Some short items and links:
- Among possible futures that I never would have dreamed of during my student days was that someday my Nobel-prize-winning undergraduate advisor would
“try to rile” my Nobel-prize-winning graduate school professor at a Bohr Centennial celebration by quoting me. I hope the quote at least was one I would agree with.
- Also on the topic of hoping I agree with what I say publicly, there’s an NHK documentary about Mochizuki and the abc conjecture that has recently been finished, was supposed to air in Japan this weekend, now delayed til next month due to more timely news from Ukraine. I did an interview with the filmmakers here in NYC last year and they talked to many other people. No idea how they’ll manage to deal with this controversial story, coming from a Japanese perspective.
- At Quanta magazine, another article about the “naturalness problem”, headlined A Deepening Crisis Forces Physicists to Rethink Structure of Nature’s Laws. This has the usual problem with such stories of assigning to the Standard Model something which is not a problem for it, but only for certain kinds of speculative attempts to go beyond it. John Baez makes this point in this tweet:
Indeed, calling it a “crisis” is odd. Nothing that we really know about physics has become false. The only thing that can come crashing down is a tower of speculations that have become conventional wisdom.
James Wells has a series of tweets here, starting off with
The incredibly successful Standard Model does not have a Naturalness problem. And if by your criteria it does, then I can be sure your definition of Naturalness is useless.
He points to a more detailed explanation of the issue in section 4 of this paper.
- My criticisms of some Quanta articles are motivated partly by the fact that the quality of the science coverage there is matched by very few other places. If you want to work there, they have a job open.
- But if you really want to cash in on gazillionaire money going into mathematics, you might want to try for some of the $20 million that crypto entrepreneur Charles Hoskinson is giving Carnegie Mellon to establish the Hoskinson Center for Formal Mathematics. Early in his career Hoskinson was in a Ph.D. program in analytic number theory, but bailed and later joined Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, and ended up in crypto since “When Bitcoin came out, it was like the spiritual successor to what Ron Paul was talking about” (see here).
- Someone who is not going to be getting Hoskinson funding is Michael Harris, whose The Silicon Reckoner you should follow for an alternate take on “formal mathematics”. For the reaction to such criticism from the formalizers, you can check out this Zulip Chat archive, and then responses from Harris here.
- For Grothendieck news, see here, here and here.
Update: There’s a statement out today from Breakthrough Prize Laureates strongly criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. There’s also a truly appalling statement from the Breakthrough Prize Foundation itself, not in the least critical of Russia or Putin and abusing the memory of Stephen Hawking. Witten characterizes the Foundation statement as “disappointingly vapid”.
Update: Milner seems to have realized that refusing to criticize Putin was not a tenable position. A new statement from the Breakthrough Prize Foundation starts off with:
As the terrible war in Ukraine continues, with casualties and atrocities mounting, the Breakthrough Prize Foundation strongly condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its unprovoked and brutal assaults against the civilian population.
and announces a further \$ 3 million donation:
the Foundation today pledges a further \$3 million in funding to support physicists, life scientists and mathematicians who have been forced to flee from Ukraine. We hope that this donation will help talented researchers contribute to human knowledge in such dark times.
The Breakthrough Prize Foundation stands together with the Ukrainian people, its scientists and their families.