The proof of the fundamental lemma by Ngo has made it onto Time magazine’s list of the top ten scientific discoveries of 2009. Ngo will be visiting Columbia in the near future, and I might even end up understanding what this is about. He’s giving the Ritt lectures here later this week, and will be Eilenberg visiting professor for the Spring 2010 term, giving a series of weekly lectures.
The collaborative work on the Density Hales-Jewett theorem initiated by Timothy Gowers on his blog has made it into today’s New York Times magazine’s survey of the “Annual Year in Ideas”.
Tony Zee’s book Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell will be coming out in a second edition next year, featuring some new material covering recent advances in computing scattering amplitudes in gauge theory. The new preface is available here and has some interesting comments from Zee about the book and about QFT books in general. It also contains a response to those Amazon reviewers described as “nuts who do not appreciate the Nutshell“. I suggest that Zee get a blog, it gives one an excellent way to respond to nuts who misunderstand and don’t appreciate one’s book…
Last weekend there was a meeting held at Rutgers in memory of I. M. Gelfand, with some materials available here.
A couple weeks ago there was a very good article in Science magazine by Adrian Cho about recent discussions of the possibility of a muon collider. Since muons are much heavier than electrons, one can in principle use a storage ring to collide them without the problem of synchrotron radiation loss that limits the energy of electron-positron rings to the LEP energy scale. The fact that muons are unstable and decay fairly quickly is a huge problem. Besides making it difficult to use the “cooling” techniques needed to produce a usable beam intensity, the decay products create a very challenging environment for a detector to operate in, as well as producing neutrino intensities so high they are capable of causing problematic levels of radiation wherever they emerge from the earth.
C. J. Mozzochi has a page here with links to many of his wonderful photographs of mathematicians, mostly in action at various conferences or lecture series.
Update: One more. Last night I watched a spectacularly bad Sci-Fi movie, Annihilation Earth, brought to the world by the Syfy channel. I don’t think it’s a movie that really can be spoiled for you, so here’s a plot synopsis: three supercolliders in Geneva, Orleans and Barcelona are providing power for Western Europe. Scientists who designed them realized that in a certain configuration the critics were right, and the Higgs field would get out of control and form a black hole that would destroy the earth. Evil Arab terrorists hack into one of them and reconfigure it to self-destruct. The remaining two are all that is keeping the Higgs field from expanding exponentially and causing the black hole that will annihilate everything. One of the scientists refuses to believe the other when he explains this to him, because of the color of his skin and the fact that he’s an Arab too (although he doesn’t look it). So, in the final scene he shuts down one of the remaining super-colliders and the Earth is annihilated. I guess the film-makers should be congratulated on this innovation in sci-fi film-making, ending the film with the scientists not saving the Earth but destroying it.