Various and Sundry

First a couple of items from Paris:

  • Fields medalist Cédric Villani is campaigning for the position of Mayor of Paris. This Sunday there will be a campaign event/book launch for his new book, Immersion: De la science au Parlement.
  • The long-awaited public unveiling of the results of director Ilya Khrzhanovsky’s attempt to make a film inspired by the story of Lev Landau has finally happened, with Dau now on view spread over three locations in Paris. This project was filmed during 2009-11, and I wrote a bit about it here in 2015. For more about the project, see for instance here and here. Among those appearing in the film are David Gross, Sergio Cecotti, Alexander Vilenkin, Carlo Rovelli, Costas Bachas, Erik Verlinde, Igor Klebanov, Samson Shatashvili, Shing-Tung Yau, Dmitry Kaledin, Nikita Nekrasov and Andrey Losev.

Some number-theorist related items:

  • Videos from last year’s Barry Mazur birthday conference are now available here. Also available is the write-up from Mazur of a talk last fall on The Unity and Breadth of Mathematics.
  • See here for an interview with Akshay Venkatesh.

Finally, some comments from Scott Aaronson on the current “like beer at a frat party” state of funding of quantum information theory:

I wanted to call attention to a hilarious irony. For years, I’ve made the case that trying to build scalable quantum computers, in order to probe the universe for the first time in “the regime beyond the classical Extended Church-Turing Thesis,” is just as scientifically interesting as finding the Higgs boson—even if we set aside any of the possible applications of QC.

I don’t think I imagined to what extent the tables would someday turn—with funding now flowing into quantum information like beer at a frat party (for a combination of good and bad reasons…), with the future of experimental particle physics now in serious doubt, and with me put in the position of arguing that the high-energy frontier is worth exploring too! 😀

Update: More about the opening of Dau in Paris here.

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5 Responses to Various and Sundry

  1. Here is a conference to come soon in the suburb of Paris that might interest you and some of your readers Peter.
    Called “Space Time Matrices” it is organised by Thibault Damour, Jens Hoppe and Maxim Kontsevich at IHES from 25 to 27 February 2019
    (conference web page for registration
    “Large-N limits of matrix models have been proposed as a way of describing the structure of Space and Time. The conference will review these models that may bring a new light on trying to reconcile Gravity and the Quantum.”
    If there is a place where solid theoretical research in natural geometric structures has no risk to get lost in math this is probably at IHES thanks to senior scientists as Kontsevich & Connes (both speakers at the conference) and Damour as well of course.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Dear Peter,

    Have you already seen the new autobiography of Yau?

  3. Peter Woit says:

    Haven’t seen it yet. I’m wondering how it’s different than “The Shape of Inner Space”, which I wrote about in some detail here

  4. @Peter

    it looks much more biographical than the previous one, from the tables of contents of both books.

  5. During the “Space Time Matrices” conference at IHES one had the opportunity to notice an invited speaker was accurate enough to entitle his last slide “a chapter closed, in the M-theory hypothesis, via localization”. //emphasis mine

    All the videos of the conference are here and all slides there

    Regarding the “M-theory” word I find it interesting to translate from French a remark from a great geometer Valentin Poénaru about the quantum thinker who incepted it :

    In 1979, I was at a lecture on gauge theory at Cargèse where one of the stars was … Ed Witten. It turns out we were in the same hotel and so I often had the opportunity to listen to him ; and there is one thing that struck me a lot. While other physicists … always spoke in terms of phenomena, possibly in terms of concrete models tested on computers, Witten juggled all the time with theories themselves, their way of interacting, of complementing each other or simply of exploding. It seems to me that there is a direct link between this way of thinking and today’s M-theory.


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