- This past weekend I was up in Boston and attended quite a few talks at the Gelfand Centennial conference at MIT, in honor of the 100th anniversary of I. M. Gelfand’s birth. Abstracts of the talks are available, but most of them were blackboard talks, not being recorded as far as I could tell. I’ve been starting again on my project to learn more number theory, so found Matt Emerton’s and Akshay Venkatesh’s survey talks especially helpful.
There was one long afternoon program of recollections of Gelfand and his seminar from a long list of speakers, which went on into the evening banquet. This was being recorded, so video will perhaps appear some day (Gindikin’s contribution was on video, available here). Another long afternoon session dealt with Gelfand’s mathematical legacy, again perhaps at some point there will be video available of this.
- In mathematical news, speakers at next year’s ICM have now been announced, for both the plenary and the various sections. Those interested in tea-leaf reading can consider for themselves what this new information says about who will get a Fields Medal next year. They might also appreciate this.
- A Fields Medal is worth just 15,000 Canadian dollars. If you can claim some relation to physics, much better to have your friends get to work nominating you for a $3 million fundamental physics prize. Online nominations for 2014 are here, and the news is that the three finalists for the $3 million will be announced this November. The Selection committee will be the 11 previous theorist winners of the $3 million prize plus three LHC physicists from the experimental side. The FPP also has some news here about what some of the LHC experimentalist prize winners have done with the money.
- Historically unparalleled payments to the stars of the field seem to be part of a larger societal pattern, as well as a much grimmer picture for young non-stars. The situation on the theorist side is not news, but Adrian Cho at Science magazine has a story about the extremely ugly job prospects facing young LHC experimentalists, with the title After the LHC, the Deluge.
- In case you weren’t aware of this, see here for an explanation of why The STEM Crisis is a Myth. One thing in that article I’d never seen before is Alan Greenspan’s explanation of why we need more H1B visas: the inequality problem in the US is due to overpaid computer programmers, and these plutocrats can be dealt with by importing low-wage labor to take their jobs.
- Finally, for the latest in multiverse mania, New Scientist has Death by Higgs rids cosmos of space brain threat (and an editorial about how this shows the Higgs is not “boring”). I knew there was no way they could resist Sean Carroll’s new paper dealing with the question: Can the Higgs Boson Save Us From the Menace of the Boltzmann Brains?. Sean has more about this here, and Jacques Distler has a discussion here which I think accurately reflects the views of physicists outside certain West Coast enclaves:
Normally, I wouldn’t touch a paper, with the phrase “Boltzmann brains” in the title, with a 10-foot pole. And anyone accosting me, intent on discussing the subject, would normally be treated as one of the walking undead…
This is plainly nuts.
I confess that this kind of thing completely mystifies me. Carroll is an intelligent, well-informed, and almost always reliably sensible sort, with a keen devotion to the battle for scientific rationality against the forces of religion and obscurantism. But he likes to pair this with an enthusiasm for pseudo-scientific multiverse wackiness that Distler’s “nuts” describes pretty well. Very weird, and if you want to know why I keep referring to “mania” in this context, this is a good example.
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