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.