April 26, 2000


Brookhaven Lab Physicist Wins the American Physical Society's Aneesur Rahman Prize for Computational Physics

UPTON, NY - Michael Creutz, a physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been named the recipient of the 2000 Aneesur Rahman Prize for Computational Physics by the American Physical Society (APS). He will receive the $5,000 prize at a ceremony at the annual APS meeting in Long Beach, California, on May 1.

Creutz won the prize for "first demonstrating that properties of quantum chromodynamics (QCD) could be computed numerically on the lattice through Monte Carlo methods, and for numerous contributions to the field thereafter."

First proposed in the 1970s, QCD is the theory that describes the interactions of subnuclear particles. It is based on subconstituents called quarks. In 1974, Nobel laureate Kenneth Wilson of Cornell University proposed using a lattice in a regular geometric arrangement of discrete points of space and time to more easily make the advanced calculations required for QCD. Monte Carlo techniques derive their name from the random numbers used in this computational method to explore the vast space of possible values for the fields binding quarks. Such studies of QCD are now a major activity of the theoretical physics community and require the most powerful computers available.

Using Monte Carlo techniques on the lattice, Creutz provided strong evidence that quarks are particles that cannot be isolated, thus mathematically confirming QCD, which had already been tested experimentally. Creutz found that the force between widely separated quarks did not decrease, even as the quarks are moved farther and farther apart.

"The force between two quarks as you pull them apart is equal to 14 tons," Creutz said. "My investigations showed that a quark is a real object, but it can't be observed by itself."

In 1980, Cruetz's findings were reported in the journal Physical Review, and his published paper became the most cited one of the year. Since then, Creutz's new computational methods have been applied to QCD calculations, as well as other theoretical problems in physics. They also play an important role in the physics of Brookhaven's newest accelerator, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). Lattice calculations are the best theoretical estimates for the temperature of the elusive quark-gluon plasma, a form of matter that scientists believe has not existed since moments after the Big Bang. Scientists hope to detect quark-gluon plasma in RHIC.

After his most cited 1980 paper was published, Creutz mapped out numerous variations of lattice gauge theory. Currently, he is developing new algorithms for related computational problems. These also have potential applications in other areas, including superconductivity and magnetic materials. Another challenging problem is the inclusion of neutrinos in the lattice framework.

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 worked as a Fellow of the Center for Theoretical Physics at the University of Maryland before he joined Brookhaven in 1972 as an assistant physicist. He became an associate physicist in 1974, a physicist in 1976, and senior physicist in 1980. A Fellow of the American Physical Society, Creutz received the Brookhaven Research and Development Award in 1991, as well as the Andrew Sobczyk Memorial Lectureship from Clemson University in 1997. He was chair of the Division of Computational Physics of the American Physical Society in 1994-95.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory creates and operates major facilities available to university, industrial and government personnel for basic and applied research in physical, biomedical and enivronmental sciences, and in selected energy technologies. The Laboratory is operated by Brookhaven Science Associates, a not-for-profit research management company, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.
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Last updated 5/28/99 by Public Affairs