Ashoke Sen gets $3 million in Fundamental Physics Prize for Research on String Theory

If you read about Uddhab Bharali earlier on, and were excited by him being conferred with the NASA Technology Award, Ashoke Sen brings you more reason to rejoice. For his pioneering contributions to the String Theory, theoretical physicist Sen has been awarded with the Fundamental Physics Prize started by Yuri Milner, the russian billionaire entrepreneur and investor. At $3 million, the award comes with the highest academic prize money in the world, 2.5 times that of the Nobel Prize at about $1.2 million (8 million Swedish Krona).

Ashoke Sen receives this award for uncovering striking evidence of strong-weak duality in certain supersymmetric string theories and gauge theories, opening the path to the realization that all string theories are different limits of the same underlying theory.

String theory is currently the most viable candidate for a unified theory of physics which describes all forces of nature, encompassing the physics of gravity, general relativity, and quantum mechanics. If successful, this could complete the Theory of Everything, or final theory, that is a theory of Physics that fully explains and links together all known physical phenomena, describes all fundamental forces and forms of matter, and predicts the outcome of any experiment that could be carried out in principle.

Sen made a number of major original contributions to the subject of string theory, including his landmark paper on strong-weak coupling duality or S-duality (aka strong-weak duality), which was influential in changing the course of research in the field. He pioneered the study of unstable D-branes and made the famous Sen conjecture about open string tachyon condensation on such branes. His current research interests are centered around the attractor mechanism and the precision counting of microstates for black holes in string theory. He has also co-authored many important papers on string field theory, a formalism in string theory in which the dynamics of relativistic strings is reformulated in the language of quantum field theory.

A professor of Physics at the rather unknown but exclusive Harish Chandra Reseach Institute, Allahabad, Sen earlier worked at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay. Sen, 55, did his graduation from Presidency College Calcutta, Masters from IIT Kanpur, and Doctorate from Stony Brook University New York, before doing post-doctoral research at Fermilab, Batavia and SLAC, Stanford, after which he returned to India for good in 1988.

Ashoke Sen was also awarded the Padma Shri in 2001.

Ashoke Sen at Harvard

The Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation is a non-profit organization “dedicated to advancing our [sic] knowledge of the Universe at the deepest level” by awarding physicists involved in fundamental research, and was founded in July this year by Yuri Milner, a physicist himself, and founder of Digital Sky Technologies, under which he funded successful internet companies like Spotify, Groupon, Zynga, Facebook, and Twitter. Milner, in an earlier avatar, studied for an advanced degree in theoretical physics from Moscow State University and later conducted research at the Institute of Physics in the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The Fundamental Physics Prize was commemorated to nine Physicists across the world including Sen, out of which seven are based in the US, and one in France. Yuri Milner personally nominated the inaugural group, but all 9 recipients have agreed to form a Selection Committee to award future prizes, annually.

Not all scientists are convinced about String Theory, but if the theory is proven, Sen would have helped us understand the universe better than ever before. This could be the next big thing after Higgs Boson.

Image credit: 1/2.