Convert Crisis to Fortune!!

20 Years of Struggle: Most Valuable Years of my Life!

  • Who constructed this webpage? Click here.

  • If one tries to achieve anything in this world, he/she has to go through some difficult steps. The step usually takes the form of transforming the crises into an opportunity.

      I was able to do this thanks to my strong high-school background in Korea. Click here for a story.

  • I am singing Einstein these days, and some people are listeining.

    Is it acceptable for a Korean boy to talk about Einstein?

    I am very happy to tell you that I went through three challenging steps of crisis-to-fortune.

  • In 1954, I came to the United States from Korea after high-school graduation.

    I studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now called Carnegie Mellon University), and went to Princeton University for graduate study in 1958. I received my PhD degree in physics in 1961, and I stayed there for one addition year as a post-doctoral fellow.

  • In 1962, I became an assistant professor at the University of Maryland near Washington, DC. This means that I had to struggle in my research to establish my name in my field in order to attain a permanent-tenured position at this University.

  • The physics department of this university was constructed by John S. Toll who received his PhD degree at Princeton and his adivisor was John A. Wheeler.

    Toll hired many Princeton PhDs for his physics faculty, but there were many from other prestigious universitites, such as Harvard, Columbia, as well as the UC Berkely.

    Einstein died in 1955. Howver, for many years after 1955, going to Princeton meant working with Einstein, even though he was in Heaven. Thus, going to other universitiees meant being turned down from Princeton.

  • Thus, when I came to the University of Maryland, I had to meet some of those who got turned down from Princeton.

    With my Princeton background, was it easy for me to work with them? In fact two of them attempted to destroy me, but I shut them up by publishing papers with Eugene Paul Wigner, who was regarded as the No. 1 man at Princeton after Einstein died.

First Crisis

  • While I was struggling as an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, Princeton found the genius of the Century. His name was Roger Dashen (three years younger than I was). He became a full professor at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study (institute created for Einstein). Princeton made this judgment based on his calculation of the neutron-proton mass difference, published in the Physical Review (standard journal of the American Physical Society).

    I became very unhappy because I have my Herod Complex, and I could not afford anyone other than myself becoming a genius. I looked at his paper carefully, and found a serious mistake there. I then published my result in the Physical Review. Click here for the detailed story.

  • However, most of American physicists could not understand the technical details of Dashen's paper or my paper. Within this environment,

      Dashen is a genius, but you are only a Korean!

    This was a very valid statement at that time (even now among some of my American friends). After the Korean War (1950-53), Korea appeared to be hopeless to Americans. Korea's real strength was and still is unkown to them.

  • Not familiar with the history of that part of the world before the Pearl Harbor Day of 1941, Americans used to say "the best solution of the Korean problem is to give the country back to Japan."

    While I was at Princeton (1958-62) as a graduate student and a postdoc, my American friends routinely told me "people with non-white skins" do not have brains to make nuclear bombs. Russians, Englishmen, and Frenchmen had the bombs, but their skins are white.

    Chinese with their nonwhite skins tested their first nuclear bomb in 1964 (two years after 1962). This was a shock to Americans, and Lyndon Johnson, then the president of the United States, had to make a special TV appearance to calm down Americans.

      Sam Treiman and Joan Treiman with my family. Treiman was my thesis advisor at Princeton, My son was in his quantum mechanics class during his senior year (1986-87) at Princeton. This photo was taken in 1987.

      However, Treiman was not scientifically capable of supporting my research results. He did not have enough brain power to understand my explannations,

      I thus had to change my route to Princeton. I constructed my new route by publishing papers with Eugene Wigner (Nobel 1963). These days, I am known as Wigner's youngest student at Princeton. This was how I converted my first crisis into a fortune.

      I went to Princeton to see Wigner often, and Wigner came to Maryland twice at my invitation. This photo was produced at Chancellor's mansion on the campus of the University of Maryland in 1986.

    As a consequence, my position at the Univ. of Maryland was in danger. Thus, I contacted my thesis advisor at Princeton for help. His name was Sam Treiman, I am listed as one of his doctoral students on his Wikipedia page.

    Treiman was kind enough to invite me to Princeton. In February of 1966, I went there and tried to explain where Dashen's mistake was, but he did not have enough brain power to understand the details of what I said, and he became very angry.

  • His anger was so strong that I felt as if he was telling me not to come to Princeton again. In 1983, my son became a freshman at Princeton. He was in Treiman's quantum mechanics class during his senior year (1986-87). My son's last name was and still is the same as mine, but Treiman never wondered why his last name was the same as that of his former student. In other words, I was completely eradicated from his memory.

  • While this was going on, my departmental colleagues took my problem seriously and found out I was right. This is the reason why I still maintain my position at the Univ. of Maryland, as a Professor Emeritus, and I still publish my books and articles with the University address.

    The United States was very nice to me!

  • In the meantime, I studied the paper written by Eugene Wigner (Nobel 1963) in 1939 on the internal space-time symmetries of particles in Einstein's relativistic world. With my younger colleagues, I published a series of papers on this subject. In 1986, I approached Wigner to show the result of my research on his research line. He became very happy and asked me to publish new papers with him. I published seven papers with him during the period (1987-90).

    I thus became known as

    Wigner's youngest student at Princeton.

  • Wigner was a distinguished professor of physics at Princeton, but he was totally isolated from the physics faculty there, because nobody there was able to tell the stories he wanted to hear.

  • By telling Wigner the story he wanted to hear, I converted my first crisis into a fortune. I am known to the world as Winger's youngest student at Princeton. Click here for an interesting story from my Korean background.

Second Crisis

    In spite of Treiman's attitude toward me (never come to Princeton again), my professional asset was and still is my Princeton background with Einstein's name.

  • After finding out my connection with my thesis advisor was totally useless, I had to find a different route to Princeton and Einstein.

    1. When I was a graduate student, I noticed that Eugene Paul Wigner (Nobel 1963) was totally isolated from the rest of Princeton. Yet, I started studying his 1939 paper on his little groups of the Lorentz group governing the internal space-time symmetries of of the particles in Einstein's relativistic world. After losing my professional confidence in Sam Treiman (my thesis advisor), I continued studying Wigner's paper to construct my alternate route to Princeton.

    2. In 1973, with my long-time colleague named Marilyn Noz, I started publishing papers on moving bound states in Einstein's relativistic world using harmonic oscillator wave functions. These wave functions are applicable to moving bound states such as protons in Gell-Mann's quark model.

      In 1979, with my colleagues, I published a paper stating that these oscillator wave functions can be regarded as physical applications of the mathematical framework spelled out in Wigner's 1939 paper.

      However, Wigner was not familiar with the physics based on high-energy accelerators, and I made no attempts to impress him with this paper.

    3. In 1983 and 1986, with my younger colleagues, I published my papers containing this table:

      Contents of Einstein's E = mc2

      Particle Massive/Slow between Massless/Fast
      Einstein Energy
      E = p2/2m E =
      [m2c4 + (cp)2]1/2
      E = cp
      Wigner Helicity
      Spin, Gauge
      S1 S2
      1939 paper
      Gauge Trans.

  • Here comes to my second crises. My progress on this research line on Wignerism made many people unhappy.

    1. Arthur Wightman and Louis Michel were known as the two most respected Wignerists. Wightman was a professor at Princeton University, and I was in his class in 1961 when he gave lectures on Wigner's 1939 paper. Michel was a highly respected French physicist who visited the University of Maryland in 1970. He gave a series of lectures on Wigner's 1939 paper. I attended all of his lectures.

      When Wigner published the English version of his book entitled "Group Theory and Atomic Spectra," he thanked both Michel and Wightman in the preface. Wigner's original book was written in German.

      Thus, there is a reason for them to claim their ownership of Wigner's heritage. They are in these two photos:

      I took these photos.

      They became upset because I published my papers about Wigner without their permissions. They had their Herod Complexes. Since I also have the same Herod Complex, I understand what went on in their minds.

    2. In 1971, Wigner retired from his departmental duties and became an emeritus professor. He released his postilion of the Thomas D. Jones Professor of Mathematical Physics. Wightman was given this title. Thus, there is a good reason for him and others to regard Wightman as the owner of Wignership at Princeton.

    3. With his prestige, Wightman told me directly my published table given above is incorrect. Since Wightman's office and Wigner's office were in the same building on the Princeton campus, he must have told the same story directly to Wigner.

      Wightman was not my thesis advisor at Princeton, but I was in his class where he gave a series of lecturers on Wigner's work on the Lorentz group. He knew me well. He could have talked to me if he was unhappy with my papers. Instead, he gave his death sentence on my papers without asking me a single question. I have to say that

      Wightman was not a good scholar.

    4. Since many people regarded Wightman as the guardian of Wigner at Princeton, they asked him what he thought about me while I was publishing papers with Wigner. Wightman's answer was

      Kim is taking advantage of Wigner.

      Wightman was right in saying that I elevated myself by publishing my papers with Wigner. However, why could he not take the same advantage? His office was very close to Wigner's office in the same physics building on the Princeton campus. It is generally agreed that Wightman could not add anything to Wigner's research line even though he inherited the same position title from him.

    5. Louis Michel wrote to John S. Toll (Chancellor of the University of Maryland) to fire me, because I was publishing "wrong" papers about Wigner.

      Toll was the chairman of the physics department in 1962 when he hired me as an assistant professor, and I was his yes-man until 1965 when he left Maryland to become the president of Stony Brook University. Toll was very happy when I attended his inaugural ceremony at Stony Brook in 1966.

      In 1978, Toll came back to Maryland as the Chancellor of the State University System. Michel did not know Toll used to become very happy when Wigner came to Maryland at my invitation. See this photo of Wigner with the Tolls and myself.

      To John Toll, and to me,

      Michel became a Joke.

    6. Michel and Wightman were excellent mathematical physicists, and I respect them. They took these despicable actions against me because they did not read or understand the paper Wigner published on group contractions with a Turkish physicist named Erdal Inonu.

      It is possible that they had a prejudice against those who are not Euro-Americans, including Turks and Koreans. This kind of prejudice is not uncommon in the academic world even these days.

      Yet, the prejudice against me was minimal compared what Einstein had to face in Europe. He had to move to Princeton in 1933. At that time, America was no-man's land for scientists. Let us look at this poster.

      As late as my undergraduate years (1954-58), I had to read the books by Courant and Hilbert written in German on mathematical physics.

      The key members of the Manhattan Project (producing the first nuclear bombs) were born or studied in Europe. For scientists, the United States was an underdeveloped country when Einstein was forced to leave Europe in 1933.

  • The most effective way to shut them up was to publish my papers with Wigner. This was precisely what I did.
    This was how I converted my second crisis to a great opportunity.

    Wigner was happy with his Nobel Prize (1963), but not 100% happy because the prize was not for his 1939 paper. He was looking for someone who could work with him to exploit the full implications of his paper and to make it Nobel-worthy.

    Indeed, this was the great opportunity for me. The best way to approach Wigner was to tell him he and Einstein are comparable, by showing the table given above.

    1. In his 1939 paper, Wigner noted that the internal space-time symmetry of the massive particle at rest is like O(3) (three-dimensional rotation group with three rotational degrees of freedom). Look at a potato. You know how to rotate it. You can rotate it around the x axis, y axis, as well as around the z axis.

    2. According to Wigner's 1939 paper, the internal space-time symmetry of a massless particle moving with the speed of light is like E(2) (two-dimensional Euclidean group with one rotational and two translational degrees of freedom). On a flat field, you can rotate yourself while standing. You can run from west to east, or from south to north.

    3. It is very easy to associate the rotational degree with the helicity (rotation around the momentum = one degree of freedom).

      How about the two translational degrees of freedom for the massless particle? It became known that they correspond to the gauge degree of freedom for massless particles.

    4. However, why two translational degrees for one gauge variable? On this issue, I struggled with Wigner to find the solution to this problem, and we published the result in a joint paper in 1987. The pictorial illustration is given in this webpage.

    5. Paul A. M. Dirac (1902-84, Nobel 1933) was Wigner's brother-in-law. Dirac's wife was Wigner's sister named Margit. However, it does not appear that these two great physicists talked about physics when they met. I was fortunate to have an audience with Dirac in 1962. I told Wigner my story of Dirac's work summarized in this figure.

    6. Wigner clearly understood my explanation of Dirac's papers (published in 1927, 45, and 49), and we synthesized them in the language Wigner used in his 1939 paper. Here is the paper published in the Journal of Mathematical Physics.

  • Many people were wondering how a boy from Korea (under-developed country at that time, but not now) and from an obscure place (Maryland compared with Princeton) could approach Wigner. My answer is very simple. I was able to talk with Wigner because I am a Korean with this piece of Korean Wisdom. I was able tell Wigner the story he wanted to hear.

    1. In 1979, during the Einstein Centennial Year (he was born in 1879), a Turkish physicist named Bulent Atalay constructed this impressive portrait of Wigner with Einstein.

    2. Wigner was so happy with this portrait that he was showing it prominently in his office. However, on what scientific ground? This is precisely the role I could play. I showed him the following table contained in my papers published earlier:

      Contents of Einstein's E = mc2

      Particle Massive/Slow between Massless/Fast
      Einstein Energy
      E = p2/2m E =
      [m2c4 + (cp)2]1/2
      E = cp
      Wigner Helicity
      Spin, Gauge
      S1 S2
      1939 paper
      Gauge Trans.

    3. Wigner liked this table because the table contains his name with Einstein's name. This is the scientific content of his portrait with Einstein shown above. In this way, I told Wigner the story he wanted to hear. Here, I used this piece of Korean wisdom.

  • With these preparations, in 1989, I was able to publish my own paper in Physical Review Letters (the most prestigious journal in physics).

    1. This paper contains the following table.

      Further Contents of Einstein's E = mc2

      Particle Massive/Slow between Massless/Fast
      Einstein Energy
      E = p2/2m E =
      [m2c4 + (cp)2]1/2
      E = cp
      Wigner Helicity
      Spin, Gauge
      S1 S2
      Little Groups
      Gauge Trans.
      quark model
      bound states
      parton picture

      I added the bottom row to the table given before. This blue row is about the quark model as a quantum bound state and its parton picture when it moves with the speed close to that of light. Mostly with Marilyn Noz, I published many papers on this aspect in the earlier years, and you may click here to see how much work we did on this blue row.

    2. The above-mentioned 1989 paper of mine contained also this figure telling Gell-Mann's quark model and Feynman's parton picture are two different ways of observing the same bound state in quantum mechanics. The updated version of this figure is

    3. Gell-Mann's quark model is based on bound-state quantum mechanics, and Feynman's parton picture is about how this bound state appears while moving fast in Einstein's Lorentz-covariant world. This is an old issue in physics.

      There is a much older issue in physics (almost forgotten). One hundred years ago, Bohr was worrying about the discrete energy levels of the hydrogen atom. Einstein was interested in how things appear to moving observers. Bohr and Einstein met occasionally, but there are no written records to indicate that they ever talked about moving hydrogen atoms. The point is therefore that the Bohr-Einstein issue can be addressed in terms of the quark-parton puzzle.

      Click here for my review paper on the quantum mechanics of moving bound states. If it is burdensome for you to read this paper,

      1. go to this webpage for the history of physics since Bohr and Einstein.

      2. Click here for the bridge between Bohr and Einstein (moving bound states in Einstein's world).

      3. You may also be interested in this page on Einstein in Copenhagen.

    4. The referee for this paper made some comments to improve the paper, and I made necessary corrections. Even though the journal did not reveal his name, there is a good reason for me to believe that the referee was Steven Weinberg (Nobel 1979). His English style was quite familiar to me.

        Sam Treiman with Steven Weinberg, photo from Princeton Weekly (September 30, 1985).

      When I was writing my PhD thesis at Princeton, I had to look at those written by the students who received their degrees earlier with the same advisor. Weinberg was Sam Treiman's first student who got his degree in 1957. I was Treiman's 5th student who got the degree in 1961. Weinberg was not famous at that time, but I had to follow his style while writing my thesis.

      Furthermore, Weinberg published a number of papers on Wignerism in the Physical Review during the period of 1961-1966. Thus, there is also a good reason for the journal to choose him as the referee for my paper having to do with Wignerism. Click here for Weinberg's papers on massless particles published in 1964.

      Indeed, from those papers by Weinberg, I got the hint that the translational degrees of freedom in the Wigner's little group correspond to gauge transformations.

    5. Since Weinberg (Nobel 1979) is so famous these days, people do not believe me when I tell them I shared the same advisor with him at Princeton. Click here for the Wikipedia page for Treiman with a partial list of his doctoral students.

      It is also because I am known these days as Wigner's youngest student, for some good reasons. I enjoy living in this interesting world.

Third Crisis

  • In 1958, I was one of the fifteen students admitted to the graduate program in physics. It is my understanding that there were about three hundred applicants. This means that the competition ratio was 20 to one.

      Einstein's house in Princeton. One Einstein admirer is standing in front of this house. He never met Einstein, but talked to him. How? Click here.
    Why did they all want to go to Princeton? The answer was Einstein. He died in Princeton in 1955, and he was mentioned extensively in the newspapers and magazines. Going to Princeton meant working with Einstein even though he was in Heaven. Getting accepted to Princeton was the life-or-death issue for those ambitious boys. Princeton at time was a single-gender school.

    Princeton had to turn down many excellent applicants. They went to other prestigious universities, such as Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Stanford, and UC Berkeley. They all became promising physicists. Many of them joined the physics faculty of the University of Maryland.

  • However, after turned down from Princeton, they had to carry their life-long grudges against Princeton and those who went to Princeton. When I joined the faculty of the University of Maryland in 1962, I had to meet some of them.

    1. Among those, two of them were particularly hostile to me and were determined to destroy me. One of them (younger of those two), with the support from the other (more senior), wrote a nasty report (totally irrational) on my published papers.

      I can mention the names of those two Maryland colleagues of mine, but I choose not to. It is worthless to mention those who got turned down from Princeton and whose names you cannot recognize. Their reports delayed my promotion from associate to full professor by 20 years. This was the ticket price I had to pay for my road to Einstein. This delay was a death sentence if not Einstein.

    2. The issue was Eugene Paul Wigner's 1939 paper on his little groups governing internal space-time symmetries in Einstein's relativistic world. Let us look at the hydrogen atom. This atom, as a point particle, obeys Einstein's law of relativity. The unsolved problem was how its electron orbit appears to moving observers.

      In my papers with my younger colleagues, I used the Wigner formalism (contained in his 1939 paper) to address the issue of moving bound states, like the hydrogen atom. I can summarize the contents of my papers with this figure:

      This was too much for my colleagues to to digest. Since nobody else raised this issue before I did, how could a boy from Korea be right?

      These day, South Korea is one of the ten strongest countries in the world. However, before the year 2000, Korea was regarded as an underdeveloped country, and Koreans were regarded as backward people by Americans.

      I read their report carefully. It did not have any scientific logic. The report was saying what I did was wrong because I do not have enough brain or cultural background to talk about Winger and Einstein.

    3. At this point, I can say safely that they are not fit to interpret Wigner's papers. They are the ones who were turned down by Princeton.

      I am free to release their report, but I choose not to. It was a dirty paper. It is so dirty that it will pollute my entire website. I do not wish to degrade my department at the University of Maryland.

    4. The best and only way to shut them up was to approach Eugene Paul Wigner (1902-1991) at Princeton and publish joint papers with him.

      The question then was how to approach him? He was known as an absolutely unapproachable person among the physicists at Princeton while I was there (1958-62), and he was totally isolated from the rest of the physics department. My professors (younger than Wigner) routinely said "Wigner is gone."

    5. Here, I had to use a piece of the Korean wisdom to approach Wigner. Korea has a history much longer than that of the United States. There are many stories about the wise Koreans who became promoted to higher positions by telling their King the stories He wanted to hear. Click here for one of those interesting stories.

      I had to tell Wigner the story he wanted to hear. Click here to see how I became known as Wigner's youngest student.

  • While Americans regarded me as one of the backward people (Korea was backward country to Americans at that time), they did not know I had a very strong high-school background in Korea as shown here:

  • After publishing a number of papers with Wigner, I became known as Winger's youngest student. and I was able to construct Princeton's Einstein genealogy. This was how I was able to covert my third crisis into a great opportunity.

Princeton's Einstein Genealogy

  • Let us go back to the table above with the blue row. The first row is for Einstein's energy-momentum relation. The second row (orange row) is for Wigner. Wigner was very happy with this row, and this is the reason why he wanted to publish papers with me.

    How about my own row? Yes, I was able to add the third row (blue row) based on my early papers which I published mostly with Marilyn Noz.

    This table is in my 1989 paper published in Physical Review Letters (1989). This table can take the form:

    where I am primarily responsible for the three arrows given in this table. In 1991, I had a lunch with Professor Wigner at a seafood restaurant in Princeton. Mrs. Wigner and my wife were also there.

  • This table justifies the following genealogy.

Historical Significance

  • From the ancient times, humans look at the stars in the sky. They noticed there are comets and planets. They are scattering states and bound states respectively. Newton's Second Law gave a unified view of these two different phenomena.

    In the early years of the 20th century, Bohr's rule explained the discrete energy levels of the hydrogen atom (bound state of proton and electron), but the electron-proton scattering (called the Rutherford scattering) could be still be explained in the framework of Newtonian mechanics, as shown in the following table.

    To be called Crazy?
    It is the greatest honor a scientist can receive!

    Quantum mechanics formulated by Schroedinger and Heisenberg gave one unified picture of scattering and bound states.

  • How about the scattering and bound states in Einstein's Lorentz-covariant world? Quantum field theory formulated by Schwinger and Feynman gives a satisfactory answer to scattering problems. The Feynman diagrams indeed give us an effective method of calculating the scattering matrix.

    How about bound states? Paul A. M. Dirac made made his lifelong efforts to construct quantum bound states in Einstein's Lorentz-covariant world. His efforts can be unified into one theory, consistent with the space-time symmetry of the field theory for scattering processes, as two different representations of the inhomogeneous Lorentz group (mathematics of Einstein's Lorentzian world.) Click here for a published article on this issue.


  • Some people say I am a crazy person. Thus, I am allowed to ask a crazy question. Can Einstein's relativity be derived from the basket of equations for quantum mechanics? Yes!

  • Let us look at this figure. Dirac's 1963 paper contains the basket of ten equations for the quantum mechanics of two coupled oscillators, and his 1949 paper contains the ten basic equations of Einstein's special relativity.

  • Can those ten equations of quantum mechanics be transformed into the ten equations for Einstein's relativity? The answer is YES, as shown above. Click here for a published paper on this subject. I am not that crazy.