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SBU News > Events > Nov. 22 Provost’s Lecture: Dirac’s Dramatic Road to a Nobel Prize in Physics

Nov. 22 Provost’s Lecture: Dirac’s Dramatic Road to a Nobel Prize in Physics

Mats Larsson
Mats Larsson
Mats Larsson

Mats Larsson is a professor of physics at Stockholm University and director of the AlbaNova University Center in Stockholm, which is a joint scientific center between the Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University. He serves on the Nobel Committee for physics during 2016-2021. His research interests are laboratory astrophysics and its importance to astrochemistry, free electron laser research targeting small molecules, and, more recently, molecular chirality and chiral interaction. He chairs a Nobel Symposium on Chiral Matter during 2020, with Stony Brook University Distinguished Professor of Physics Dmitri Kharzeev as one of the co-chairs.

Abstract: There has never been a longer peace-time gap in the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics than between 1930 and 1933. The gap did not depend on a lack of candidates, but the significant problems the Nobel Committee had to reconcile the new quantum mechanics with the requirement of the will of Alfred Nobel, who states that the prize should be awarded for a “discovery” or “invention.” Whereas the committee agreed that Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger were the obvious candidates, the situation for Paul Dirac was totally different. The 1932 year’s prize had been postponed, and 1933 turned out to be a dramatic year. The discovery of the positive electron (positron), announced in March 1933, was a game changer, and finally raised Dirac to where he belonged: an equal to Heisenberg and Schrödinger. Based on the original documents from the Nobel archive, the lecture will describe Dirac’s dramatic road to a Nobel Prize in Physics.

This Provost’s Lecture, co-sponsored by the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics, will be held on Friday, November 22, at 5:45 pm in the Simons Center Della Pietra Family Auditorium. A reception will be held at 5 pm.

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