Nobel Prize in Physics Templeton Prize Winner Frank Wilczek Rejects Anti-Intellectualism

American physicist Frank Wilczek, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in transforming understanding of the fundamental forces of nature, won the prestigious Templeton Prize on Wednesday.

In an interview with AFP before the announcement, Wilczek said the award should testify to the inspiring power of science at a time when scientists are coming under increasing criticism.

“In the United States, where I live, this has been evident in recent years, and an entire political party is dedicated to it. It is very unfortunate,” said this MIT professor.

“These people say ‘I can find my own information on the internet,’ but there would be no internet without an understanding of quantum mechanics and science, and without all the hard work of engineers!” he added.

Anyone who builds such complex systems “should get some credit for it: they build bridges that generally don’t fall down and vaccines that work,” the 70-year-old physicist said.

However, he recognizes a certain “arrogance” of scientists, who -he considers- must show patience, tolerance and honesty to convince.

Wilczek’s work includes an explanation of one of the fundamental forces of nature: the so-called “strong interaction”, which occurs between “quarks”, those fundamental particles that are at the heart of the atom. This discovery earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004, along with two other Americans – David Gross and David Politzer.

Endowed with more than $1.3 million, the Templeton Prize is one of the world’s highest individual awards, honoring those who explore the deepest questions of the universe and the place of humanity.

“Throughout Dr. Wilczek’s philosophical musings, a spiritual aspect shines through,” said Heather Templeton Dill, director of the John Templeton Foundation, in a statement.

– Dark matter –

Wilczek also proposed an explanation for dark matter, which is believed to make up 80% of the Universe, although its nature is unknown.

More than four decades ago, he suggested that a type of particle called an “axion” is responsible for dark matter, but only recent experiments have come close to proving its existence, thanks to advances in technology.

If these experiments are successful, “our understanding of the fundamental laws would be much more beautiful, and this would confirm that the Universe is understandable,” he said.

In 2020, French scientists confirmed the existence of another particle that Wilczek named in the 1980s: the “anyon”.

The researcher is also known for his books, including “A Beautiful Question” and “The Lightness of Being,” as well as his columns in The Wall Street Journal.

He considers it vital to narrow the gap between science and the public, “especially for scientists who carry out research motivated solely by curiosity, without an obvious application”, because “they produce something cultural that should be incorporated into culture”.

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Nobel Prize in Physics Templeton Prize Winner Frank Wilczek Rejects Anti-Intellectualism