- First a sad piece of news, via commenter Bob Jones. It seems that David Kazhdan, a well-known representation theorist, was hit by a truck Saturday morning while bicycling in Jerusalem. He’s in the hospital, with his condition described as “very serious”. I hope he manages to recover soon from this accident.
- On a much happier note, I spent Saturday at the Simons Foundation attending a day-long program celebrating the work of Pierre Deligne. More technical talks were in the morning, with Goncharov giving a talk on this material, and Illusie discussing the mathematical significance of several letters he had received from Deligne.
Deligne’s contributions to mathematics are immense, and go way beyond his many published works. Quite a few mathematicians have received letters like the ones Illusie discussed, laying out all sorts of new ideas. Some of these ended up getting worked out in detail by students and others, with Deligne’s name not necessarily attached. To this day, Deligne continues to send highly helpful hand-written letters about mathematics to people, although I understand that these days they arrive not by snail mail, but as a scan sent by e-mail by a secretary. These letters make up a huge resource for mathematics, perhaps someday a way will be found to archive them and make them more widely available.
In the afternoon, Brian Conrad and Ravi Vakil gave some very good more general talks, with one theme the Weil conjectures that Deligne was responsible for finishing the proof of. The day ended with reminiscences of Deligne from Illusie, Saint-Donat, and Dennis Sullivan (since Sullivan couldn’t be there, his contribution was read off a cell-phone by Jim Simons).
Contemplating Deligne’s remarkable career is rather awe-inspiring. For more about him, a good place to start is this page at the Simons Foundation, which includes videos of an interview of Deligne by Robert MacPherson. See also this recent piece by Illusie, which makes the point that one of Deligne’s achievements was to bring together two great but disparate currents in mathematics, the abstract algebraic geometers around Grothendieck, and the representation theorists working on what is now called the Langlands program.
- For yet more unification of mathematics and physics, last week the Mathematical Institute at Oxford hosted a conference on Number Theory and Physics, associated with talks celebrating the Institute’s new building (see here and here). Witten’s slides are available here and here, a blog posting by Bruce Bartlett is here.
Via Jordan Ellenberg and Mathbabe, there’s the news that Andrew Wiles took the occasion of the building opening ceremony to warn about the abuse of mathematics by the financial industry. By the way, the new building is described as housing 500 mathematicians and staff, which seems to me truly huge, quite a bit bigger than any other math institute I know of.
- A journalist at Science magazine got not just one, but 157 open access science journals to accept a bogus completely incompetent paper. One could take this as conclusive evidence for the problem with open access journals, except that he didn’t try this also on conventional journals, and many believe that they too would publish something just as bad.
- Brian Leiter has a discussion here of some data here about the fraction of philosophy Ph.Ds that are able to get tenure-track jobs. I had always thought that academic philosophy Ph.D.s were likely to have even worse job prospects than theoretical physicists. If you believe these numbers at all though, your job prospects as a philospher are dramatically better than similar numbers for physics theory Ph.D.s. My guess is that, at least in the US, theoretical physics Ph.D.s have very roughly a 20% chance of finding a permanent academic position, while the data here shows 60% of similar philosophy Ph.D.s with permanent positions. If you’re in a physics theory Ph.D. program, and at all interested in the philosophical side of the subject, perhaps you should immediately look into changing departments.
- As always, multiverse-mania shows no signs of slowing down. For the latest, see articles in the new issue of Nautilus here and here.
- Just a few short hours until the 2013 Physics Nobel announcements, with speculation raging about what the Nobel committee will do about the Higgs discovery.
Update: It’s Englert and Higgs for the Nobel. I still think that, for a prize recognizing the theorists who figured out the Anderson-Higgs mechanism, there’s a name missing in that list.