There’s a long and interesting profile of Jim Simons on the Bloomberg web-site. It begins with him being told he has a call from Harvard string theorist Cumrun Vafa. Unclear whether Vafa was calling to talk about something related to science or something related to finance, since I’ve heard from several sources that Vafa recently has been working at least part of the time for Renaissance Technologies, the Simons hedge fund.

Director Ron Howard is making a movie based on the novel “Angels and Demons”, part of which will be filmed at CERN. Here’s a news report on his visit to CERN

Witten has posted two papers to the arXiv, one old, one new. The old one is Conformal Field Theory in Four and Six Dimensions, the write-up of his talk at the Oxford conference celebrating Graeme Segal’s 60th birthday back in 2002. Until now this paper hasn’t been available on the internet, you had to buy the book of the conference proceedings. It has acquired some new interest because of Witten’s recent work on geometric Langlands, where Langlands duality comes from a duality symmetry that is part of a conjectured SL(2,**Z**) symmetry of N=4 supersymmetric Yang-Mills in four dimensions. This SL(2,**Z**) can be explained by the existence of a superconformal theory in 6d, which can then be reduced to 4d by taking it on the product of an elliptic curve and a 4-manifold. The modular symmetry then comes from the elliptic curve.

The new paper is with Alex Maloney and entitled Quantum Gravity Partition Functions in Three Dimensions. They calculate the partition function of pure gravity on an AdS3 space by summing the contributions from classical geometries, including quantum corrections, finding that “the result is not physically sensible”. The paper includes a speculative discussion about what this might mean. It looks like 3d quantum gravity is still a subject that is far from completely understood.

Slides from talks at the recent HEPAP meeting are available. The FY2008 US budget for particle physics remains caught up in struggle between the White House and the Congress. They all agreed on a quite healthy budget number for particle physics, but haven’t agreed on an overall budget. One possibility, a continuing resolution splitting the difference between the Congressional and White House total numbers, might possibly lead to a smaller particle physics budget than expected.

Physical Review Letters is publishing the latest paper by Chamseddine and Connes on their non-commutative geometry approach to the Standard Model. The PRL editor evidently forced them to change the name of the paper, from “A Dress for SM the Beggar” to Conceptual Explanation for the Algebra in the Noncommutative Approach to the Standard Model

There was an interesting news about Simons’ otherwise quite secretive company a few months back.

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2007/07/algorithm-wars.html

The PRL editor evidently forced them to change the name of the paper, from “A Dress for SM the Beggar” to Conceptual Explanation for the Algebra in the Noncommutative Approach to the Standard ModelTsk tsk, those poor souls at PRL lack any fantasy. We do take our papers a bit too seriously…

Cheers,

T.

Hi Peter,

It is very interesting that Cumrun Vafa calls Jim Simons. He is a quite senior person. How come he can work for a hedge fund company at that age, if the rumours are true? Do you have any other inside scoop on that?

ali,

I don’t know what Vafa’s arrangement with Renaissance is, other than that he was working with them at some point in the last year or so. While it’s unusual for senior people to do this, I have heard of other cases of quite prominent senior mathematicians who have worked for Renaissance for a while, returning to academia afterwards.

Speaking of senior people, George Zweig works for Renaissance.

Lately, I’ve been thinking that these associations are not particularly good for physics and mathematics, or the reputations of the people that study them—rather like nuclear weapons development in an earlier era.

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“Angels and Demons”? By Dan Brown, author of the “Da Vinci Code”.

Yeah, that’s going to make everyone at CERN proud.

I appreciate that they probably earn some money for this, but still, it’s hardly something to boast about.

Chris W. Says:

“Lately, I’ve been thinking that these associations are not particularly good for physics and mathematics, or the reputations of the people that study them”

I will say. I just came across this characterization, which I find myself unable to fully disagree with:

Today’s Wall Street fabricators of avant-garde financial instruments are actually called “financial engineers.” They got their training in “labs,” much like Dr. Frankenstein’s, located at Wharton, Princeton, Harvard, and Berkeley. Each time one of their confections goes south, they scratch their heads in bewilderment — always making sure, of course, that they have financial life-rafts handy, while investors, employees, suppliers, and whole communities go down with the ship.I might be advisable to have plane tickets to small foreign countries without extradition agreements with the US handy if the economy worsens appreciably.