Various and Sundry

Back from a final short summer vacation, with no further travel plans for the indefinite future. Some things I’ve recently come across that might be of interest:

  • Tommaso Dorigo has posted his contribution to a session on “Blogs, big physics and breaking news” held at last month’s World Conference of Science Journalists in London. There’s a recording of the session available here. Besides Tommaso, one speaker was Matthew Chalmers, who talked a bit about the “String Wars”, including the role of blogs in it. The last speaker was CERN’s James Gillies who discussed CERN’s efforts to do a better job of putting out information about progress on the LHC project, under some pressure from the phenomenon of others disseminating such information if they don’t…. They’ve done a much better job of this recently, putting out informative press releases almost immediately after major decisions are taken. I’m glad to hear that he finds the role of blogs to have been a positive one.

    For a recent LHC update, see these slides from a talk at the Lepton-Photon Symposium. On page 35 there’s a copy of the latest detailed schedule that I’ve seen, which one can compare to the continuing updates on progress here.

  • Also at Lepton-Photon, here’s a talk by Shamit Kachru about using AdS/CFT to build technicolor-type models of electroweak symmetry breaking that involve strongly coupled gauge theories. He and his wife Eva Silverstein will be leaving Stanford and joining the KITP in Santa Barbara this fall, see the press release here.

    For lots more about the KITP, its programs and its finances, see this presentation by David Gross to the NSF.

  • I see there’s an interesting sounding workshop at the Fields Institute this fall, but it scares me to see that it is described as a celebration of Allen Knutson’s 40th birthday. I seem to have gotten old very quickly, with conferences now devoted not only to people younger than me, but to people much younger than me that I recall meeting when they were just starting graduate school…
  • My nomination for the all-time highest quality discussion ever held in a blog comment section goes to the comments on this posting at Secret Blogging Seminar, where several of the best (relatively)-young algebraic geometers in the business discuss the foundations of the subject and how it should be taught.
  • There’s a long and well-informed article here on the multiverse, bringing together the “What the Bleep” crowd, mainstream physicists, theologians, and the logo of the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics (the one Kachru and Silverstein are escaping from).
  • For a selection of the latest in cutting-edge applications of new internet technology related to physics, there’s Gordon Watts with his Deeptalk, the nLab site of the n-category cafe, and the Twitter feed of Cosmic Variance.
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    9 Responses to Various and Sundry

    1. M says:

      As string theorists like to say, String Theory is a conceptual framework that unifies all good ideas, like supersymmetry, extra dimensions and now theology. In the multidisciplinary conference you pointed out, theology gave a decisive contribution to the string swampland program, pointing out a common feature of all string vacua: “the multiverse would not contain morally unacceptable worlds, such as those in which evil significantly predominated over good”

    2. Chris Oakley says:

      What about the Land of Oz, where, until Dorothy arrives, the Munchkins are ruled by the Wicked Witch of the East?

    3. Ben Webster says:

      I wouldn’t read too much into the Knutson conference. Mostly it’s just that he has a lot students who are wags.

    4. Tim vB says:

      Hi Chris,
      the evil witch of the east was killed and the evil witch of the west was defeated in the end, right? So that is a conclusive proof of the statement.
      The “multiverse” idea is too embarrassing and too easy to make fun of, so I will try to refrain from doing that.
      But it would be nice to have a careful explanation of some of the errors in the “Pluralistic Universe” that one could refer to, namely:
      – It is 10 to the power of 500 string vacua, not 10500, does anyone know a popular article that get’s that right?
      – The multiverse idea that originates from the string landscape has no connection whatsoever to the multiple universe interpretation of quantum mechanics.
      – To be a Boltzman brain does not imply that one has to be a solipsist, or the very existence of philosophers that are not solipsists would prove that they are not Boltzman brains.
      – What does it mean to prove the existence of the multiverse? How could one do that?
      I would devote the rest of my life to try to un-cook an egg if that could prove the mutliverse idea to be wrong, but I suppose any success would just prove the multiverse idea to be true:”Hey see, we live in one of the universes that allows that kind of thing, what a triumph for the theory”.

    5. Bob says:

      Surely Gross did not present all 180 slides to the NSF? Inflicting death by stupefaction is a guaranteed way to make sure KITP will never get another dime!


    6. Peter Woit says:

      Thanks Ben,

      I feel better already….

    7. E. Silverstein says:

      Dear Peter,

      You write that Shamit and I are “escaping” from the Stanford Institute of Theoretical Physics, but nothing could be further from the truth.

      The SITP is a phenomenal group of physicists. These are people who played a leading role in brining us early universe inflation, phenomenology beyond the Standard model, and holography and string theory. Together we have had tremendous fun and real synergy, for example developing primordial cosmology and its potential connections with string theory, among many other topics. We also treasure our interactions with students and postdocs, and the open, broad, and ambitious style of research in the group, as well as its unique sense of humor. In short, we have been delighted to be part of SITP and SLAC theory as well as the broader departments and university.

      KITP/UCSB is also a spectacular, unique institute with great physicists who we deeply admire, as reported at length in the press release you cite, and we indeed decided to try that amazing new experience.

      Best wishes, Eva Silverstein

    8. Peter Woit says:


      Sorry for the inaccurate implication, that was just my own (possibly defective) sense of humor at work. Good luck with the move to Santa Barbara!


    9. Allen Knutson says:

      he has a lot of students who are wags.

      Surely that counts for something.

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