According to modern physics, four fundamental forces exist in nature. Electromagnetic interaction is one of these. The weak interaction – responsible, for example, for the beta decay of nuclei – is another.

By Hina Baloch

Thanks to contributions made by Abdus Salam, Sheldon Glashow,and Steven Weinberg in 1968, these two interactions were unified to one single, called electroweak. The theory predicted, for example, that weak interaction manifests itself in “neutral weak currents” when certain elementary particles interact. This was later confirmed.

Abdus Salam making a name for himself in the physics community before he had finished his studies. Salam conducted work in Europe that would lead to a Nobel Prize in Physics, for his contributions to “the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including, inter alia, the prediction of the weak neutral current.”

Abdus Salam was always committed to Pakistan and other countries in the Global South. In addition to his work in physics, he devoted his life to serving Pakistan. Salam founded the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, which allows scientists from countries without the extensive academic resources to work on research and engage the scientific community. He also served as Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of Pakistan. Three themes in Salam’s life appear—his faith, his love for physics, and his commitment to developing science in countries that are underrepresented in the international physics community.

The Electroweak Force:

Abdus Salam won the Nobel Prize, along with Steven Weinberg and Sheldon Glashow, for electroweak theory. Particles experience four fundamental forces: gravity, the electromagnetic force, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force. Salam realized that at high temperatures, the electromagnetic and weak nuclear force were the same. He showed that the two forces were components of one unified force, the electroweak force.

Abdus Salam was a theoretical physicist who not only won a Nobel Prize for his work but who was also dedicated to empowering and improving physics in countries underrepresented in the subject area.

Abdus Salam was offered a position at Princeton (where he completed some research while working to his Ph.D.). Salam could have chosen to remain in England or move to the USA, as he had made a name for himself in the physics community. However, he felt an obligation to his country, which had funded his education. He returned to develop Pakistani physics. He was able to continue his research in Pakistan, but his efforts to develop research were hindered by the structure of education. His experiences motived his commitment to the ICPT. ICTP appoints Associates from countries underrepresented in the international physics community who could travel to Trieste to do research and scientific activities. Associates can visit ICTP three times in a six-year period, up to nine months total. ICTP also offers courses and workshops.