Richard E. Taylor

Banquet speech

Richard E. Taylor’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1990

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Jerome Friedman, Henry Kendall and I wish to express our heartfelt thanks for the distinguished honor bestowed on us today. We are fortunate that we and our co-workers were among the first to use the large linear accelerator built at Stanford nearly a quarter of a century ago. We were given a rare opportunity to look a bit deeper into the way things are in the realm of the very small. Those happy days will take on an even greater lustre in our memories now that they have been accorded the world’s most authentic stamp of approval.

Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote that “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive”. We have travelled happily for a long time but now that we have arrived the events of this Nobel week have raised in my mind the very distinct possibility that Mr. Stevenson may have been mistaken. Perhaps he never had the opportunity to arrive here in Sweden! I suppose I should wait until the students have finished with us before making a final judgment in the matter.

I have somewhat of a problem this evening – the obvious topic for me is “quarks” and we were asked to be witty. After a great deal of reflection I have decided that quarks are just not funny. They are too small. Most of the time not much happens to a quark, and if something does, it is more likely to be catastrophic than amusing.

Quarks can’t talk to each other, read books, get dressed up for parties, win prizes, (go out with Swedish girls – is my son still here?) or any of the other things that make life so interesting for the rest of us. Quarks just don’t care. Perhaps next year the Royal Academy will award the physics prize to someone in condensed matter physics or general relativity. Those are hilarious subjects. If not, and the prize is again for elementary particle physics, you can always fall back on the economists.

I have some last words for the students:

The quarks and the stars were here when you came, and they will be here when you go. They have no sense of humor so, if you want a world where more people smile, you will have to fix things yourselves. I am confident that you will try, and hopeful that you will succeed.

Again, our profound thanks to everyone. Goodnight.

From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1990, Editor Tore Frängsmyr, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1991


Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1990

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