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See Inside Scientific American Volume 307, Issue 1

Nobel Pursuits: Decades of Wisdom from Prizewinning Physicists

The tools of science have changed since the golden age of physics, but many of the same questions remain



John Hendrix

Every summer nobel laureates converge on Lindau, Germany, to share their wisdom with, and to learn from, up-and-coming scientists hailing from many corners of the globe. This year the 62nd meeting focuses on physics. In honor of that event, the two of us have selected excerpts from some of the most fascinating articles that Nobel winners have published in the magazine over the years, on topics ranging from cosmology to particle physics to technology.

As we gathered these selections, which begin on the opposite page, we were struck anew by the way the problems that puzzled physicists decades ago continue to drive research today. Yes, the field has changed since the days of Albert Einstein, P.A.M. Dirac and Enrico Fermi. Physicists have made vast leaps (such as constructing and honing the Standard Model of particle physics) and encountered strange turns (such as dark energy). Yet many of the questions being tackled now are the same, at root, as those that have spurred research throughout the past century—among them: Why is matter so much more abundant than antimatter? Does the Higgs boson, widely believed to account for the mass of subatomic particles, truly exist? And what does “spooky action at a distance” betray about the workings of the world?

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