SFI Professor Sidney Redner has been awarded the 2021 Leo P. Kadanoff Prize "For leadership in transcending traditional disciplinary boundaries by applying and advancing deep concepts and methods of statistical physics to gain novel insights into diverse real-world phenomena.”
The annual prize from the American Physical Society is one of its highest honors in theoretical physics. According to the APS website, the prize "recognizes a scientist or scientists whose work (theoretical, experimental, or computational) has opened new vistas for statistical and/or nonlinear physics. The annual prize consists of $10,000, a medal, certificate, travel reimbursement … and a registration waiver to attend the APS March Meeting to give an invited talk and accept the award."
When news of Redner’s prize was announced over SFI’s email list, congratulations poured in paired with puns about some of the real-world phenomena Redner is known for researching. His papers on optimal parking strategies, for example, prompted a suggestion that SFI designate a parking spot for him, as some institutions do for Nobel laureates. (Especially ironic because Redner rides his bicycle to work). It was also observed that Redner can no longer be called a “sleeping beauty,” referring to his groundbreaking study of citation patterns in a top physics journal, which revealed how some papers don’t attain recognition until long after their publication date.
"I greatly appreciate it, and I’m now randomly wandering around on cloud nine and hoping that I’ll get somewhere in a finite time,” he replied — a fitting pastime for a scientist who literally wrote the book on random walks and first-passage processes.
Redner joined SFI as a resident faculty member in 2014, following a 36-year career in the physics department at Boston University. Since then, he has been working with colleagues on a spectrum of what some might see as oddball topics: the role of Luddism on innovation, "hot streaks" in basketball games, how long foraging animals can survive in depleting environments, and how to best to park a car, to name just a few examples.
“Sid has the twofold gift to both intuit the collective dynamics of natural phenomena and the chops to solve problems rigorously and mathematically,” says David Krakauer, SFI's president and William H. Miller Professor of Complex Systems. "This prize recognizes an incredible record of achievement. Sid also brings to problems a lightness of spirit and collaborative joyfulness which in the academic world is all too often underappreciated. Sid is a delightful physicist and we need more of them!"
Redner has authored or co-authored nearly 300 journal articles and two books, including the canonical A Guide to First-Passage Processes (Cambridge University Press, 2001). He is currently working on updating the guide.
Prior to Redner, one other SFI faculty member had received the Leo P. Kadanoff Prize — SFI Science Board Fellow Nigel Goldenfeld at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Watch Redner's 2018 SFI Community Lecture, "Randomness Everywhere"
View the full list of Redner's publications