Saturday, October 31, 2015

Leo Kadanoff

This past week marked the passing of a giant in the field of physics - Leo Kadanoff. The public won't know  him, but those of us in physics, especially in Condensed Matter and Statistical Physics, will have heard of him and his numerous contributions to these field of studies.

“Leo was a prodigious scientist,” said his longtime UChicago colleague Sidney Nagel, the Stein-Freiler Distinguished Service Professor in Physics. “His work on statistical mechanics is one of the great achievements of 20th-century theoretical physics. It laid the conceptual and mathematical foundations for some of the most insightful and effective tools on which our modern understanding of nature is based.”

Kadanoff’s work has applications throughout physics, ranging from condensed matter (liquids and solids) to elementary particles, Nagel said, with the reach of his work extending to mathematics and other sciences.

I mentioned about the review paper that he wrote phase transition and the mean-field theorem quite a while back. And of course, those of you who had subscribed to Physics Today for a long time would have read his rather critical review of Stephen Wolfram's book "A New Kind of Science", in which in the end he said "... I cannot support the view that any “new kind of science” is displayed in NKS. I see neither new kinds of calculations, nor new analytic theory, nor comparison with experiment...." That rather sealed the deal for me.

He will be sorely missed.


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