Physics Professor Hartle Receives Einstein Prize
James Hartle, a research professor and professor emeritus of physics and one of the founders of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP), is set to receive the 2009 Einstein Prize from the American Physical Society. Awarded biennially, the $10,000 prize recognizes "outstanding accomplishments in the field of gravitational physics."
"I am pleased, honored, and surprised," Hartle said about the award. He was cited for his broad range of fundamental contributions to relativistic stars, quantum fields in curved spacetime, and especially quantum cosmology.
Quantum cosmology deals with some of the most difficult conceptual problems in physics, such as the "wave function of the universe," or how to describe the one universe with a theory that is normally interpreted as yielding only probabilities for repeated experiments. In seminal work, Hartle and longtime collaborator Stephen Hawking addressed the problem of what might determine the initial conditions that pick out our universe from other possible universes. Their "no boundary" proposal for the wave function of the universe is an elegant speculation as to the origin of the universe and the beginning of time.
Einsteinís greatest achievement is his theory of general relativity, and Hartle is an expert on the refinements and implications of that theory. In a fitting tribute to the scientist, a photograph of Einstein gazing at the Pacific from Butterfly Beach during a trip to California in the 1930ís hangs in Hartleís office.