Physical Sciences, 2013

Prof. Shiraz Naval Minwalla

Professor, Department of Theoretical Physics, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, IBM Einstein Fellow, and Visiting Professor, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

The Infosys Prize 2013 in Physical Sciences is awarded to Prof. Shiraz Naval Minwalla for his pioneering contributions to the study of string theory, quantum field theory and gravity, and for uncovering a deep connection between the equations of fluid and superfluid dynamics and Einstein's equations of general relativity.

Interview

Infographic: Understanding gravity within the framework of quantum mechanics

Bio

Prof. Shiraz Naval Minwalla did his M.Sc. in Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (1995), and a Ph.D. in 2000. He is currently the Professor at the Department of Theoretical Physics, TIFR.

His past appointments include Associate Professor at the Department of Theoretical Physics, TIFR, Assistant Professor at the Department of Physics, Harvard University, Reader at the Department of Theoretical Physics, TIFR, and Junior Fellow, Harvard Society of Fellows.

He has been the recipient of awards such as the New Horizons in Physics prize (2013), Nishina Asia Award (2013), Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize (2011), ICTP Prize (2010) and the Swarnajayanti Fellowship (2007). He is an Elected Fellow at the Indian Academy of Sciences (2011).

Scope and impact of work

One of the central problems of theoretical physics is to understand the force of gravity within the framework of quantum mechanics. However, efforts to quantize Einstein's theory of general relativity using standard methods give neither a consistent nor a calculable theory of quantum gravity. Therefore, in recent years, there has been a huge effort to realize a theory of quantum gravity via a very different framework, that of ‘string theory’.

Several years ago, Prof. Juan Maldacena proposed the Anti-de Sitter / Conformal Field Theory (AdS / CFT) correspondence, a conjectured holographic relation between gravitational theory in the bulk of Anti-de Sitter space and a conformal quantum field theory that resides on its boundary. Enormous effort has been invested to unravel the implications of this correspondence.

Prof. Shiraz Naval Minwalla established that, in the long wavelength hydrodynamic limit, a black hole in Anti-de Sitter space is governed by exactly the same equations as the nonlinear Navier-Stokes equations of a fluid. This AdS / CFT-like holographic view of fluid dynamics is called the fluid / gravity map. It unifies two of the best-studied nonlinear partial differential equations in physics.

Using the fluid / gravity map, Prof. Minwalla established a connection between the classical area theorems of black hole physics and the positivity of the divergence of the entropy current in fluid dynamics. This correspondence led to the correct form of the most general equations of relativistic charged hydrodynamics and superfluid dynamics.

Long Citation

Prof. Shiraz Naval Minwalla is a leader in quantum gravity research. He has made deep contributions in the field of string theory, in particular to the study of the AdS / CFT correspondence. Prof. Minwalla uncovered an unexpected connection between the equations of fluid and superfluid dynamics and Einstein's equations of general relativity.

His work revealed that in the hydrodynamic limit, the geometry of a black hole in Anti-de Sitter space is governed by exactly the same equations as a relativistic Navier-Stokes fluid.

He is among those who initiated the study of three-dimensional Chern-Simons field theories coupled to fundamental matter fields in the large N limit. This led to the discovery of a surprising new non-supersymmetric strong-weak coupling duality between bosons and fermions coupled to Chern-Simons gauge fields.

Prof. Minwalla has made path-breaking contributions to the study of black holes in the context of the AdS / CFT correspondence, the enumeration of supersymmetric states in superconformal field theories, the study of noncommutative field and string theories, and correlation functions in supersymmetric field theories.

Congratulatory Message from the Jury Chair - Shrinivas Kulkarni

"I'd like to congratulate Dr. Shiraz Minwalla for winning this year’s Infosys Prize in Physical Sciences. One of the central problems of theoretical physics is to understand the force of gravity within the framework of quantum mechanics. However, efforts to quantize Einstein’s theory of general relativity using standard methods give neither a consistent nor a calculable theory of quantum gravity. Therefore, in recent years, there has been a huge effort to realize the theory of quantum gravity via a very different framework — that of string theory. Dr. Minwalla uncovered a totally unexpected connection between the equations of fluid and superfluid dynamics and Einstein’s theory of general relativity. It unifies two of the best studied non-linear partial differential equations in physics. The ramifications of this big connection is being eagerly studied by others in the field. Congratulations again, Dr. Shiraz Minwalla."