A few short items:
- Things had been going quite well at the LHC, they were ahead of schedule, starting to ramp up intensity for the new run. Then at 5:30 this morning a weasel decided to visit a 66kV transformer, which did not end well either for the weasel or for the LHC power grid. The machine and a lot of its cryogenics lost power, and recovery is going to take a week or so.
- For some commentary on the excitement about the new run building up (pre-weasel), see Tommaso Dorigo (at least I’m guessing he’s the author) here. He points to the twitter #MoarCollisions hashtag.
- In various Breakthrough Prize related news, first there’s an announcement from Terry Tao about the new IMU Graduate Breakout Fellowships, funded by him and some of the other math prize winners.
On the physics front, Caltech has Glitz and Qubits, about Alexei Kitaev and John Schwarz’s experience with the prize. Schwarz still hopes for vindication of his string theory prize by a discovery of SUSY at the LHC, assigning a much higher probability to this than I think most other people would these days:
I would say the probability is on the order of 50 percent or so that it will show up.
As for the glitz:
At the 2014 award ceremony, Schwarz says, he and his wife, Patricia, were “both struck by the fact that the Hollywood types showed no interest in mingling with scientists.” And the media coverage also seemed to focus on the movie stars rather than the award winners.
Kitaev points out a major positive effect of the $3 million: more respect from one’s family:
But for Kitaev, the biggest impact of awards like the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics is on his family. “They don’t really understand what I’m working on,” he says. But thanks to these awards, they at least realize his research is a pretty big deal. “It helps me do more work because they have more respect for it,” he says. “My wife is really proud of me.”
- In other big money news the Perimeter Institute and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation have announced a new professorship for Asimina Arvanitaki, funded by $8 million. More about her here.
- At Nautilus you can read an interview with IAS director, theoretical physicist Robbert Dijkgraaf.
- At Edge, there’s a conversation with Frank Wilczek. I’m quite curious what the following is about, have no idea:
What I’ve been thinking about today specifically is something of a potential breakthrough in understanding our fundamental theories of physics. We have something called a standard model, but its foundations are kind of scandalous. We have not known how to define an important part of it mathematically rigorously, but I think I have figured out how to do that, and it’s very pretty. I’m in the middle of calculations to check it out.
Update: Two more:
- Jim Baggott has a post on Status Anxiety, with more thoughts about the Munich conference and the use of the term “theory”.
- Discover magazine has an article in the upcoming June issue on The Fall and Rise of String Theory. The story seems to be that String theory for some reason ran into a little trouble in 2006, but now it’s back, because Strominger has done some “string-inspired” black hole calculations, and some people are claiming inspiration from AdS/CFT for an approximate calculational method in some condensed matter models. The idea now seems to be that, starting from this, string theory is on its way to again finding a theory of everything. No comment on its hype problem.
Update: A special 2016 physics Breakthrough Prize has been awarded to the LIGO people. $1 million split by Drever, Thorne and Weiss, $2 million for the rest of the collaboration.