This and That

  • I was sorry to hear of the death a few months ago of Tony Smith, who had been a frequent commenter on this blog and others. Unfortunately my interactions with him mainly involved trying to discourage him from hijacking the discussion in some other (often unusual) direction. Geoffrey Dixon did get to know him well, and has written a wonderful long blog entry about Tony, which I highly recommend (Dixon’s newish blog also has other things you might find interesting).
  • On the Jim Simons front, the Simons Foundation has put together something to celebrate their 25th anniversary. It explains a lot about their history and what they are doing now, as well as giving some indication of plans for the future. On these topics, read pieces written by Jim Simons and Marilyn Simons. The Foundation has been in a high growth mode, having an increasingly large impact on math and physics research. Their main statement about the future is that the plan is for this to go on for a very long time:

    According to its bylaws, the Simons Foundation is intended to focus almost entirely on research in mathematics and science and to exist in perpetuity. If future leadership abides by these guiding principles, Marilyn and I believe the foundation will forever be a force for good in our society.

    My impression is that the Simons children have their own interests, and foundations with other goals to run.

    News from the \$75 billion source of the money (RenTech) today is that Simons is increasingly turning over control of that to his son Nathaniel, who has been named co-chairman. He has also added four new directors to the board, four of them senior Renaissance executives, and one his son-in-law Mark Heising.

  • There are various IAS-related videos you might want to take a look at:

    Pierre Deligne explaining motives last night.

    Michael Douglas on the use of computers in mathematics.

    A Dutch documentary (not all of it is in Dutch…).

  • If you aren’t regularly reading Scott Aaronson’s blog, you really should be. Latest entries are a detailed report from Davos and a guest post with a compelling argument about a major factor behind the problem of why women leave STEM careers more than men.
  • For the latest on the “It from Qubit” business, see talks at a KITP conference. John Preskill notes “lingering confusion over what it all means”, which makes me glad to hear that I’m not the only one…
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7 Responses to This and That

  1. John Baez says:

    Thanks for pointing that out about Tony Smith! I hadn’t known.

  2. Richard Gaylord says:

    “The Foundation has been in a high growth mode, having an increasingly large impact on math and physics reserch.”. that should be ‘research’.

  3. Dear Peter,

    you mention that “women leave STEM careers more than men”, so let me point out that this is not what comes out analyzing data about every affiliation of every author of every paper in fundamental physics. This data allow to infer when every disambiguated author starts and leaves. An apparent 30% gender difference in leaving rates arises because the fraction of women in fundamental physics is higher now, while being hired has now become less likely for everybody. After correcting for this sociological confounding factor, the gender difference in leaving rates is found to be compatible with zero. This is shown in fig. 7 of a paper by mine, to appear on Quantitative Science Studies and that cannot appear on arXiv. Flaherty in ( claimed a ≈400% difference in abandonment rates based on indirect small-scale data, but this has also been “firmly ruled out” by Perley (

  4. Chris Oakley says:

    Sorry to hear about Tony. He was part of the chorus of misfits and kooks (that included myself, Danny Lunsford, “Quantoken” – whoever that was, and, dare I say it, Lubos) that followed and commented in your blog right from the early days. His long posts were always supportive of everything up to, but not including, String Theory, and generally gave the impression that everything had been thought out carefully, however unorthodox the conclusions. Does anyone have something like a CV for him? I found a YouTube video of him talking about E8, and he is American, but beyond that, I know very little.

  5. Peter Woit says:

    Richard Gaylord,
    Thanks. Fixed.

    Alessandro Strumia,
    Thanks, but I’d encourage people who want to debate this complex issue to do so over at Scott Aaronson’s blog, where he manages to do something I’m incapable of (moderating a sensible discussion of this kind of contentious issue).

  6. More information about Tony can be found …

    And John Baez, I did send you an email about this some time ago, but I dare say the email I used may no longer be valid.

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