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Solving the puzzles of physics

By Cindy Weiss, CLAS Today

“To me, Nature is a big jigsaw puzzle, and I see it as my task to try to fit pieces of it together.”That is how Gerard ‘t Hooft, one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists, describes himself. The Nobelist in physics fit more pieces of the puzzle together when he delivered the annual Katzenstein Distinguished Lecture on Nov. 4, hosted by the Department of Physics.’t Hooft and Martinus Veltman, his thesis adviser at the University of Utrecht, won the 1999 physics Nobel for “elucidating the quantum structure of the electroweak interactions in physics.” His mathematical proof, developed when he was a graduate student at Utrecht in the early 1970s, along with a software program that Veltman had developed, worked out a puzzle that had long eluded physicists about how the “weak force” works in quantum physics.The weak force, or weak electromagnetic interactions, is responsible in part for how electrons revolve around the nucleus of the atom and how sub-atomic particles interact.

“This was the enigma that Gerard ‘t Hooft solved – how to make sense of these physical theories that had for so long eluded us,” says Philip Mannheim, professor of physics and organizer of the lecture.

Many people have contributed to the modern theory of the nuclear force, but “the one whose contribution you can’t do without is ‘t Hooft’s, he adds.

The Katzenstein lecture and a prize in physics were endowed in 1996 by the late Dr. Henry S. Katzenstein, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics in CLAS at UConn. He developed a key patent used in reading information from compact discs, and he co-founded Brooktree Corp., San Diego, a semiconductor company that was later bought by Rockwell.

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