Correction

A while ago I wrote here about a recent “conference of Nobel Laureates” convened by Jeffrey Epstein in the Virgin Islands. This was based upon stories in boston.com (Boston Globe) and marketwatch.com (Wall Street Journal), which were based upon this press release from Epstein’s foundation. The foundation also has stories about this on their web-site (see for instance here).

Looking into it more carefully, it appears that everything in the press release refers to something that happened not this spring, but back in 2006. More details about the 2006 event are in a piece by Lawrence Krauss at Edge.org. The pictures and quotes are the same as in the 2012 press release. Still available on-line here is a schedule of talks from the 2006 conference.

When I saw this I was wondering why it didn’t give a specific date for the conference, and how Epstein had gotten the same prominent people as in 2006 to return this year, despite his well-known problems with the law in the interim. I have no idea why the Epstein Foundation recently issued this peculiar press release.

Epstein is a rather curious story, for some background, see this New York Magazine profile from 2002, and this Harvard Crimson piece about him when he donated $30 million to establish a Program for Evolutionary Dynamics in the Harvard math department. At the time of the 2006 conference, Epstein was under investigation by the police for having hired under-aged women for sex, and he ended up serving 13 months in prison as a result. He was arrested soon after the conference. Some recipients of donations from Epstein returned the money, but not Harvard.

Update: About the Program in Evolutionary Dynamics, I should point out that after losing Epstein to the penal system, it has landed on its feet, with a $10.5 million grant from Templeton.

For another article about Epstein, from 2003, see this at Vanity Fair.

Update: Another strange Epstein press release has appeared: Jeffrey Epstein’s Involvement With the Edge Foundation. It’s an endorsement of John Brockman and his Edge Foundation, with text that was also posted on all sorts of odd internet sites back in 2010. Very strange…

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7 Responses to Correction

  1. Bob says:

    And I thought quantum mechanics was strange and unexplainable . . .

  2. Mike says:

    Stay away from gossip Peter, it will only get you in trouble . . .

  3. Peter Woit says:

    Mike,

    No gossip here, just what’s in the public record. The intersection of moneyed individuals and math/physics research is a legitimate topic of interest, one that may be becoming more and more significant for how this research is funded and conducted.

  4. Shantanu says:

    Peter, this is probably OT, but couldn’t find a place for it.
    anyhow wanted to point you to Andy Strominger’s colloquium at
    Berkeley (which was almost same as the Harvard talk you blogged about a year ago).
    See his reply when someone asked him about loop quantum gravity.
    http://physics.berkeley.edu/events/Colloquia/movies/col.streaming.3-12-12.mov

  5. Peter Woit says:

    Thanks Shantanu,

    I took a look at the talk, interesting to see what Strominger’s point of view is, but there seemed to be nothing new. The hype level was rather high (the way the failure of “string theory is the physics of the 21st century” has been morphed into “this idea from string theory is the harmonic oscillator of the 21st century” is idiotic. People should have learned to dial back the unsupportable hype, not recycle it). The message seems to be that string theory failed at what it was supposed to do, but we should all keep doing it anyway. As for the string theory/LQG fight, again, nothing new.

    Anyone who wants to argue these old tired issues, please resist the temptation.

  6. Wojciech Langer says:

    If not recent Krauss’ book “A Universe from Nothing” I would not have a clue about Epstein. It is definitely easier to make “A $ from Nothing” :)
    BTW: do you have any opinion about this book?

  7. Peter Woit says:

    Wojciech,

    I haven’t read the book, just flipped through it in a book store. I’m just not very interested in that sort of speculative cosmology. That Krauss seemed to be discussing multiverse scenarios as an answer to the idea of God as starting it all didn’t look very wise to me. But, again, I haven’t read the book. Life is short, I’m way behind on other things, including writing my next posting, about a better book on the same question…