Physicist Leo Kadanoff, from the University of Chicago, has been awarded the Lorentz Medal 2006. He has received the medal for his contributions to statistical physics, in particular to the theory of phase transitions.
Kadanoff's research has revolutionised the way in which physicists regard sudden changes in matter, e.g. the transition from liquid to gas or the appearance of a magnetic field in a metal. Kadanoff has discovered that such 'phase transitions' obey certain laws applying
Kadanoff's ideas have been exceptionally fruitful in other areas of physics, too. By applying his theory to such diverse phenomena as turbulent water and running sand piles, he developed a systematic approach to what are now called 'complex systems'. In addition, his work has cast new light on chaotic dynamics beyond physics, such as stock market fluctuations, heart beat irregularities and traffic jams.
About the laureate
Leo P. Kadanoff received his Ph.D in physics from Harvard, which was followed by a postdoctoral in Copenhagen. He taught at the University of Illinois (1962-1969) and Brown University (1969-1978), before moving to the University of Chicago where he is John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Physics and Mathematics. He is currently President Elect of the American Physical Society.