Friday, January 28, 2011

I can do that

A fateful conversation in Utrecht, 1971. Later Veltman would claim that the "Harvard mafia" of Glashow and Weinberg had stolen his Nobel prize. For years Veltman's alternative history of the electroweak interactions circulated as a samizdat. He and his former student 't Hooft received their prize in 1999. For more history, see, e.g., here.

Veltman: I do not care what or how, but what we must have is at least one renormalizable theory with massive charged bosons, and whether that looks like Nature is of no concern, those are details that will be fixed later by some model freak ...

’t Hooft: I can do that.

Veltman: What do you say?

’t Hooft: I can do that.

I met Tini Veltman for the first time when I gave a talk at Michigan in the early 90s. I had been at graduate school at Berkeley with his daughter.

Veltman: Where are you now?

Me: At Harvard.

Veltman: Are you proud of dat? (Dutch accent)

Me: I'm just a postdoc.

Veltman: What will you talk about?

Me: The Abbott-Farhi model and gauge-Higgs complementarity.

Veltman: What do you say?

Me: It doesn't work. There is a fermion condensate due to strong coupling.

Veltman: Good. I knew it was crap. But this last part is new.


Peterfirefly said...

It's "'t Hooft" -- there's a space between the t and the H.

steve hsu said...

Thanks, fixed!

larrosos tekquandeo said...

Steve, was the 2nd conversation between you and Veltman?

Since when did Veltman claim that his Nobel was "stolen"?

Also, don't you realize that this post makes 't Hooft and Veltman look very bad?

larrosos tekquandeo said...

i'd like to know too

JD M said...

Only three years late... "Eventually, 't Hooft learned that Veltman would use the word "gangster" for anyone who was smarter than Veltman himself. 't Hooft also realized that Coleman and Glashow needed a few minutes to understand something that Veltman only understood after several hours. Well, I guess that 't Hooft's former advisor is not terribly happy if he reads this report, but it does not mean that 't Hooft's description is unfair. ;-)"

And here:"He said his advisor Martin Veltman had told him that the Yang-Mills
scaling behavior wasn’t relevant to experiment since experimentalists
only cared about what happens on mass-shell. Luckily Veltman was one of
the few Nobel theorists not in attendance, since he would likely have
blown a gasket if he had been there to hear some of the things ‘t Hooft
had to say about him."


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