String theorist Professor Stefan Theisen receives the J. Hans D. Jensen Prize 2011

July 11, 2011

The Institute for Theoretical Physics at Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg is honouring Stefan Theisen for his work on string theory. The prize which includes a guest professorship in Heidelberg is sponsored by the Klaus Tschira Foundation.

Stefan Theisen is currently doing research at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. The Jensen Prize will provide him with the welcome opportunity to intensify the longstanding scientific exchange between him and his colleagues at the university.

String theory: a theory for everything?

Prof. Stefan Theisen is one of Germany’s leading string theorists. He cooperates with colleagues from all over the world on a unified theory of all fundamental forces of nature. As early as the 1970s, physicists unified three fundamental natural forces in one theory - the so-called Standard Model of particle physics. In contrast to this is the Standard Model of cosmology in which the fourth known natural force, gravity, plays the dominant role. A unified description of all four forces, which is necessary, for example, to understand the very early universe, is still lacking

When the methods of quantum field theory (upon which the Standard Model of particle physics is based) are applied to the general theory of relativity (which forms the basis of the Standard Model of cosmology) unsolvable inconsistencies arise.

The search for a consistent theory of all natural forces is one of the most exciting and far-sighted tasks of modern physics, which is also the focus of the work of Stefan Theisen and his colleagues.

The new theory may force a radical modification of the conventional space-time concept at extremely small distances. This could possibly lead to the invalidity of the familiar difference between space-time and matter. A promising candidate for such a theory is string theory: This interprets the elementary particles as different excited states of a single threadlike structure. This can be imagined as a minute (diameter around 10-35 m) oscillating string, whereby the differing elementary particles correspond to various “overtones”. This is in direct opposition to the conventional quantum field theory, which treats the elementary particles as point-like objects.

Professor Stefan Theisen studied physics at the University of Stuttgart and then travelled to the USA as an exchange student, where in 1981 he earned his Master of Science at Oregon State University and in 1986 his Ph.D. in physics at the University of California in Santa Barbara. After working at the Max Planck Institute for Physics and Astrophysics in Munich, at CERN, at the Universität Karlsruhe and the LMU München, he has headed the String Theory Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) since 2000.

J. Hans D. Jensen Prize of the Klaus Tschira Foundation

The prize is awarded annually by the Rubrecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg in honour of the theoretical physicist J. Hans D. Jensen (1907-1973). Jensen, who was primarily active in Heidelberg, received, together with Maria Goeppert-Mayer, the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963 for the nuclear shell model.

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