A grab-bag of unrelated topics and links:
- Continuing the subject of budget cuts from the last posting, I heard today that the NSA is not funding this year the grant program that the AMS has been running for it, called the NSA Mathematical Sciences Program. In typical NSA fashion, no real reason given:
after much deliberation our senior management has decided that the MSP will not have the resources to make new awards in FY2017.
Even less information is available than in the case of the similarly mysterious DOE HEP Theory cuts, since all information about the NSA budget, even the total, is classified (although from Snowden and others, it seems that it’s about $10.5 billion).
- The IHES has a new website.
- This spring Peter Scholze will give a series of six lectures at the IHES on the latest about the local Langlands conjectures.
- Via David Roberts, the LMS has some videos about mathematicians here. Kevin Buzzard explains Langlands:
The Langlands philosophy? Yeah, that’s like Birch-Swinnerton-Dyer on crack, isn’t it?.
- Tate’s collected works are finally available from the AMS.
- Turning to physics, there’s a very good new article at Quanta from Natalie Wolchover about the unsuccessful search for proton decay and what this means for grand unification ideas. Glashow has now given up, with the simplest GUTs now conclusively ruled out:
Glashow, for one, largely lost interest in the whole affair when SU(5) was ruled out. “Proton decay has been a failure,” he said. “So many great ideas have died.”
Not everyone has given up though, with fans of the “flipped SU(5)” SUSY GUT explaining things this way:
Barr, one of the originators of the still-viable “flipped SU(5)” GUT model, compared the situation to waiting for your spouse to come home. “If they’re 10 minutes late, there’s simple explanations for that. An hour late, maybe those explanations become a little less plausible. If they’re eight hours late … you begin to worry that maybe your husband or wife is dead. So the point is, at what point do you say your theory is dead?”
Right now, he said, “we’re more at the point where the spouse is 10 minutes late, or maybe an hour late. It’s still completely plausible that grand unification is correct.”
Besides the current wishful thinking, this particular model has a strange history. You can read here about how it follows from Vedic Science. Over the years it has been about to come home many times, see this from 2012, which assures us that:
The CMS and ATLAS experiments have also observed tantalizing hints of the unique signature predicted by the Flipped SU(5) model.
At this point, it seems to me to be way more than an hour late, time for its nearest and dearest to admit that it’s dead (or maybe has run off with its TM instructor).
- Also in Quanta, you can read about Janet Conrad and sterile neutrinos here.
- I don’t always agree with Sabine Hossenfelder about math, but I very much agree with the conclusion of this posting:
In lack of experimental guidance, what we need in the foundations of physics is conceptual clarity. We need rigorous math, not claims to experience, intuition, and aesthetic appeal. Don’t be afraid, but we need more math.
- There’s a Recent Developments in Fields, Strings, and Gravity conference going on this week at the new Center for Quantum Mathematics and Physics at Davis.
- Videos of the talks at the recent John Schwarz 75th birthday conference at Caltech are available here.
- Multiversal Journeys is an organization devoted to promoting theoretical physics, with a heavy dose of multiverse mania as part of their story. They have a new book coming out, Quantum Physics, Mini Black Holes and the Multiverse, supposedly “Debunking Common Misconceptions in Theoretical Physics”. It seems that one of these common misconceptions is that the multiverse is pseudo-science. To fight this, they’ve also produced a promotional video.
- Bert Schroer has an interesting preprint with a lot of material about Rudolf Haag and algebraic quantum field theory.
- Another intriguing preprint recently out is from Arkani-Hamed and collaborators. In the past Arkani-Hamed has been vehement about gauge symmetry just being a worthless redundancy in our description of physics, for instance stating:
What’s as a misnomer called gauge symmetry, whose beauty is extolled at length in all the textbooks on the subject, is completely garbage. It’s completely content free, there’s nothing to it.
In the new paper, instead of gauge invariance being useless, there’s a conjecture that locality and unitarity, instead of being fundamental principles, follow from gauge invariance.
There’s a long tradition in the philosophy of physics literature of arguing over whether gauge symmetry is a fundamental idea or a useless redundancy. I’m on “fundamental idea” side, but of course exactly what the role of gauge symmetry is in fundamental physics is something that we have yet to fully comprehend.