- There’s an interesting discussion amongst philosophers at Brian Leiter’s blog about the effects of Templeton money (and I contributed my two cents…). In other Templeton news, they’re funding a new “literary science magazine” called Nautilus. Also via Leiter, they have awarded $3 million to two philosophers at Saint Louis University (“one of the largest grants SL has ever received in the areas of the humanities or the sciences”) for them to study the subject of intellectual humility.
- In the category of rumors I’ve heard from so many reputable sources they must be true and I can’t really be violating confidentiality, W. Hugh Woodin is moving from Berkeley to Harvard, and Simon Donaldson from Imperial College to the Simons Center at Stony Brook.
- Via Simon Willerton at the n-Category Cafe, Edinburgh now has a gallery with a wonderful collection of portraits of seventy mathematicians, including commentary from Michael and Lily Atiyah, an online version is here.
- The publisher sent me a copy of Tony Zee’s new GR textbook, Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell, which I very much enjoyed looking through. Zee takes the textbook concept to new levels of informality, so it includes a wealth of interesting and amusing comments, spread throughout the text, footnotes and endnotes, including quite a few about quantum gravity. At over 800 pages, it’s a pretty huge book, including a lot of conceptual material (as in his QFT textbook), but more calculational detail than the QFT book. Undergraduate physics students should find this quite an approachable text (unlike the QFT one, which I think you need graduate level training to really follow).
This definitely is a text for physicists, not mathematicians, with the geometry taking a back-seat. Differential forms and orthonormal frames don’t appear until nearly the end of the book. Personally I’ve found using the same language of connections on principal bundles to do gauge theory and gravity to make the most sense, but this involves getting familiar with quite a bit more formalism than most physicists are willing to deal with.
- I’d been curious to hear more about recent work of Jacob Lurie and Dennis Gaitsgory on Tamagawa numbers, and had been waiting to see a paper from them. Turns out there’s something much better: Lurie has been teaching a course about this at Harvard this semester, with notes appearing here. For some indication of why you might take an interest in this if your interest is gauge theory, see here.
- While about the only bipartisan agreement in Washington these days is that something must be done to deal with the terrible problem of the shortage of STEM graduates in the US, someone has noticed that there actually is no shortage, see here.
- This past weekend there was a conference in honor of Bruno Zumino’s 90th birthday at Berkeley, and one can hope that some version of the talks might become available online here.
- A hot topic in HEP remains that of when the failure of the SUSY picture that has been heavily over-sold for several decades will finally be acknowledged. From the list of titles at the Zumino conference, Maiani’s was “Supersymmetry: not time to give it up, yet”. Cormac O’Raifertaigh reports here that Nati Seiberg is saying
“only certain aspects of minimal models had been ruled out so far. As for the future, who knows?”.(now corrected, see Cormac’s blog). Physics World has a story here, with Ben Allanach claiming that “data taken at the LHC have excluded roughly half of supersymmetry’s parameter space” and that now one has to wait until 2015 when, if SUSY is right, it will be found nearly immediately:
“My hopes are pinned on the next run,” he says. “The energy jump now is going to make the big difference. And if supersymmetry is the correct theory of nature, I would be expecting to see a big signal within the first month. If it doesn’t crop up, I’ll then be getting pretty depressed.”
Bill Murray of ATLAS makes the excellent point that
“Proving [supersymmetry] wrong would be as important as proving it right,” he says. “Null results are hard to sell to newspapers, but they are really important to scientific progress.”
Killing SUSY will be one of the great achievements of the LHC, and complaining about this might be kind of like being upset that Michelson-Morley didn’t find the ether.
Update: I’ve been pointed to an impressive photo of Robbert Dijkgraaf that unfortunately did not make the Atiyah Gallery.
Update: The New York Times has a story today about the new Templeton-funded science magazine Nautilus.
Update: The news from Britain is that Stephen Hawking has joined the academic boycott of Israel, cancelling plans to attend a conference there this month. Please discuss your views on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict elsewhere. There’s no way I’m going to moderate such a discussion, and there are now surely dozens of other sites carrying this story where comments are encouraged.