David J. Gross


David Gross answers questions on the NobelPrize YouTube channel


The third in a series of Q&A sessions with Nobel Laureates on YouTube features David Gross, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics 2004 for discovering the workings of one of the four basic forces in nature, the strong force that holds atomic nuclei together. In the videos below he responds to a selection of questions posted on the NobelPrize YouTube channel, discussing among other topics how the universe evolved, what research at the LHC could reveal, which books shaped his interest in theoretical physics, and the particulars of string theory.

Interview, September 2008

Interview with the 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics, David J. Gross, in September 2008. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Nobelprize.org.

David Gross explains why Israel was a good location for a budding scientist, why theoretical physics needed a revolutionary approach in the 1960’s (7:46), why a beautiful and simple theory still “can’t be solved on the back of an envelope” (18:09) and why ill-defined intuition needs to be trusted (26:45). He also clarifies why there is a pending crisis in scientific enquiry (34:26), why part of his job is going back to school (38:48), and why students need to learn to ask questions, not answer them (52:06).

Interview, December 2004

Interview with two of the 2004 Nobel Laureates in Physics, David J. Gross and Frank Wilczek, 9 December 2004. The interviewer is Joanna Rose, science writer.

The Laureates talk about their discovery and the experiments behind it, the importance of formulating the right questions (9.46), problems still to be solved (11:27), their thoughts about string theory (13:49), and about being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics (23:03).

Nobel Minds 2004

Participating in the 2004 edition of Nobel Minds: the Nobel Laureates in Physics, David J. Gross and Frank Wilczek, the Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, Aaron Ciechanover, Avram Hershko and Irwin Rose, the Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine, Richard Axel and Linda B. Buck and the Laureates in Economic Sciences, Finn E. Kydland and Edward C. Prescott. Program host is Nik Gowing.

Interview, October 2004

Telephone interview with Dr. David J. Gross after the announcement of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics, 5 October 2004. The interviewer is Joanna Rose, science writer.

Interview transcript

– Hello?

– Is this David Gross?

– Speaking.

– Hello. This is Joanna Rose from Stockholm. My congratulations to the prize.

– Thank you.

– I’m calling from Nobelprize.org, which is the official website of The Nobel Foundation. So, we thought that we can put this interview on the web, if it’s O.K. for you?

– You want to do an interview right now?

– Yes. We are doing it now.

– O.K.

– How are you feeling?

– I’m still in shock. And I haven’t been able to get off the phone with people calling for interviews.

– So, did you expect this prize this year?

– I don’t know, I thought it was a one in three chance.

– So, how did you sleep this night?

– Not very well. And certainly not for the last hour or two.

– But the discovery that you got the prize for, it was made more than thirty years age.

– That’s right.

– So, did you wait for the prize every year?

– No. Just the last twenty-nine years.

– I understand.

– I’m just kidding.

– I talked to Frank Wilczek. He said that he was sure that the discoveries were worth a Nobel Prize. But, not you.

– You mean he was sure at the beginning? Day one? He was sure that it was worth a Nobel Prize?

– Yes.

– Is that what he said?

– Yes. That’s what he said.

– Well, he was much younger and innocent. Well, you know, I think it took me three years before the experimental evidence was strong enough that I said, ”this is definitely true.”

– You wanted to be convinced?

– Yeah.

– So, this is what you think, that the theory must be experimentally …

– Oh sure. Theorists can be wrong, only Nature is always right.

– Are you fostering now new Nobel Prize winners?

– I certainly hope so. Well again, I’m the director of an institute of theoretical physics where I see lots of potential Nobel Prize winners. But, as theorists, one has to wait for Nature’s verdict as well. Some of the ideas are wonderful. And, maybe they’re even true.

– I understand. Like, what ideas?

– Well, I’m most excited about ideas in string theory. But they’re not yet at the stage where it’s clear that it’s true.

– They say that string theory is very very far from being experimentally …

– Right. But there are even other ideas that have been around. Theorists have wonderful ideas which take years and years to be verified. Super symmetry is one that we’re waiting and waiting for verification.

– Could you see in the beginning of the 70’s that those two young students, Frank Wilczek and David Politzer, had this potential? That they were extraordinary in some sense?

– Well, Frank was essentially my first student.

– Ever?

– Yeah. I was pretty young too. I was about 31 when he started working with me. So, he was my first graduate student and I thought that, well, all graduate students are as good as Frank.

– Did you have to revise this?

– Well, I’ve had some other good students since … Ed Witten. But yes I think I learned that not all students are as good as Frank.

– So, do you have any good advice to young students today? How they can behave and study to get the Nobel Prize once?

– Well, the advice I tell students is to think about the big problems. I mean, work on anything you can work on where you can make progress. But always keep in mind the big problems. The ones that are truly important. And, watch carefully what Nature is trying to tell us.

– How early can you do it? Did you think about becoming a scientist when you were a child?

– Yeah. Actually, I was more or less determined to be a theoretical physicist at the age of thirteen.

– O.K. So please, once more my congratulations to the prize, and I hope to meet you here in Stockholm in December.

– I look forward to it. Thank you.

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To cite this section
MLA style: David J. Gross – Interview. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Media AB 2021. Tue. 20 Apr 2021. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/2004/gross/interview/>

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