In other interesting announcements today, the great physicist Alexander Polyakov has been given the Fundamental Physics Prize. (See the announcement here.) There was a remarkable award ceremony in Geneva yesterday, hosted by Morgan Freeman, and with lots of Physicists and others celebrating great work in various areas of physics. Polyakov has been a key and brilliant leader in many areas of theoretical physics, and influenced so many ideas and techniques that have fed into the whole field, and so this is a well deserved recognition.

I must note that it is a bit sad (to say the least) to do a google search on the news about this prize and see so many articles with a lot of just plain stupid focussing on a big prize going to a “string theorist”, as though this is somehow negative or ironic, and also missing the fact that Polyakov’s contributions are so broad and far-reaching that to call him a string theorist is like focussing on Picasso’s Blue period and ignoring everything else he did as an artist. But sadly we’re still stuck with this sort of misleading distortion about string theory and the people who contribute to it (some deliberate, some just out of ignorance – hard to untangle, especially since some of the ignorance is generated and fed by the deliberate stuff) for some time to come. (See my numerous posts on the matter here.)

In addition to congratulating Polyakov, I want to send a belated congratulations to Joe Polchinski, my mentor from my days at the ITP in Santa Barbara. It seems (I’ve not really been keeping track of these things) the that same organization awarded him the Frontiers prize for his work last year. He’s another brilliant giant in the field, contributing and leading in many areas. Apparently being thus nominated puts him in the running to get the Fundamental Physics Prize in later years, if I read the website right. Whether he gets it or not, it would be hugely well deserved.


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7 Responses to Congratulations!

  1. Dilaton says:

    Hm, I sadly did expect nothing else from the popular media…
    That is why I refrain from clicking reports about fundament physics news in such media and prefer blogs of real physicists (and not sourballs at Columbia university for example…!)

    However, I like the it a lot that Polyakov and Polchinski were choosen for these prizes and heartily congrTulate them too 🙂


  2. rich says:


    You really like the word ‘sourballs’, don’t you. 🙂

  3. Karl says:

    Dear Clifford,

    This prize is very, very confusing for the public, in fact for everybody who is not directly affected.

    I have read newspaper articles stating that Steven Hawking got the prize. They do an incredibly lousy PR job! They have created a veritable prize inflation. so everybody got confused (my understanding is that Joe did not get the prize in question but the “Physics Frontier Prize”.

    From their web-page:

    1.Fundamental Physics Prize:
    Nima Arkani-Hamed, Alan Guth, Maxim Kontsevich, Andrei Linde, Juan Maldacena, Nathan Seiberg, Ashoke Sen, Edward Witten

    2. Special Fundamental Physics Prize:
    Steven Hawking, Peter Jenni, Fabiola Gianotti, Michel Della Negra, Tejinder Singh Virdee, Guido Tonelli, Joe Incandela, and Lyn Evans

    3. Physics Frontier Prize:
    Charles Kane, Laurens Molenkamp and Shoucheng Zhang, Alexander Polyakov, Joseph Polchinski

    4. New Horizons in Physics Prize:
    Niklas Beisert, Davide Gaiotto, Zohar Komargodski

    what a disaster! This is not a prize but noise!
    Note that Polyakov is not even listed as a Fundamental Physics Prize winner (yet?). On their homepage the award to Polyakov is listed as a (visually) small item on the lower left corner.
    I bet my six year old son can come up with a better design!

    Ok, all that said, the selection of Polyakov is perfect of course!
    In particular in view of the goal: to establish a prize for important contributions that for one reason or another would not easily get a Nobel prize. (That’s also why the topological insulator guys will not thet the FPP, for them a NP seems quite a possibility, even the number fits 😉 )

  4. Dilaton says:


    Well, it is the most polite word I can come up with that characterizes people which show a certain negative and destructive attitude and behavior with regard to fundamental physics for example …

    Other terms like ***** ******, *****, or ***** **** or alternatively ****** ******, etc… would be much more suitable to describe them 😀

    Cheers !

  5. physphil says:


    “that characterizes people which show a certain negative and destructive attitude and behavior with regard to fundamental physics for example …”

    Oh, you mean like that blogger who you regularly visit and comment on his incredibly long tirades? Instead of his behavior with regard to fundamental physics, he displays such behavior towards other human beings, which is far worse. He insults people to no end.

    So why don’t you go back to that blog run by that ***** *****, ****, or **** **** or alternatively **** *****, etc.?

  6. Clifford says:

    HI dilaton and physphil… Let’s not turn this comment stream into one of those other comment streams… play nicely please!


  7. Clifford says:

    Hi Karl,

    Yes, it is very confusing, but less so (slightly) if you look on the news part of the site. I think maybe you looked at the cumulative list of winners of prizes in the various categories… then it is very confusing for them to have not put dates…

    I think the situation with regards frontiers vs fundamental is as I described in the last paragraph… I found further description (after too long) that clarified that part.