At the RIKEN BNL Research Center (RBRC) our research focus is on spin physics, Lattice Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) computational physics and quark gluon plasma (QGP) physics. The goal is to establish a new field of physics for the 21st century by closely coordinating our theoretical and experimental research efforts.
In the 20th century, physics was dominated by "reductionism." We believed that by finding the smallest unit of matter, the understanding of the large would follow. This belief in reductionism, aided by the success of quantum theory, made it possible for us to achieve extraordinary precision in theoretical predictions, which are in turn confirmed by accurate measurements. This led us to discover that all known matter is made of 12 elementary particles, six quarks and six leptons. However, in the second half of the last century, we encountered two serious puzzles; one is our inability to observe any of the six quarks individually, and the other is the dichotomy between the concept of symmetry that our theory is based upon and the violation of symmetry observed in experiments. These two puzzles brought us to the threshold of a new direction.
I think the physics of the 21st century will be dominated by "holism." The understanding of the small cannot be separated from the examination of the large. To understand why quarks cannot be seen individually, we must explore the confinement mechanism of the physical vacuum state. To connect the symmetry violations of our present universe with the fundamental symmetry principles in our theory, we must again probe the evolution of symmetry change of the entire universe, from a seemingly perfect symmetrical beginning (the Big Bang) to the present asymmetrical state. Thus the study of elementary particles cannot be separated from the macroscopic system at large. RHIC is the first high energy accelerator designed to explore the structure of the physical vacuum as well as possible forms of new states of matter. The research effort at RBRC is concentrated on this new direction of physics.
As the history of the 20th century indicates, scientific progress has always been made by younger researchers. Albert Einstein was in his 20's when he published his special theory of relativity and began his quest for the general theory of relativity. Niels Bohr was 27 when he introduced the quantization rule of atomic orbits. Quantum mechanics was created by young scientists of the next generation including Werner Heisenberg, Paul Dirac, Enrico Fermi, and Yoshio Nishina. During the 1930s and 1940s, young Hideki Yukawa and Shinichiro Tomonaga were among those who solved major problems of nuclear physics and quantum electrodynamics.
At any given time, the older generation is, of course, playing a significant role. However, more challenging and more important problems have always been solved by the younger researchers. Such talent does not appear suddenly. We see concentration of such talents at a few selective centers such as the Niels Bohr Institute, RIKEN, the Advanced Study at Princeton, and Columbia University.
At RBRC, we provide a special environment dedicated to talented young scientists from around the world so that they can concentrate their energy on that research. Our goal is to become a facility where a new field of physics for the 21st century will be developed.
Emeritus Professor at Columbia University, Nobel laureate in Physics (1957) for his study of "parity violation."