The Most Beautiful Equation: How Wilczek Got His Nobel

There are four fundamental forces of nature
as we now understand it. There’s gravity and electromagnetism which
are the classic forces which were known already in prehistory and known in some form to the
ancient Greeks but which had mature theories in the case of gravity already in the seventeenth
century with Newton and in the nineteenth century with Maxwell and very beautiful descriptions
and in case of gravity made even more beautiful with Einstein’s general theory of relativity
in the early twentieth century. But in the course of studying subatomic physics
and what goes on at very, very short distances people found they needed two additional forces
– gravity and electromagnetism aren’t enough. And the two additional forces are called the
strong and weak forces. What I got the Nobel Prize for was figuring
out the equations of the strong force. And equally important not just guessing the
equations but showing how you can test them and see that they were right. This was something I did as a graduate student. I was of course working very closely with
my thesis advisor, a very, very gifted and powerful physicist named David Gross. What – so how did we go about doing it? Well there were some – the experimental
situation regarding the strong interaction was very confused, desperately confused. There was no theory even remotely worthy of
standing beside Newton’s theory of gravity or Einstein’s or Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism. There were just a lot of rules of thumb and
a lot of confusing data. What we did was focus on one particular phenomenon
and try to understand just that. Putting off all other aspects of this confusing
situation. The phenomena we tried to understand seemed
so paradoxical, so crazy that we thought if we could understand that we could understand
anything basically. And also because it seemed so profound and
fundamental. Actually David thought that we could prove
that it couldn’t – that you couldn’t understand it within the standard framework
of quantum mechanics and relativity. And that will be a very important result too
because we tell physicists they had to go back to the drawing board. This aspect that we were trying to explain
was the fact that quarks which were somewhat speculative but a pretty clear indication
of reality at that time – when they get close together they hardly interact at all. Or when they’re moving at very high velocity
relative to their high energy. Again they don’t interact very much at all. But if you try to pull them apart a significant
distance which means in this case ten to the minus 13 centimeters or more, or if they’re
moving slowly then they have very, very powerful forces. In fact you can’t extract single quarks
from matter. They always exist bound to one another inside
protons and neutrons. So we needed a force which gets weaker at
short distances and grows as the distance grows. That’s a very paradoxical and difficult
thing to imagine and make consistent with the other laws of physics that we know. Now there were powerful mathematical techniques
for investigating that kind of question that had been developed for other purposes called
renormalization group. So we were able to bring those techniques
to bear and address this question. And they were very difficult calculations. It wasn’t entirely clear that they were
consistent, that you could actually do this kind of calculation in the kind of theory
that was most beautiful, that we wanted to investigate. But we insisted on hoping that the most beautiful
equations would be the right equations. And we found out that a very, very special
class of theoretical constructions with tremendous amounts of symmetry could give you this behavior. So that was – I compare that to Archimedes
saying that if you give me a lever and a place to stand I can lift the world. Based on that kind of leverage given by the
sort of basic principles and faith and symmetry and beauty plus this one fact about the forces
getting weaker we were led to quite a unique proposal for what the equations of the strong
interaction should be. And we could develop some consequences of
those equations and then propose to experimenters that they go out and check whether these consequences
are correct. Now it took several years afterwards before
it became clear that those consequences we predicted were correct but they are. And in subsequent years it’s become more
and more clear the theory has been used for a wide variety of applications now with great
success. The kind of thing that in the early days was
called testing quantum cromodynamics or testing asymptotic freedom is now called calculating
backgrounds. So it’s gone from being a glamorous exploration
of new worlds to kind of taking are of the garbage. So I think you could look for more interesting
things. But well although it sounds in a way it’s
kind of a step down. If I look at it in the big picture it’s
glorious that you have a theory that was originally very speculative and just something that existed
in our minds. And it’s gone now to being an absolutely
accepted and basic part of our understanding of nature and a very beautiful one.


  1. Anger ruins joy, steals the goodness of my mind, overcoming anger brings peace of mind, leads to a mind without regrets, if I overcome anger I will be delightful and loved by everyone.

  2. I know this is oversimplified and not really correct, but when he described a force weaker when close together and stronger when further apart I first pictured two objects tethered together by a spring or elastic material. That also makes me wonder if anything special happens when, if possible, the strength of the strong force is exceeded.

  3. People like him should be role models for young kids. Not scumbags with IQ level of a orangutan making millions just because they can kick a ball or sing well.

  4. Utter hogwash. An eloquent and elegantly extended way of saying that they have absolutely no idea how to appropriately bring together the fundamental forces of nature, and that is the only thing you should take away from this.

  5. If you tie a rubber band to two objects, they don't interact much when they are close together. If you attempt to pull them a significant distance apart, they react with great force. I call it Rubber Band Theory, it encompasses the theory that things are connected, and I'm waiting on my Nobel Prize.

  6. So…. You found an equation that happens to explain this quantum rubber-band effect that holds quarks together?

  7. Please bring him back to talk about more stuff I love the way he talks and explains things. He got so happy and excited I loved it!

  8. I don't know a whole lot about thermodynamics, but does this discovery prove why hot water cools faster than cold water?

  9. So inspiring! I love the Big Think videos with Franz Wilczek. His love for physics simply shines through and makes me smile the rest of the day 🙂

  10. Alternatively: "In the Reciprocal System, the space-time progression is a linear or translational motion. Photons are linear vibrations moving as waves due to the perpendicular space-time progression. The next type of motion is rotation. Rotational motion or spin applied to a photon creates a subatom. All subatoms are rotating photons.
    The "quark" and "string" theorists posit that subatoms are a certain number and arrangement of "quarks" or "strings." But we have observed neither. Besides, what is a quark? What is a string? They are "unanalyzable" in these theories. We do observe photons, however, so why wouldn't it be possible that they could be set spinning?"

  11. I wish he was my physics professor. Im taking Electromagnetism course for my Engineering major and that shit is hell. My professor is literally reading the book and slides. 🙁

  12. now i am confused, i thought there was a 79 nobel for unifying electromagnetic and weak forces but i still hear a lot of people talking about 4 forces. can someone explain (not a physicist)

  13. How foolish, to attach to this video, a title, which would imply an explanation of said equation, and then, to completely avoid any explanation of it. Thanks for wasting my time.

  14. i didnt understand why the force has to be weaker at close distances and strong in long distances at 3:40… any help anyone?

  15. meatpuppet has no idea what he is even talking about

    circle jerk double talk is actually saying 'faith in symmetry"
    all science just needs one free miracle.. then can explain it from there

  16. Strong and weak forces may simply be manifestations of the Electromagnetic force. Playing around with a few magnets can demonstrate this very easily.

  17. What's so paradoxical about the idea a force is weak when close and strong when distance is increased? That's the basic principle of a rubber band or a sling-shot.

  18. Ashtons Law Dictates. Its easy for me to understand. I was hoping to see your formula. I somewhat doubt their is one that can some up strange. 😉

  19. I dig Frank, he's always a treat. However, how did "they" or indeed he get himself to seem so,… stable? He seems to have better mastery of himself than I usually see in live talks. What ever it is I could use some. Any ideas? Beta blockers or such?

  20. He said " 2 forces that were known already in pre history" Electromagnetism. what time does he mean? Who discovered it and how?

  21. great talk, where is proof of all this?
    Show us your study and explain then, enough of your bullish magic talk.
    You sound like Einstein now, biggest lair on face of earth.

  22. a beautiful equation of nonsense. the einsteinian physics insanity might produce some beatiful abstract mathematics but its comletely detached from reality.

  23. 3MMM是一个普通人互助的平台,只需投入最低10美元最高100美元,就可以得到高额的回报,值得加入. #Money #MMMExtraSchedule Update: The #Stars will not hold practice today.

  24. how long  does it take in order to accept a discovery as true and valid ? for example if you have discovered something or made an equation and had several proves that it is valid is it accepted directly or do you have to wait for several years and run more test instead of directly sharing it in the same year that you have discovered it even if you have several valid experiences  that it does work but you have done these experiences in a short time ?

  25. The problem is we are not using microscopes but atom smashers and that creates only data, not observable phenomenons.The measurement problem of quantum particles do question if such a force really exists as we see them? Well, at least if they do exist, they maybe mixed ups with another natural force that simply modifies itself in the very small universe of quantum physics. So physicists do have data and mathematical equation to predict the behavior of the data they observe, but it is hard to say what really is observed, well in nature. The strong and weak force are useful words to take into account those modification in the protons behavior etc. What Frank Wilczek was able to do is to predict with his equation precisely those modification in data observed by a machine like the hadron collider. But again it is like exploring the deeps of the Ocean with sonars. You get data but you do not know what it really is until you went and look at it with a submarine or a camera. So while physicist like Niels Bohr were fishing for SUBatomic particles, psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung was fishing for archetypes in the SUBconscious level of the psyche. Both explored the unknown. Why should some get more respect than the others? Both are respectful fields of exploration for me. Also, this idea of seeing to understand fully sort of urges to advance space exploration, because now we are mostly exploring the deep space with sonars and on the contrary to the other two fields of exploration I previously mention, we can explore in body those uncharted areas of the cosmos.

  26. I would like to invite him to take a cup of coffe or something and talk about anything beacause he's so excited and genuinely happy in his explanation…

  27. So close, yet just missed. It should have become apparent that the true nature of the fundamental forces is that, each exists a dimension of the other. They are all bands of spectrum that form macro symmetry. In essence, there is only a single fundamental force being expressed from 4 different Dimensions of Observation.

    Everything is Energy. Everything is Light.

  28. this is proof of God that the micro level and the Marco level all have the same formula since we look like Him    Massive astrophysical objects governed by subatomic equation › Astronomy & Space › AstronomyCachedMar 5, 2018 – Quantum mechanics is the branch of physics governing the sometimes-strange behavior of the tiny particles that make up our universe. Equations describing the quantum world are generally confined to the subatomic realm—the …

  29. What is painful is that these ppl r underappreciated coz major fraction of the society dont understand the job of these ppl

  30. If you have an object on each end of a spring then the force gets stronger as the distance increases.and decreases as the spring contracts..So are those elementary particles some form of spring?

  31. Why does he close his eyes all the time? Did his mom just walk around and slap him on the head all the time, and now he is still trying to dodge them?

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