A note to Joseph Polchinski
(May 16, 1954 – February 2, 2018)
Written: August 30, 2019 at 12:13 PM
Dear Prof. Dr. Joseph Polchinski:
When I finally read your 1998 work, Quantum Gravity at the Planck Length [PDF], I was quite taken back. Fascinating. For me, it is a most important contribution.
First, you were an early adopter! You took the Planck Length seriously! As a result, I have included a couple of brief references to your work here:
Thank you for your legacy of work and for all your recent reflections about the meaning and value of life: “I’m sorry that no one has gotten rid of the firewall, but please keep trying.” It is so endearing. Congratulations and thanks again for your constant search.
Footnote: While writing this note, I continued my search of this scholar’s writings. There are 150 Polchinski articles within ArXiv alone. Then I learned that David Gross presented his last two lectures for him (https://arxiv.org/pdf/1512.02477.pdf and the follow-up https://arxiv.org/pdf/1601.06145. Then I learned he had died of brain cancer on February 2, 2018.
In August 2017 he wrote: Memories of a Theoretical Physicist.
2017 Breakthrough Prize, December 4, 2016: Joseph Polchinski, center, at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., with other winners of the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics: the physicists Andrew Strominger, second from left, and Cumrun Vafa, second from right. At the far left and far right are the astronauts Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly (Scott’s twin brother), who presented the award. Photo Credit: Peter Barreras/Associated Press