Physics of Scale Activities

Physics of Scale People


We collect interviews and biographical materials from individuals who pioneered the study of quantum field theories at small distances and those who pioneered the application of scaling methods for the study of critical phenomena. The individuals listed below have kindly granted their time to the Physics of Scale history project. Please note that this list is by no means exhaustive of all those who have made valuable or major contributions to the field. It is an initial selection that reflects opportunities and compromises.

Each of the following scientists was interviewed by our collaborators. Each interview has been proofread and approved by the interviewee, and is now posted for public viewing.

  • Cyril Domb sought to understand mathematically the behavior of a substance as it undergoes a phase transition, focusing on estimates, expansions and exponents
  • Igor E. Dzyaloshinskii co-authored an influential textbook on the application of field theory to statistical physics, and he too analyzed phase transitions
  • Alexander Voronel was one of the first experimenters to try to ascertain a singularity near the critical point of a gas about to undergo a phase transition
  • Howard Schnitzer carried out important early calculations to identify anomalies in theoretical accounts of the transition from one phase to another
  • Peter Heller applied experimental methods of nuclear magnetic resonance and hence discovered that a critical exponent had an anomalous value
  • Benjamin Widom identified a homogeneity property in the free energy in a phase transition, which entailed an identity among characteristic exponents
  • Leo P. Kadanoff introduced the key concept of "blocks" in which energy fluctuations matter, and he independently derived the identity among exponents
  • Alexander Z. Patashinski identified an unexpected "self-similarity" of energy fluctuations at different scales, and tried to calculate critical exponents
  • Alexander Polyakov applied quantum field theory to describe phase transitions, and introduced an operator product expansion to try to classify fixed points in transitions
  • H. Eugene Stanley calculated properties of models of critical phenomena and devised a method of high temperature expansions producing results in 3 and 2 dimensions
  • Kenneth G. Wilson formulated a comprehensive account that captured the "universal" aspects of phase transitions, finally enabling exact calculations

The following physicists have also been interviewed, and their interviews have been transcribed, edited, and submitted for their approval. Once each scientist kindly proofreads and approves their interview, it will be posted for public viewing.

  • Dmitrii V. Shirkov co-authored a textbook that included a treatment of the original "renormalization group" applied to infrared problems, using "fixed points"
  • Paul C. Martin analyzed many-body systems at various temperatures, and he investigated the phenomenology of ferromagnets and anti-ferromagnets in transitions
  • George Benedek refined techniques for measuring shifts in resonance frequency under high pressures, and helped establish that non-classical exponents exist
  • Valery L. Pokrovsky identified an unexpected "self-similarity" of energy fluctuations at different scales, and tried to calculate critical exponents
  • Giovanni Jona-Lasinio applied methods of renormalization to critical processes, and derived scaling by assuming that the coupling constant is irrelevant at the critical point
  • Michael E. Fisher realized the importance of dimensionality for reformulating Wilson's scheme for making calculations, and systematically developed such methods
  • Franz Wegner was an early advocate and developer of Wilson's work, and he showed how to identify redundant operators to facilitate calculations on phase transitions
  • Peter Lepage demonstrated that certain complex particle interactions exhibit the same perturbative structure of the renormalization group analysis of phase transitions
  • Kenneth G. Wilson (2nd Interview) has theorized about whether new processes may be found at untapped energy scales, and also about complex social phenomena

Furthermore, the following physicists have been interviewed, too. Most of these interviews have been transcribed and are pending revisions, and later, final approval.

  • Giorgio Parisi
  • Arthur Wightman
  • M. A. Anisimov
  • Curtis Callan
  • Carlo Di Castro
  • Giovanni Gallavotti
  • F. Guerra
  • B. L. Ioffe
  • N. David Mermin
  • Fritz Rohrlich
  • H. Eugene Stanley (2nd interview)

We continue to gather such materials from these and other participants and will make them available here as open and interactive forums so that visitors may participate by commenting on the interviews over the internet.

Last updated on October 8, 2004.