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't Hooft

Last week Tuesday, for Nobel Prize winner Gerard 't Hooft lifechanged course. He is still driven by the same thing, though: "Iwant to know how the laws of nature work, that's what I gofor."

On 12 October, a Tuesday morning, the audience in a Bologneseconference room who had just been listening to a lecture by 'tHooft applauded for a long time: "They kept on applauding longerthan usual", 't Hooft says. "I wasn't aware of anything untill Iturned around and saw an Internet page from Stockholm projectedonto the wall. Then I understood their enthousiasm. My firstthought at that moment? The beginning of a new age for me."

The prize winner will be talking about his work to one reporterafter an other in the next few days. The Utrecht UniversityGoverning Body (college van bestuur) organised a VIP-reception atSchiphol - including a quick departure through a side exit - toprevent him from falling into the hands of the press immediatelyupon his arrival. "The strangest request I received up till now wasfor my wife to participate in a television show called `Man bitesdog'. She was asked to tell the audience what it was like to bemarried to such an odd prize winner. She refused."

But: "I gave a lecture as usual on Wednesday. For fear of a lotof outsiders turning up we had moved to a larger lecture room to beon the safe side, but there were no more people than usual and Ieven had the time to discuss his study results with a student. Ijust happened to be lecturing on the Yang-Mills theory for whichthe Nobel Prize was awarded, so that was a very topicallecture."

't Hooft has high hopes of the stimulus the prize will be forhighly talented pupils to go for a career in b├Ęta research."It is not at all clear to me why so few people feel attracted tothe subjects that try to find the keys to the secrets of nature andwhich offer so many things to discover. Aren't they extremelyfascinating?"

Over the past week the press has paid a great deal of attentionto the fact that the breakthrough in the theory for which 't Hooftwas awarded the Nobel Prize was already made about thirty yearsago. Will he still be able to make innovative contributions?"Sometimes I think that innovative thoughts only come to the youngin this field", he answers. "I ask questions just as I have alwaysdone and as I think they should be asked, but it doesn't get me anyfurther. Perhaps it's up to the younger generation now. They areresearching the string theory and ask questions in an entirelydifferent way. They find answers I cannot find, and don't know whatto do with right now either."