- Lots of people seem to be unhappy with my characterization of Lawrence Krauss’s question “why is there something rather than nothing?” as meaningless. I’m well aware that one can give this question a non-trivial meaning, I just don’t think Krauss does, nor do the many commenters here on the topic whose comments I’ve deleted. Happily for those of you who want to discuss this topic, the Templeton Foundation has funded a whole new institution, the Rutgers Templeton Project in Philosophy of Cosmology, and they now have a blog, called What There Is and Why There Is Anything. They give a long list of questions they want to address which are pretty much orthogonal to ones I find interesting, ending with
13) Why is there something rather than nothing?
I imagine that all of these will be discussed during the course of our project. However, I suggest holding off definitively answering question 13 until our grant has expired.
So, go right ahead and help them out, but hold off on your definitive answer to this question for at least 3 years (if not more, they might want a grant renewal).
- Another new website is the all-new, shiny, WordPress-based website for the Columbia Math department. We needed a new site since the university software running the old one (“Hypercontent”) was about to die. The new university plan, involving Drupal, didn’t seem ideal to me, so I convinced our staff that WordPress was the way to go. Web designer Matthew Kressel did a great job setting up the site for us, and our staff member Nathan Schweer has turned it into a huge improvement over the old one.
- In other Columbia news, tomorrow there will be a panel discussion on Recent Developments in Access to Research, which will discuss the Elsevier boycott amongst other things. I’ll be on the panel, not sure how much I’ll have to contribute, we’ll see.
- A correspondent sent me a link to this wonderful piece centering around Fred Hoyle and film.
- For interesting video to watch, I recommend this interview with Yuri Manin at the Simons Foundation, and videos from the Clay 2010 conference in Paris about the Poincare conjecture proof.
Update: I hadn’t realized that “Why is there something rather than nothing?” studies is now a burgeoning field, with heavy Templeton funding. Besides the Rutgers Templeton Project in Philosophy of Cosmology, this past fall Yale hosted the Templeton + Yale Divinity School funded “WITA” (Why is there Anything?) conference (see whyisthereanything.org), which has its own blog here. As Multiverse Mania gets to be old-hat, perhaps WITA studies will take over as the cutting edge of this kind of science.
Update: This news from a “Cambridge University spokesman”:
It is not true that Professor Hawking is a “regular” visitor to the club [Freedom Acres sex club in Southern California] in question.
‘This report is greatly exaggerated. He visited once a few years ago with friends while on a visit to California.’