- For the latest news on US HEP funding, see presentations at this recent HEPAP meeting. It is rarely publicly acknowledged by scientists, but during the Trump years funding for a lot of scientific research research has increased, often dramatically. This has been due not to Trump administration policy initiatives, but instead to the Republican party’s embrace of fiscal irresponsibility whenever there’s a Republican in the White House. After bitter complaints about the size of the budget deficit and demands for reduction in domestic spending during the Obama years, after Trump’s election the congressional Republicans turned on a dime and every year have voted for huge across-the-board spending increases, tax decreases, and corresponding deficit increases. Each year the Trump administration produces a budget document calling for unrealistically large budget decreases which is completely ignored, with Congress passing large increases and Trump signing them into law.
For specific numbers, see for instance page 20 of this presentation, which shows numbers for the DOE HEP budget in recent years. The pattern for FY2020 looks the same: a huge proposed decrease, and a huge likely increase (see the number for the House Mark).
The result of all this is that far greater funds are available than expected during the last P5 planning exercise, so instead of having to make the difficult decisions P5 expected, a wider list of projects can be funded.
- Michael Harris has a new article in Quanta magazine, mentioning suggestions by two logicians that the Wiles proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem should be formalized and checked by a computer. He explains why most number theorists think this sort of project is besides the point:
Wiles and the number theorists who refined and extended his ideas undoubtedly didn’t anticipate the recent suggestions from the two logicians. But — unlike many who follow number theory at a distance — they were certainly aware that a proof like the one Wiles published is not meant to be treated as a self-contained artifact. On the contrary, Wiles’ proof is the point of departure for an open-ended dialogue that is too elusive and alive to be limited by foundational constraints that are alien to the subject matter.
I don’t know who the “two logicians” Harris is referring to are, or what the nature of their concerns about the Wiles proof might be. I had thought this might have something to do with number theorist Kevin Buzzard’s Xena Project, but in a comment Buzzard describes such a formalization as currently impractical, with no clear motivation.
Taking a look at the page describing the motivation for the Xena Project, I confess to finding it unconvincing. The idea of revamping the undergraduate math curriculum to make it based on computer checkable proofs seems misguided, since I don’t see at all why this is a good way to teach mathematical concepts or motivate undergraduate students. The complaints about holes in the math literature (e.g. details of the classification of finite simple groups) don’t seem to me to be something that can be remedied by a computer.
- For some cutting-edge number theory, with no computers in sight, see the lecture notes from a recent workshop on geometrization of local Langlands.
- Finally, congratulations to this year’s Shaw Prize winner, Michel Talagrand. Talagrand in recent years has been working on writing up a book on quantum field theory for mathematicians, and I see that Sourav Chatterjee last fall taught a course based on it, producing lecture notes available here.
For a wonderful recent interview with Talagrand, see here.
I first got to know Michel when he started sending me very helpful comments and corrections on my QM book when it was a work in progress. He’s single-handedly responsible for a lot of significant improvements in the quality of the book.
I’ve recently received significant help from someone else, Lasse Schmieding, who has sent me a very helpful list of mistakes and typos in the published version of the book. I’ve now fixed just about all of them. Note that the version of the book available on my website has all typos/mistakes fixed. For the published version, there’s a list of errata.
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