The 2008 Nobel Laureates met at the Bernadotte Library in Stockholm on 9 December 2008 for the traditional round-table discussion and TV programme ‘Nobel Minds’. The programme was hosted by BBC presenter Sarah Montague. The Laureates discussed, among other things, their own achievements, the worldwide financial crisis, and what research they think is needed most right now.
Telephone interview with Makoto Kobayashi following the announcement of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics, 7 October 2008. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Nobelprize.org.
[Makoto Kobayashi] Hello.
[Adam Smith] Hello.
[MK] Hello. This is Kobayashi speaking.
[AS] Ah, Professor Kobayashi…
[AS] Thank you very much. This is Adam Smith from the Nobel Foundation’s web site in Stockholm. Congratulations of course on the award of the Nobel Prize.
[MK] Thank you very much.
[AS] I imagine it came as a surprise?
[MK] Yes, well, of course.
[AS] And, where did you hear the news? Were you at home or at work?
[MK] At my offices at the JSPS.
[AS] Right. You were awarded the prize for your work on broken symmetry.
[AS] And in particular, for your model which predicted the existence of three new families of quarks.
[AS] You were very young when you made this prediction.
[MK] Yes. It was 28.
[AS] And, it took almost 30 years for the prediction to be found to be correct by the discovery of these families of quarks in accelerators.
[MK] Yes, that’s right.
[AS] Were you confident throughout that your theory would be shown to be correct?
[MK] Ah. Actually, our work consisted of two parts. One is the … four quarks is not enough to explain the CP violation asymmetry. And that is a quite logical consequence of the argument. But the second point is then that … what is the … what kind of the new particles can explain the actual CP violation. And there are quite many possibilities logically. But just one proposal, six quarks, came as one possibility. So, in that sense we are confident about the first part because it’s quite logical. But the second point was quite uncertain at that time. And so the second experiments show that there is actually that many quarks existing. So, at first we were not confident about this six quarks scheme, but gradually we came to believe that this actually is the case.
[AS] There seems to be an interesting push-and-pull relationship between theoretical physics and experimental physics. Sometimes theoretical physics leads experiment, and other times it is almost catching up with experiment.
[MK] Yes, yes, yes.
[AS] Which period do you think we are in now?
[MK] This is actually quite a new phase. We had … the issue of the standard model is almost over. So then, now we are waiting for some kind of new physics. In the sense theoreticians predict, propose many theories, and we just wait experimental proof of those models.
[AS] I suppose in that light, it’s interesting that this announcement of your Nobel Prize comes shortly after the world has been focused on the development of the new LHC at CERN.
[AS] And everybody is waiting to see what will come out of that.
[MK] Right, right.
[AS] What do you think will come out?
[MK] I personally expect that the LHC will reveal some kind of new physics, most likely the so-called supersymmetric theory. It’s … I just wait for the result.
[AS] Will the new physics replace the standard model or add to the standard model of particle physics?
[MK] Ah, not actually. Standard model is kept true, but we need to add something on the top of this standard model. That is what we expect at LHC experiment.
[AS] Right, right. And, do you feel that you were very fortunate to be a theoretical physicist working at the time you were working? Was it a good time to be a physicist?
[MK] Yes, I think so. Particularly the 1970s – the time of the liberation in the particle physics. At that time we had many chance to do many things.
[AS] Do you think there is any significance in the fact that all three Laureates in Physics this year come from a Japanese educational background? Is there something about Japanese education that makes one a good theoretical physicist?
[MK] Ah, I’m not sure, but I hope so.
[AS] And one hopes that continues to be the case. Yes, yes. Have you any idea for how you will celebrate the award of the Nobel Prize?
[MK] It’s almost 10 o’clock, midnight. So I would like to go sleep.
[AS] Then I should let you get off the telephone and go to sleep, but thank you. And when you come to Stockholm in December to receive your award, we will interview you at greater length I hope, and then we will speak more.
[MK] Okay, okay. Thank you very much.
[AS] Thank you very much for taking the time. Congratulations
[MK] Thank you, thank you.
[AS] Bye bye.
[MK] Bye bye.
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Their work and discoveries range from the formation of black holes and genetic scissors to efforts to combat hunger and develop new auction formats.
See them all presented here.