2012 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
For the development of inflationary cosmology, including the theories of new inflation, eternal chaotic inflation, and the inflationary Multiverse, and for contributing to the development of vacuum stabilization mechanisms in string theory.
One of the biggest problems in contemporary cosmology is the apparent fine-tuning of the laws of physics: they seem improbably well arranged to produce a Universe that can support observers like us. Andrei Linde, one of the authors of inflationary cosmology, may have provided a solution, through his theory of the “inflationary Multiverse”. This is the idea that our Universe is just one of a vast number comprising the Multiverse — an eternally expanding structure in which new Universes are constantly born, with different fundamental physical constants and laws. Observers can only evolve in those Universes whose laws allow life to exist; the fine-tuning problem would simply be an illusion caused by our limited observational sample of just our own Universe.
When you are a poet, you cannot stop writing poetry, because it’s painful not to write poetry. If you are a sculptor, you cannot stop making sculptures, because your life will be miserable if you don’t do it. Likewise, if you are a physicist, you don’t question whether you should or shouldn’t be a physicist. But for scientists — just like poets and sculptors, just like musicians — it gives them an extra boost when they are appreciated. It makes them think that what they are doing is probably right, whether their life is difficult or not. It is also good for society when fundamental science, fundamental progress, intellectual achievements are appreciated. And for that we are very grateful.