There’s filming going on outside my office window today, right at the entrance to the Columbia Mathematics building. The film is Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, with a screenplay based on the David Foster Wallace book of the same name.
On the way in here I stopped at a bookstore and took a look at the new Thomas Pynchon novel Against the Day. Over at Cosmic Variance, Mark Trodden and Sean Carroll are Pynchon fans and have postings about this. I was quite fond of Vineland and enjoyed some of Pynchon’s earlier books, but he lost me with Mason and Dixon, and this new one doesn’t look promising. From flipping through it, one important topic seems to be quaternions and their relation to 4d space-time geometry, and a group of characters are called the Quaternioneers. I almost bought the book, thinking that it was my duty as a chronicler of the nexus of math, physics and popular culture to read the thing. But when I picked it up, its sheer heft caused an immediate feeling of discouragement, so I put it back down and will wait for reports from others.
There’s a new movie out this week called Deja Vu, and evidently string theory play a significant role in its time-travel/multiverse based plot. My colleague Brian Greene was scientific consultant on the film, and the Cosmic Log MSNBC blog has a story about this, noting that he’s also involved in another time-travel movie project (Mimzy), and appeared in yet a third (Frequency). The MSNBC story does explain that time-travel is not a big topic of current physics research, but describes physicists as “intrigued by the trippy concepts spawned by string theory – indicating that the universe could follow any of 10500 possible courses, and that our course seems to be going down just the right path to allow for the development of stars, galaxies and life” (the story does note that some people have a problem with this and gives “Not Even Wrong” a mention). While I gave up on the idea of spending $35 on the Pynchon book and devoting endless hours to reading its more than 1100 pages, spending $10 and devoting a couple hours to watching a cheesy movie seems like a much more viable way of fulfilling my blogger duties, so I think I’ll be doing that this evening.
Continuing on the science fiction theme, next year’s Les Houches summer school will be on the topic String Theory and the Real World.
In further media news, last week I talked with someone from the CBC radio program The Current, and supposedly they were going to use some of this in a program on the controversy over string theory that aired yesterday. Also someone tells me that this past week’s issue of Der Spiegel has an article on this.
Finally, for some non-media science fact, the week before last there was a workshop in Paris on High Energy Physics in the LHC Era. There were quite a few interesting talks, including one by Albert de Roeck on post LHC accelerator possiblities (mainly the SLHC, a luminosity upgrade of the LHC), by Alessandro Strumia on astrophysical neutrino experiments, and by Fabio Zwirner on supersymmetry (see page 18 of his slides for a good reason not to believe in supersymmetry). The summary talk was given by Luciano Maiani, who argued that the next machine after the LHC should be a larger proton-proton machine, on the SSC size scale, to be built in the US (since it wouldn’t even fit at CERN), with an electron-positron collider to be built at CERN.
Update: For a more general discussion of the question of whether new physics that solves the naturalness problem will be visible at the LHC, see a recent posting by Tommaso Dorigo, who is reporting on a conference going on in Bologna, especially the talk by Andrea Romanino.
Update: The movie is completely generic, including no strings, but just a standard-issue wormhole.