We are all Wilsonians now

Some truth in Wilsonian Physics…

Quantum Frontiers

Ken Wilson Ken Wilson

Ken Wilson passed away on June 15 at age 77. He changed how we think about physics.

Renormalization theory, first formulated systematically by Freeman Dyson in 1949, cured the flaws of quantum electrodynamics and turned it into a precise computational tool. But the subject seemed magical and mysterious. Many physicists, Dirac prominently among them, questioned whether renormalization rests on a sound foundation.

Wilson changed that.

The renormalization group concept arose in an extraordinary paper by Gell-Mann and Low in 1954. It was embraced by Soviet physicists like Bogoliubov and Landau, and invoked by Landau to challenge the consistency of quantum electrodynamics. But it was an abstruse and inaccessible topic, as is well illustrated by the baffling discussion at the very end of the two-volume textbook by Bjorken and Drell.

Wilson changed that, too.

Ken Wilson turned renormalization upside down. Dyson and others had worried about the “ultraviolet divergences”…

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