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T'Hooft, Gerardus

t’hooft quantum veltman renormalization

(1946– ) Dutch theoretical physicist.

Born and educated in the Netherlands, t’Hooft studied, taught and researched in the University of Utrecht, becoming a full professor there in 1977; he has held visiting appointments in several other countries. His work has brought many honours and awards, including having an asteroid (9491 t’Hooft) named after him.

As a young man of 24, t’Hooft together with his professor Martinus Veltman (1931–) solved the central problem of the time in the most fundamental area of physics – the stuff of dreams. In the 1940s Feynman had found a mathematical quantum theory of electrons (quantum electrodynamics, QED) which perfectly described their behaviour. It works because the electron is always viewed from a distance (known as renormalization) so that its surrounding virtual particles clothe it as a cloud. In the 1960s developed a quantum theory of electromagnetism and the weak nuclear interaction; similarly this needed a method of renormalization before it could be used in practice. Within a year t’Hooft provided his supervisor Veltman with a suitable method. Together they developed theoretical techniques for making quantitative predictions concerning electroweak interactions, borne out perfectly by experiment. The W and Z particles were predicted and their expected properties observed by particle physicists; the prediction of the particle awaits confirmation. Veltman and t’Hooft shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 1999.

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