Michael Creutz, a physicist at the U.S.
Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been chosen
by the World Federation of Scientists (WFS) as the recipient of the 2008 Gian
Carlo Wick Gold Medal Award, which is given annually to a theoretical physicist
for outstanding contributions to particle physics. Creutz will receive the award
at a WFS meeting held in Erice, Italy, August 19 - 24.
Founded in 1973, the WFS is an association of more than 10,000 scientists from
110 countries whose aim is to share knowledge among all nations so that everyone
can experience the benefits of scientific progress. Gian Carlo Wick (1909-1992),
a native of Italy, was an eminent theoretical physicist who led the theory group
at Brookhaven Lab from 1958 to 1970.
“I am honored to have been chosen to receive this award and to be in
the company of the esteemed scientists that received it previously,” Creutz
said. “Also, I am proud to be the recipient of an award named after Gian
Carlo Wick. I was not yet at the Laboratory when he worked here, but I met him
when I was a child because my father, Ed Creutz, then head of the physics department
at Carnegie Tech – now Carnegie Mellon University – hired him as
a faculty member.”
Michael Creutz was cited for his work on lattice quantum chromodynamics (QCD),
a theory that describes the interactions of subnuclear particles. Specifically,
Creutz first demonstrated that properties of QCD could be computed numerically
on a four-dimensional lattice through computer-based calculations known as Monte
In 1974, Nobel laureate Kenneth Wilson of Cornell University first proposed
using a lattice in a regular geometric arrangement of discrete points of space
and time to simplify making the advanced calculations required for QCD. Coined
in the 1940s by physicists working at DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory,
the Monte Carlo method derives its name from the random numbers used in this
computational technique to explore the vast space of possible values for the
fields that bind quarks. Such calculations are now routinely made by theoretical
physicists around the world and require the most powerful computers available.
Using Monte Carlo techniques on the lattice, Creutz provided strong numerical
evidence that quarks cannot be isolated, thus confirming this conjectured property
of QCD. He found that the force between widely separated quarks, which is equal
to 14 tons, did not decrease as the quarks moved farther apart. Creutz published
his findings in the journal Physical Review in 1980. His paper became among
the most cited from that year.
These computational methods have since been applied to numerous theoretical
problems in physics, including the physics of Brookhaven’s world-class
accelerator, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, and may be relevant for interpreting
new physics findings at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Organization
for Nuclear Research, near Geneva, Switzerland. Currently, Creutz is investigating
including neutrinos on the lattice, which is difficult because, unlike other
subatomic particles, they only spin in one direction. Over the last several
years, physicists have been able to improve the control of both the size and
accuracy of the lattice with the aid of powerful new supercomputers at Brookhaven.
Michael Creutz earned a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology
in 1966, and a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University in 1970. He was a postdoctoral
fellow at the Center for Theoretical Physics at the University of Maryland before
he joined Brookhaven Lab in 1972 as an assistant physicist. He became an associate
physicist in 1974, a physicist in 1976, and a senior physicist in 1980.
A Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), Creutz received the APS’s
Aneesur Rahman Prize for Computational Physics in 2000. He also received the
Brookhaven Research & Development Award in 1991 and the Andrew Sobczk Memorial
Lectureship from Clemson University in 1997.