The Problems of Physics
A conversation with Sir Anthony Leggett

In 1987, the highly respected condensed matter physicist Tony Leggett penned The Problems of Physics, acutely highlighting the key foundational problems of the age. 26 years later we sit down with Professor Leggett, now a Nobel Laureate, to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.


About Sir Anthony Leggett:

Sir Anthony J. Leggett is the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor and Center for Advanced Study Professor of Physics, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is widely recognized as a world leader in the theory of low-temperature physics and superfluidity. He was awarded ...


Some Additional Resources:
The Problems of Physics

By Anthony Leggett

Nobel Prize Biography: Anthony J. Leggett

The Nobel Prize website

"Glass: The Cinderella Problem of Condensed-Matter Physics"

A video of a lecture given by Professor Leggett at University of Waterloo’s IQC, 2012

'Physics: What We Do and Don’t Know'

Article written by Steven Weinberg for the New York Review of Books, November 7th, 2013

"The “Standard Models” of Particle Physics and Cosmology, and their Discontents"

A video of the Messenger Lecture at Cornell University given by Nima Arkani-Hamed in 2010.

The Gentleman Laureate (Commentary Excerpt)

The Nobel Prize has always vaguely irritated me. The idea that one’s entire research career might somehow be neatly defined by what a bunch of Swedes happen to find noteworthy has long struck me as arbitrary at best and, in my darker moments, a sad commentary on our need for self-affirmation.

Richard Feynman typically summed it up best when asked if his work on quantum electrodynamics fully merited being awarded the Prize: “I don’t know anything about the Nobel Prize and what’s worth what…I’ve already got the prize. The prize is the pleasure of finding the thing out, the kick of the discovery, the observation that other people use it. Those are the real things. The honors are unreal.”

On the other hand, it’s clear that these sorts of major prizes and awards have their uses. Life without the annual Nobel announcements, for example, would mean that the mainstream media would pay even less attention than usual to scientific discoveries, literary accomplishments or the enlightened few who are advancing the cause of global peace.

The Nobel Prize does one other very useful thing too: it provides a sort of academic bulletproofing for those who might wish to indulge in more general musings on the future of their field, speculations which are invariably great fun for the rest of us who might be unwilling or unable to follow technical arguments in detail.

Along with two others (Alexei Abrikosov and Vitaly Ginsburg), Tony Leggett won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2003 for “pioneering contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids” and is universally appreciated as that very rare bird indeed: an unequivocally brilliant and unreservedly decent person...

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