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The Most Beautiful Equation: How Wilczek Got His Nobel | BEST OF 2015

There are four fundamental forces of nature as we now understand it.
即经典力 包括万有引力和电磁力
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,
然而 已有的引力方面的成熟理论是17世纪
but which had mature theories in the case of gravity already in the 17th century
的艾萨克·牛顿提出的 19世纪的詹姆斯·麦克斯韦
with Isaac Newton and in the 19th century with
James Maxwell and very beautiful descriptions and, in case of gravity, made even more beautiful
with Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity in the early 20th century. But
但是 在研究亚原子物理学的过程中 在非常短的距离内
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
我获得诺贝尔奖的原因 正是因为我弄清了强作用力的方程式 同样地
got the Nobel Prize for was figuring out the equations of the strong force. And equally
重要的不仅仅是推测方程式 而是显示如何测试和看看
important not just guessing the equations, but showing how you can test them and see
结果是否正确 这是我研究生时做的 我曾经 当然
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
他名为大卫·格罗斯 什么——我们是怎么做的?
named David Gross. What — so how did we go about doing it?
Well there were some — the experimental situation regarding the strong interaction
很令人困惑 非常困惑 甚至任何理论都远远不足以支持它
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.
只有很多经验规则和许多令人困惑的数据 我们做的是集中于
There were just a lot of rules of thumb and a lot of confusing data. What we did was focus
一个特定的现象 并试图理解这一点 放弃所有其它方面
on one particular phenomenon and try to understand just that. Putting off all other aspects of
困惑的东西 我们试图理解的现象似乎是如此的矛盾和
this confusing situation. The phenomena we tried to understand seemed so paradoxical,
疯狂 以至于我们认为 如果我们能理解它 那我们基本上就能理解任何事物
so crazy that we thought if we could understand that, we could understand anything basically.
也正是因为它看起来如此深刻和根本 实际上 大卫认为我们
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
量子力学与相对论的标准框架内理解它 这也将是一个非常重要的结果
framework of quantum mechanics and relativity. And that would be a very important result
too because it would tell physicists they had to go back to the drawing board. This
这一方面我们试图解释的是夸克的真相 那时一个有点
aspect that we were trying to explain was the fact that quarks, which were somewhat
思辨性的但却非常清楚的关于事实的迹象是 当它们
speculative, but a pretty clear indication of reality at that time — when they get
非常靠近时 它们几乎没有相互作用 或者当它们以非常高的速度
close together they hardly interact at all. Or when they’re moving at very high velocity
相对移动时 能量很高 它们根本就不会有太多的相互作用
relative to one another, high energy, again they don’t interact very much at all.
但是 如果你试图将它们分开一段距离 这意味着在这种情况下
But if you try to pull them apart a significant distance, which means, in this case, 10 to
距离在10-13厘米或更多 或者如果它们缓慢移动 那么它们就会有非常强大
-13 centimeters or more, or if they’re moving slowly then they have very, very powerful
的作用力 事实上你不能从物质中提取单个夸克 它们处于质子和中子内部时
forces. In fact you can’t extract single quarks from matter. They always exist bound
总是存在相互束缚 所以我们需要的是一个力 它会在距离短时
to one another inside protons and neutrons. So we needed a force which gets weaker at
变弱 并会随着距离的增长而变强 这是一件非常矛盾和难以想象的事情
short distances and grows as the distance grows. That’s a very paradoxical and difficult
它与我们所知的其它物理学规律也难以保持一致 现在
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
它们已被开发用于其他用途 称为重整化组 所以我们能够
had been developed for other purposes called renormalization group. So we were able to
将这些技巧来用于解决这个问题 它们很难
bring those techniques to bear and address this question. And they were very difficult
计算 不完全清楚它们是否一致 你实际上可以
calculations. It wasn’t entirely clear that they were consistent, that you could actually
以最美丽的理论来做这种计算 就是我们想要的
do this kind of calculation in the kind of theory that was most beautiful, that we wanted
去弄清楚的 但是我们坚持希望最美丽的方程式会是
to investigate. But we insisted on hoping that the most beautiful equations would be
正确的方程式 我们发现一类非常特殊的
the right equations. And we found out that a very, very special class of theoretical
充满对称性的理论结构 它影响了我们的研究行为 这就像
constructions with tremendous amounts of symmetry could give you this behavior. So that was
阿基米德所说的 如果你给我一个杠杆和一个支点
— I compare that to Archimedes saying that if you give me a lever and a place to stand,
我将能撬起地球 基于这种基本原理所赋予的杠杆
I can lift the world. Based on that kind of leverage given by the sort of basic principles
信念、对称和美丽 再加上力越来越弱的这一事实
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.
我们列出这些方程的一些结果 然后提交给实验者
And we could develop some consequences of those equations and then propose to experimenters
他们会对这些结果是否正确进行检查 现在花了好几年
that they go out and check whether these consequences are correct. Now it took several years afterwards
将我们预测的那些结果变得清楚 证明它们是正确的
before it became clear that those consequences we predicted were correct, but they are. And
在随后的几年中 这个理论已经越来越清楚了
in subsequent years it’s become more and more clear the theory has been used for a
现在它在各种各样的应用中取得了巨大成功 早期的那种
wide variety of applications now with great success. The kind of thing that in the early
被称为测量量子色度动力学或测试渐近自由的东西 现在被称为
days was called testing quantum chromodynamics or testing asymptotic freedom is now called
计算背景 所以 它已经从从对新世界的迷人探索
calculating backgrounds. So it’s gone from being a glamorous exploration of new worlds
变成了某种需要人照顾的垃圾 所以我想你可以去寻找更有趣
to kind of taking care of the garbage. So I think you could look for more interesting
的东西 但是 尽管听起来很好 但在某种程度上 这有点像是在倒退 如果我
things. But well although it sounds, in a way, it’s kind of a step down. If I look
从整体来看时 这是一个辉煌的经历——你曾经有一个只在心里存在的
at it in the big picture, it’s glorious that you have a theory that was originally
非常思辨性的理论 现在却已经变得非常美丽 成为了
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.



听2004年诺贝尔物理学奖获得者、麻省理工学院教授Frank Wilczek讲述自己的经历。