The Higgs Boson and the Laws of Nature to be Explored in Lecture by Juan Maldacena at Institute for Advanced Study

Juan Maldacena (Photo by Randall Hagadorn)

Juan Maldacena, Professor in the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study, will present a public lecture, “The Symmetry and Simplicity of the Laws of Nature and the Higgs Boson,” on Wednesday, October 3, at 4:30 p.m. in Wolfensohn Hall on the Institute campus.

On July 4, 2012, researchers at CERN in Geneva announced that experiments at the Large Hadron Collider had revealed a new subatomic particle consistent with the Higgs boson, a particle that had been the only missing piece of the Standard Model of particle physics. In this lecture, Maldacena will describe the theoretical ideas, developed in the 1960s and ’70s, that led to the prediction of the Higgs boson.

“The forces of nature are based on beautiful symmetries,” Maldacena says. He will explain why the Higgs mechanism is necessary to avoid some of the naive consequences of these symmetries and to explain various features of elementary particles.

Maldacena’s work focuses on quantum gravity, string theory and quantum field theory. He has proposed a relationship between quantum gravity and quantum field theory that elucidates aspects of both of them, and he is studying this relationship further in order to understand the deep connection between black holes and quantum field theories. He is also exploring the connection between string theory and cosmology.

Maldacena was one of four members of the School of Natural Sciences Faculty to receive the inaugural Fundamental Physics Prizes in July. The prizes, at $3 million each, recognize path-breaking new ideas in fundamental physics regardless of whether they have yet been verified by experiment. Maldacena is also the recipient of the Dirac Prize and Medal of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, the Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics, the American Physical Society’s Edward A. Bouchet Award, the Sackler Prize in Physics and a MacArthur Fellowship, among other honors.

Maldacena received his Ph.D. in 1996 from Princeton University. Following postdoctoral research at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, he joined the faculty of Harvard University, where he served through 2001. He came to the Institute as a Member in 1999, was a Visiting Professor at the Institute in 2000–01, and became a Professor in 2002.

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About the Institute for Advanced Study

The Institute for Advanced Study is one of the world’s leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. The Institute exists to encourage and support curiosity-driven research in the sciences and humanities—the original, often speculative thinking that produces advances in knowledge that change the way we understand the world. Work at the Institute takes place in four Schools: Historical Studies, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Social Science. It provides for the mentoring of scholars by a permanent Faculty of approximately 30, and it ensures the freedom to undertake research that will make significant contributions in any of the broad range of fields in the sciences and humanities studied at the Institute.

The Institute, founded in 1930, is a private, independent academic institution located in Princeton, New Jersey. Its more than 6,000 former Members hold positions of intellectual and scientific leadership throughout the academic world. Thirty-three Nobel Laureates and 41 out of 56 Fields Medalists, as well as many winners of the Wolf and MacArthur prizes, have been affiliated with the Institute.