Meeting a Master

Graham spent yesterday at the University of Utrecht talking with one of the grandmasters of modern theoretical physics, Gerard ‘t Hooft. In a wide-ranging interview for Graham’s next book, the Dutch scientist reflected on the development of quantum field theory since 1970 and on his thinking about current physics. No one has done more to shine light on field theory than ‘t Hooft, whose physical insight and mathematical dexterity are legendary.

t Hooft

‘t Hooft, now sixty-eight, is sceptical of the modern developments of string theory – ‘my colleagues are working hard to persuade me, but I remain unconvinced’, he told Graham.

Over lunch, ‘t Hooft talked enthusiastically about his book Time in powers of ten, soon to be published in the UK and the US. The ‘powers of ten’ theme has often been applied to distances, but ‘t Hooft and his colleague Stefan Vandorn apply it to times, with surprising results:

Time in powers of ten on Amazon UK

After leaving Utrecht, Graham commented: ‘They say that meeting your heroes is always disappointing, but talking with ‘t Hooft was even more stimulating than I expected it to be. He is a model of what one hopes a leading senior scientist should be – unassuming, modest and wise.’