The last sentence of the final paragraph of a story in Tuesday's Post about the work of Nobel laureates Glashow, Weinberg and Salam was inadvertently dropped. In its entirety, the paragraph should have read as follows: "Gravity is the big enigma, there is no satisfactory theory of gravity on the very small." Weinberg said. "Einstein described it on the scale of the solar system, but when you apply it to tiny substances the theory breaks down and makes no sense at all."
When Sheldon Glashow, Steven Weinberg and Abdus Salam indepently theorized that electromagnetism and weak nuclear binding forces were the same thing, they predicted their theory would be confirmed in the laboratory by something called neutral currents.
Most physicians did not believe neutral currents existed. After all, they said, electric currents are flows of electrons, which are negatively charged. There can be no such thing as a neutral current. Then, in 1973, the nuclear accelerator at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland discovered and confirmed the existence of neutral currents.
"They [the scientists at CERN] did some very heroic experiments," Harvard's Weinberg said yesterday. "But not only were they able to find that neutral currents existed, they found that they exhibited properties of just the kind we predicted they would."
"The neutral currents we described and predicted are the things that let neutrons become protons in the nucleus of the atom, even though they look very different," Glashow said. "The magic is a simple and elegant theory that brought this out very well."
Simple and elegant as it might be, the theory that won this year's physics prize will produce nothing in the next few years that will make life simpler for people. What it has done, however, is explain for high energy physicists how and why stars explode and why the nucleus of an atom behaves the way it does.
Glashow and Weinberg home the next stop will be a better understanding of the most difficult force in nature to understand: gravity.
"Gravity is the big enigma. There is no satisfactory theory of gravity in the very small," Weinberg said.