Frank Wilczek, the Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist and author known for his pioneering studies of the fundamental laws of nature, was honored Wednesday with this year’s prestigious Templeton Prize, awarded to individuals whose life’s work involves a fusion of science and spirituality embodied.
In a statement, the John Templeton Foundation commended Wilczek, 70, for “changing our understanding of the forces that govern our universe” while “applying the insights of his subject to the great questions of meaning and purpose, across generations.” have thought about by religious thinkers.”
Established in 1972 by the late philanthropist Sir John Templeton, the award is one of the most lucrative individual awards in the world, currently worth more than $1.3 million. Past winners include Jane Goodall, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“It’s a company I’m very excited to join,” Wilczek said in an interview with The Associated Press ahead of the announcement.
“It’s an encouragement in a direction that I’ve really only recently taken in a big way, although I’ve been building on it for many years,” he said, “which is to not just think about what the world is and how it’s like came about, but what should we do about it.”
In his long career, Wilczek has achieved many outstanding successes. These include the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics shared with David J. Gross and H. David Politzer for their 1973 breakthrough that explains the unusual properties of the strong force that binds elementary particles known as quarks into protons and neutrons.
Wilczek has continued to “invent new concepts in physics by naming and developing the theories of anyons, time crystals, and axions, each of which now defines important areas of research,” Templeton’s statement said.
He has also authored several books informed by science but delving into the spiritual and philosophical. These include “A Beautiful Question,” in which he asks, “Does the universe embody beautiful ideas?”; “The Lightness of Being”, an examination of what people are made of; and “Fundamentals,” an exploration of radical life extension, the longing for immortality, the frontiers of science, and other topics.
“By examining how the world works, we study how God works and thereby learn what God is,” he writes in Fundamentals, published this year. “In this sense, we can interpret the quest for knowledge as a form of worship and our discoveries as revelations.”
Wilczek “is one of those rare and wonderful individuals who brings together a keen, creative intellect and an appreciation for transcendent beauty,” Heather Dill, president of the Templeton Foundation, said in the group’s statement.
“Like Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein,” she added, “he is a natural philosopher who combines curiosity about nature’s behavior with a playful and profound philosophical mind.”
Born in New York in 1951, Wilczek earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago, as well as an MA in mathematics and a Ph.D. in Physics at Princeton.
Raised as a Catholic, he espoused the idea that there was a grand design behind existence. But as he learned more about science, he eventually lost faith in conventional religion and, as he put it, “thrown detailed dogma overboard.”
Still, he has borrowed enduring ideas from Catholicism that he has cherished throughout his life, including, he told the AP, “that there is a hidden meaning to things that we can try to figure out. And that you can think big about what it all means and how it came about.”
Wilczek is currently a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Arizona State University, and Stockholm University. He is also the founding director of the TD Lee Institute at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and a senior researcher at the school’s Wilczek Quantum Center.
In a video statement, he commended the Templeton Prize for calling attention to possible new approaches to problems traditionally accessible through religion.
“For me, the central wonder of physics is that by playing with equations, drawing diagrams, performing calculations, and working in the world of mental concepts and manipulations, you are actually describing the real world,” Wilczek said. “If you’ve tried to understand what God is by understanding God’s work, then you’ve made it.”
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https://www.local10.com/tech/2022/05/11/nobel-laureate-and-physicist-wilczek-wins-templeton-prize/ Nobel laureate and physicist Wilczek receives the Templeton Prize