Goodbye Nambu

nambu-gotoOne of the towering giants of the field, Yoichiro Nambu, passed away a short while ago, at age 94. He made a remarkably wide range of major (foundational) contributions to various fields, from condensed matter through particle physics, to string theory. His 2008 Nobel Prize was for work that was a gateway for other Nobel Prize-winning work, for example 2012’s Higgs particle work. He was an inspiration to us all. Here’s an excellent 1995 Scientific American piece (updated a bit in 2008) about him, which nicely characterises some of his style and contributions, with comments from several notable physicists. Here is a University of Chicago obituary, a Physics World one, one by Hirosi Ooguri, and one from the New York Times. There are several others worth reading too.

Since everyone is talking more about his wonderful work on symmetry-breaking (and rightly so), I’ve put up (on the board above) instead the Nambu-Goto action governing the motion of a relativistic string (written with a slight abuse of notation). This action, and its generalisations, is a cornerstone of string theory, and you’ll find it in pretty much every text on the subject. Enjoy.

Thank you, Professor Nambu.


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82 Responses to Goodbye Nambu

  1. Stam Nicolis says:

    What’s received much less notice is his work, in 1973, on what’s known as Nambu mechanics, where he generalized the Poisson bracket to have an arbitrary number of slots, not just two, recognizing the relevance for p-branes. It’s been used in fluid mechanics but the quantization thereof is still an open issue and received an impetus with the recent work on D=3 Chern-Simons theory.

  2. Clifford says:

    Hi Stam… Thanks. A reference would be great for this if you want to suggest one… Cheers! -cvj

  3. Stam Nicolis says:

    Nambu’s paper is here:
    A presentation that stresses applications to fluid mechanics is here:
    I’ve also done some work on Nambu mechanics-hence the familiarity with the subject.

  4. Stam Nicolis says:

    Oops-the link to Nambu’s paper got chopped. Here it is in full:
    A paper that has one approach to the subject of a consistent quantization of Nambu mechanics is here:
    The difficulties in finding a consistent Nambu bracket for M2-branes could be, partly, at least, evaded in many subsequent developments, but, eventually, need to be addressed-cf. for a review:

  5. Clifford says:

    Thank you! I shall have a look. I’ve not followed this at all, and it may intersect with some other interests of mine.