Posting has been light recently, partly since I’ve been working on writing up notes for my course (more about that soon), but largely because there hasn’t been a lot of news to write about in the math-physics world. The LHC shutdown yesterday, with the latest online machine status report now saying:
No beam for a while. Access required. time estimate: ~2 years
It will take about that long to replace magnet interconnections and do other work required to get the LHC working at an energy close to the design energy of 7 TeV/beam (seems likely they’ll be trying for 6.5 TeV/beam).
Results from the full 2012 data set for the Higgs are likely to be released soon, at Moriond in early March. Not much in the way of rumors available about this, which may have something to do with no surprises in the data. I hear there will also be, as expected, yet more stringent limits on SUSY reported.
For a US-centric series of reports on HEP and future plans, see talks here at a meeting this week at Fermilab.
No matter how cosmology is doing as a science, the Templeton Foundation is doing its part to promote its non-scientific aspects, with major funding for projects designed to promote and institutionalize the subject of “Philosophy of Cosmology”. Just before the Planck data release, DAMTP will host a Templeton-funded conference on “Infinities and Cosmology”, which will include two lectures by Michael Douglas on “Can we test the string theory landscape?”. Templeton is also funding a three-week summer institute in Santa Cruz to “promote understanding and research” on topics like “reasons for believing in a multi-verse, anthropic arguments, the metaphysics of laws and chance, why anything at all exists.” If you want to spend three weeks this summer among the redwoods discussing such topics, and collect a check for $2500 from Templeton, apply now.
Sometimes I make fun of pseudo-scientific research favored by some Northern California physicists by speculating about the role of marijuana in their research efforts. On a much more serious note, Southern California’s John Schwarz and his wife Patricia have been involved in admirable efforts to change US policy against investigating medical uses of marijuana, with Schwarz writing an editorial here last year, and speaking at a conference in DC next week.
For more evidence of how ideas about string theory have worked their way into US general cultural life, a couple people have pointed me to Adam Gopnik’s piece about Galileo in last week’s New Yorker, which contains the following:
Contemporary historians of science have a tendency to deprecate the originality of the so-called scientific revolution, and to stress, instead, its continuities with medieval astrology and alchemy. And they have a point. It wasn’t that one day people were doing astrology in Europe and then there was this revolution and everyone started doing astronomy. Newton practiced alchemy; Galileo drew up all those horoscopes. But if you can’t tell the difference in tone and temperament between Galileo’s sound and that of what went before, then you can’t tell the difference between chalk and cheese. The difference is apparent if you compare what astrologers actually did and what the new astronomers were doing. “The Arch-Conjuror of England” (Yale), Glyn Parry’s entertaining new biography of Galileo’s contemporary the English magician and astrologer John Dee, shows that Dee was, in his own odd way, an honest man and a true intellectual. He races from Prague to Paris, holding conferences with other astrologers and publishing papers, consulting with allies and insulting rivals. He wasn’t a fraud. His life has all the look and sound of a fully respectable intellectual activity, rather like, one feels uneasily, the life of a string theorist today.