Later tonight will be the 2016 Breakthrough Prize ceremony, broadcast live on the National Geographic channel. While mathematicians and physicists are getting their popcorn ready, waiting to find out which of their colleagues will be $3 million richer, they might want to check out Mathematics Without Apologies, where Michael Harris is writing about his experience on the red carpet at last year’s ceremony. In other news:
- A few miles down the road from the event tonight at the NASA Ames Center, the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics has a new website. They have various videos you can watch, as well as this account of the history of the SITP:
The gauge hierarchy problem was first addressed in the earliest days of SITP by Susskind and Dimopoulos, whose ideas eventually led to the introduction of supersymmetry into particle physics. The gauge hierarchy problem and the discovery experimental discovery of supersymmetry were principle reasons for the building of the Large Hadron Collider, but the puzzle remains. To this day Dimopoulos and his band of young postdocs and students have offered the most exciting proposals for discovering new physics in this area.
Personally, I thought the Higgs was the principal reason for the LHC, but perhaps I was misinformed.
- Several people wrote to tell me about a USA Today article reporting Study may have found evidence of alternate, parallel universes, noting that this needed a new installment of This Week’s Hype. I’m very pleased to see that the excellent science journalist Jennifer Ouellette has been on the case, debunking this much better than I ever could. The blame for this kind of thing is jointly shared by physicists and journalists, glad to see that at least some journalists are taking action to deal with the problem.
- There have also been several suggestions that I write about Leo Kadanoff, the great theoretical physicist who passed away a little while ago at the age of 78. Unfortunately I never met him, and only had a general acquaintance with his work. A very good obituary by Kenneth Chang did appear in the New York Times.
- I’ve also heard from lots of people with more stories about the Khrzhanovsky film about Landau described here. It seems that I’m the only one who didn’t know about this. In other performing arts/physics news, Lee Smolin discusses here a project he has been involved in.
- The LHC has finished its 2015 run colliding protons at 13 TeV, will now turn to heavy ion physics. Integrated luminosity recorded by ATLAS and CMS is about 4 inverse femtobarns. Results of the analysis of this data may start to be available publicly around the time of Moriond in March. Consulting Jester to see what to expect, it looks like better limits on or evidence for stops, Z-primes and gluinos should be available. In particular, we’ll finally see a conclusive test of string theory (Gordon Kane argues that string theory predicts a 1.5 TeV gluino, see here).
- In other news from the LHC, it seems that humanity narrowly missed a major problem back in August, when Simon Parkes, a Labour town councillor for Whitby in North Yorkshire, foiled a sinister plot by the Illuminati to “use the LHC to open an evil portal that would allow them to become more powerful.”
Update: Awards ceremony hasn’t started, but names are out: Ian Agol for mathematics, 5 teams of 1300 people for neutrino oscillations (with 7 specifically identified, including the 2 winners of this year’s physics Nobel).
Junior recipients in math are Larry Guth and Andre Neves, in physics Bogdan Bernevig, Liang Fu, Xiao-Liang Qi, Raphael Flauger, Leonardo Senatore, and Yuji Tachikawa.
Update: The big news, via Michael Harris, is that Peter Scholze (to my mind a better mathematician than any of those who got prizes) turned down a $100,000 prize. Good for him.