist receives distinguished science prize

On 27 June 2009, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities will present Dr. Matthias Staudacher with the Academy Prize 2009.

June 25, 2009

On Saturday, 27 June 2009, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BBAW) will present Dr. Matthias Staudacher from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics with the Academy Prize valued at 20,000 euros. The researcher is receiving the prize for his outstanding scientific achievements. The Academy Prize is, along with the Helmholtz Medal, the top scientific award bestowed by the BBAW.

Matthias Staudacher is one of the most prominent theoretical physicists of the younger generation. Born in Munich in 1963, he studied physics at the Universities of Heidelberg and Munich (LMU) as well as at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, where he wrote his doctoral thesis in 1990 on matrix models of two-dimensional quantum gravity under the supervision of John Kogut.

Already the first of his to date 45 publications attracted great attention. The Academy Prize, however, is primarily for the last five years of his groundbreaking findings related to understanding the so-called AdS/CFT duality.

This duality is based on an assumption by Juan Maldacena from the 1990s: It states that two totally different physical theories, which even “reside” in different dimensions, describe the same physical reality when one assigns the respective observables. This is all the more amazing because one of the involved theories is a standard quantum field theory of the Yang-Mills type, the other, conversely, a so-called super string theory. The involved quantum field theory can in principle describe the structure of matter like the Standard Model of elementary particle physics and thus all interactions with the exception of gravity, whereas the super string theory takes gravity in consideration from the outset. The connection of both theories through the presumed duality would therefore have good chances to solve the problem of the “grand unification”, namely a unified theory of all natural forces.

This problematic area has been, since Maldacena’s starting shot, the subject of much physical and mathematical literature that has uncovered many incredible correlations, but has yet to lead to an actual breakthrough. Staudacher and his colleagues have now achieved just that through the proof of so-called integrability of quantum field theory, namely discovering a principally exact calculation method; this would be, by the way, after over 50 years of frustrated efforts, the very first example of a precisely solvable quantum theory; at the heart of it is the discovery of a variant of the Bethe-Ansatz for the exact solution of Heisenberg’s spin chain model. It has thus become possible to place duality on more secure footing as, for the first time, a shared formula for the energy in both partner theories could be found and successfully tested.

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