Short Items

  • Harvard has announced that the Chinese firm Evergrande Group will be supporting various activities at Harvard, including a new Center for Mathematical Sciences and Applications, with S.-T. Yau as director. No details of what the center will do other than “serve as a fusion point for mathematics, statistics, physics, and related sciences.” The company has its own announcement here (they might want to check on the name of Harvard’s President…).
  • The new Physics Today has an article Paul Ehrenfest’s final years, a sad bit of physics history I’d never seen the details of.
  • Last month in Moscow there was a conference for Boris Feigin’s 60th birthday. Videos of the talks are now available here.
  • Dick Gross’s wonderful lecture series here at Columbia on Representation theory and number theory has been available on video since he gave the lectures. Now Chao Li at Harvard has produced a transcription of the talks, so a high-quality written version of the material of the lectures is now available. This is one of the best sources around to learn about the local Langlands conjectures. His website contains a lot of other interesting expository material.
  • Phenomenologist Jay Wacker has a blog at Quora, called Particle Physics Digressions. The latest entry is an odd tale of something I would have thought was rather unusual, but Wacker says it’s not exceptional, happens everyday.
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20 Responses to Short Items

  1. Peter Donnelly says:

    Ehrenfast article sounds interesting, but not $30 interesting.

  2. Thelonious says:

    I have to agree that paying 30$ is a little hard to swallow, do you know if there is a good summary somewhere ?

    Do you know if there is going to be an Eilenberg lecture this coming semester (Gross’s lectures are amazing !!) ?

  3. Thelonious says:

    I should add that Chao li’s lectures have been around for at least a year I think. On the other hand he just wrote, this semester, lecture notes from a course by Jack Thorne ( which, as far as I can tell, are one of the best ressource for learning thoroughly about the important objects in the number theoretic Langlands program (it isn’t just a broad overview, he actually proves stuff).

  4. Peter Woit says:

    No Eilenberg lectures this spring, Joe Harris just finished his lecture series a couple weeks ago. I second the recommendation of the Thorne lecture notes.
    If anyone knows of a another source for the material about Ehrenfest, let me know. The policy of Physics Today to charge $30 to look at an article seems to have no point other than to ensure that no one does it.

  5. claudius says:

    If even you think that $30 is too much to pay to look at an article,
    why did you even bother to link to it?

  6. Martin says:

    “Paul Ehrenfest through his life had suffered from low self esteem, but now began to suffer from depression. He was also greatly saddened by his youngest son Vassily who suffered from Down’s syndrome and had severe problems both physically and mentally. On 25 September 1933 Ehrenfest shot Vassily in the waiting room of the Professor Watering Institute in Amsterdam where Vassily was being treated. Then he shot himself. The Dutch papers only reported his sudden death and gave lengthy accounts of his achievements. Ehrenfest-Afanassjewa returned to Leiden where she remained for the rest of her life. Not only did she lose her husband and youngest son in such a tragic way, but a few years later, in 1939, her eldest son Paul was killed by an avalanche while skiing in the French Alps.”

  7. Peter Woit says:

    From my office at Columbia (as well as probably at many other places with an institutional subscription), Physics Today articles are freely available. I didn’t realize they were charging $30 to non-subscribers (actually I’m wondering if that’s new, hadn’t seen that before).

  8. kashyap vasavada says:

    If you have an account at the campus computer center (most state univ. in U.S. will allow this for state residents) they will let you download physics today articles or even journal papers free. I am not sure about private univ.

  9. gs says:

    This first: A hat tip to Evergrande and Hui Ka Yan for their generosity. Hopefully it augurs constructive relations, not enmity, between the USA and China.

    Nevertheless, it is surprising that a Chinese real estate company is underwriting mathematics and immunology at Harvard. (The Green Buildings initiative is more understandable.) The details would seem to warrant journalistic looking into, not in a spirit of suspicion but of due diligence. That said, I do not imply impropriety, and repeat my appreciation of Evergrande’s action.

  10. Isidore Seveille says:

    IMHO, the donation from Evergrande is good PR work for Chinese companies given that some of those Chinese companies are placed under suspicion by the Congress and the media.

    On a related note, Huawei, a Chinese telecom company, has been supporting mathematics and theoretical physics research in IHES, according to this report .

  11. Peter Donnelly says:

    OMG that was sad.

  12. Thomas Larsson says:

    I was excited to find that the Feigen conference was dedicated to, among other things, double affine and toroidal algebras. Unfortunately, none of the talks seems to be about this subject.

    In my own work, I preferred to use the terms multi-dimensional affine and Virasoro algebras, rather than double (triple, quadruple, …) affine algebras, because the restriction to tori is not fundamental. Note that triple affine algebras are not related to gauge anomalies in QFT in 3+1 dimensions, since the extension is proportional to the second Casimir rather than to the third. The algebra pertaining to QFT gauge anomalies is called the Mickelsson-Faddeev algebra, and is something completely different.

  13. lcs says:

    12 issues of Physics Today costs $69, yet they charge $30 for a single article? Talk about not even wrong. Even if they charged $30 to download an entire issue it would be grossly out of proportion. Someone needs to upbraid these silly AIP publishers, who must be pompous beyond imagination to think their content merits this pay scale.

  14. Jeff Murugan says:

    There’s a related story on the sad story of Ehrenfest’s last few days in Graham Farmelo’s “The Strangest Man”

  15. harryb says:

    Added a comment to the Ehrenfest article site on Physics Today noting the sentiments of frustration on this blog. Would have been preferable to have been able to comment on the content. Their choice.

  16. We’ve made the Physics Today article free so that its easier for people to access. We do offer a $4 rental free to view the article, but we’re still ironing out some quirks in our new publishing system. Hence I apologize that this option was not available at first.

    The magazine is a benefit of membership in ten science societies. If you’ve previously registered with Physics Today, just click on the “sign in” option on the right hand side and you’ll be able to access everything, including our entire back archive, no matter whether you’re on campus or not.

  17. Peter Woit says:


    Many thanks for arranging access to the article about Ehrenfest!

  18. harryb says:

    Good response from Physics Today – thanks.

  19. gs says:

    Thank you, Physics Today.