First some math news:
- An anonymous commenter claims here that the 2026 ICM will take place in Philadelphia. I had heard that a US group was submitting a proposal, so this rumor is plausible.
- Many mathematicians and physicists have signed an Open Letter on K-12 Mathematics pointing to problems with attempts to reform mathematics education such as the California Mathematics Framework. For more about this, see the blog entry posted here and on Scott Aaronson’s blog, and more detail here.
While I’ve always had some sympathy for the general idea that there’s much that could be changed and improved about the US K-12 math curriculum, there’s a huge problem with all proposed changes based on the “algebra/pre-calculus/calculus sequence is too hard and not relevant to everyday life” argument. Students leaving high school without algebra and some pre-calculus are put in a position such that they’re unequipped to study calculus, and calculus is fundamental to learning physics. Without being able to learn physics, a huge range of possible fields of study and careers will be closed to them, from much of engineering through even going to medical school. Whatever change one makes to K-12 math education, it shouldn’t leave students entering college with a severely limited choice of fields they are prepared to study.
- Davide Castelvecchi at Nature has a story about machine learning being useful in knot theory and representation theory. Given my personal prejudice that hearing endlessly about how AI and machine learning will take over everything is just depressing, I’m trying to ignore this kind of thing. But, together with stories like the success of proof assistants in solving a problem posed by Scholze, it’s harder and harder to believe what I would like to believe (that this is all a bunch of hype that should be ignored).
For some physics items:
Jim Baggott has an excellent article at Aeon about the “Shut up and calculate” meme, featuring a retraction by its originator, David Mermin
In a quick follow-up discussion with me in July 2021, Mermin confessed that he now regrets his choice of words. Already by 2004 he had ‘come to hold a milder and more nuanced opinion of the Copenhagen view’. He had accepted that ‘Shut up and calculate’ was ‘not very clever. It’s snide and mindlessly dismissive.’ But he also felt that he had nothing to be ashamed of ‘other than having characterized the Copenhagen interpretation in such foolish terms’.
- For some wisdom on the thorny issue of how to relate Euclidean and Minkowski signature metrics in gravity, see the recent IAS lecture by Graeme Segal on Wick Rotation and the Positivity of Energy in Quantum Field Theory.
- In fundamental theoretical physics these days, it’s quantum information theory all the time, with conferences around now here, here, here, and here. I can’t figure out what the relevance of any of this is supposed to be to actual models describing reality. Best guess would be that this is supposed to “solve the black hole information loss paradox”, although in that case Sabine Hossenfelder has some apt comments here.
- For something more inspirational, see Natalie Wolchover’s long piece at Quanta on the JWST.