Prof. Iwo Białynicki-Birula – Winner of the FNP Prize 2014
Professor Iwo Białynicki-Birula, PhD habil., (b. 1933 in Warsaw) is a theoretical physicist. He works at the Centre for Theoretical Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, in the field of quantum physics. He is the author of breakthrough research on quantum electrodynamics, quantum optics and nuclear physics constituting an outstanding contribution to global science and knowledge on quantum and classical properties of light.
His education began at a technical school of mechanical engineering. Winning the first-ever Physics Olympiad gave him a place as a student of physics at the University of Warsaw, where he obtained his master’s degree in 1956, followed by a doctoral degree (1959) and postdoctoral degree (1962). Four years later he received the title of professor. In his final year as a student he was employed by the University of Warsaw where he continued working for the next several decades. He joined the Centre for Theoretical Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in 1980 and works there to this day.
He is a full member of the Polish Academy of Sciences, a foreign member of the Royal Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters and a national corresponding member of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He has received numerous awards, including the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Prize of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation Prize, the Alexander von Humboldt Prize, and was also granted a Medal of the National Commission for Education by the Minister of National Education.
He has written ten books (including five university textbooks) and more than 180 scientific papers.
Professor Iwo Białynicki-Birula, PhD habil., received the FNP Prize 2014 in the mathematical, physical and engineering sciences for fundamental studies of the electromagnetic field that has led to the formulation of the uncertainty relations for photons.
The FNP Prize recognizes Professor Białynicki-Birula’s achievements in research on the properties of quantized electromagnetic fields, in particular the discovery of new photon uncertainty relations.
The uncertainty principle was discovered and formulated in 1927 by Werner Heisenberg. It states that a particle’s position and momentum cannot both be determined accurately at the same time.
Professor Białynicki-Birula’s discovery solves an old problem of the quantum mechanics of photons and ultra-short light pulses – the nonexistence of a photon position operator, and thus the lack of a standard Heisenberg uncertainty principle for observations of position and momentum. The new uncertainty relation proposed by Professor Białynicki-Birula in three papers written with his wife, Professor Zofia Białynicka-Birula from the Institute of Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, overcomes this difficulty by using the photon energy density and the corresponding energy distribution in space instead of position, which enables a measure of photon propagation to be introduced, which in turn leads to a natural counterpart of the standard Heisenberg relation.
Professor Białynicki-Birula’s work increases our knowledge about one of the four fundamental forces of nature – electromagnetic interaction. The results of his research on electromagnetic waves, especially light, could find future application in building advanced devices that use these waves, e.g. lasers.