The World's Numerical Recipe

Frank Wilczek, Nobel Laureate

Dept. of Physics, MIT

Might the physical world as we observe it be the embodiment of a few deeply hidden secrets? This quasi-mystical vision inspired great thinkers from Pythagoras to Kepler, but went into deep eclipse with the rise of classical physics. In modern physics it has made a decisive comeback. Discoveries in quantum mechanics, and my own work in quantum chromodynamics, give a precise, accurate account of the structure of matter working almost entirely with ideas - with almost no explicit reference to measured quantities. The miracle is that our ideal ``concept world'' agrees with what experimenters measure.

Essentially everything we know about ordinary matter can be derived theoretically, using beautiful equations, from just 4 measured quantities -- two of which actually affect only minor details! The same ideas, supplemented with 2 additional measured quantities, enable us to do all of astrophysics. Finally I'll talk about ongoing attempts towards unified field theories, using even fewer ingredients: some tantalizing successes, and opportunities for further exploration.

For more information about Frank Wilczek, visit his web site.

Additional resources for this talk: video.