Ashoke Sen, a professor at the Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad, was recently declared one of the winners of the first Fundamental Physics Prize started by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner.
Sen and eight other scientists will get $3 million each – double of what is given with the Nobel Prize. Seven of the winners are based in the United States, one s in France and one in India. Sen has been awarded for his pioneering work on string theory.
Yuri Milner made his billions from investments in various Internet based companies including Facebook and Twitter after giving up his job as a researcher at Moscow’s Lebedev Physical Institute. He personally selected the winners of this year’s award but in future the work would be done by a committee, he told media.
Ashoke Sen is considered one of original contributors to string theory, a complex mathematical construct which is meant to resolve one of science’s biggest mysteries – that gravity as explained by Einstein does not fit in with quantum theory which explains all other forces and particles of nature.
Ashoke Sen studied in Shailendra Sircar Vidyalaya, and then Presidency College, in Kolkata before going on to IIT Kanpur in 1976. He got his doctorate from State University of New York, Stonybrook and then worked at Fermilab and Stanford before returning to India. He came back in 1988 to join TIFR.
In 1995, Sen shifted to Harish-Chandra Research Institute, run by the department of atomic energy. This shift was partly because his wife Sumathi Rao was there, and partly because a new fillip to mathematical research was given by the new director, H.S.Mani, says Sen.
Sen has won the ICTP Prize in 1989, the Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar award in 1994, the Padma Shri in 2001 and the Infosys prize in Mathematical Sciences in 2009.
About his work
Present physics assumes that at the fundamental level matter (and energy) is made up of particles. But this leads to the problem of not being able to explain certain things like gravity. By replacing particles with vibrating strings, many of these mathematical problems are resolved.
Because these strings could only be detected at very high energy levels, there has been no experimental confirmation till now.