Juan Martín Maldacena, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Joseph Polchinski, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of California at Santa Barbara
Cumrun Vafa, Harvard University
Professors Maldacena, Polchinski and Vafa are being honored for their fundamental contributions to superstring theory. Their studies range from early work on orbifold compactifications, physics and mathematics of mirror symmetry, D-branes and black hole physics, as well as gauge theory-gravity correspondence. Their contributions in uncovering the strong-weak dualities between seemingly different string theories have enabled us to learn about regimes of quantum field theory which are not accessible to perturbative analysis. These profound achievements have helped us to address outstanding questions like confinement of quarks and QCD mass spectrum from a new perspective and have found applications in practical calculations in the fluid dynamics of quark gluon plasma.
The dualities have also led string theorists to conjecture that the five different superstring theories in ten space-time dimensions are manifestations of one underlying theory, yet undiscovered, which has been named the M-theory.