A random collection of things that may be of interest:
- September 17 and 18 I’ll be at the How the Light Gets In Festival in London, participating in discussions of the relation of math and physics, and theories of everything. I’m looking forward to the festival, which sounds like fun, and to spending some time in London. A week or so later, I’ll be in Oxford, attending the Clay Research Conference as well as a Physics from the Point of View of Geometry workshop in honor of Graeme Segal’s 80th birthday.
- I’ve been spending the summer trying to write up some details of the ideas I’ve been working on, specifically the claim that the geometry of spinors in four dimensions allows one to think of one of the SU(2)s in the Euclidean Spin(4) symmetry as an internal symmetry. Still learning more about how this works, hope to have something ready to publicize within the next month or so.
- For rest and relaxation I’ve been learning a bit more about various Langlands-related topics. The talks from the IHES summer school are mostly well-worth watching. Also very highly recommended are David Ben-Zvi’s lectures on The Langlands Program as Electric-Magnetic Duality given a couple weeks ago at a workshop in Cambridge.
- Still trying to finish reading Récoltes et Semailles and decide whether to write something here about this bizarre and fascinating document. If you want to read this yourself, Mateo Carmona has a freely available transcription here.
- There an interesting conversation about Ricci flow between my Columbia colleagues John Morgan and Richard Hamilton available here.
- Sometimes it takes great self-control to avoid responding to things I see on Twitter. In the case of a recent exchange between Noah Smith and various people defending string theory. I couldn’t help myself and started writing something, then soon hit the character limit. This returned me to sanity as I realized that trying to have an intelligible discussion in the twitter format about anything complicated is just absurd.
The gist of a lot of the discussion was that even string theory defenders now admit it was an overhyped failure as a “theory of everything”, but they then come up with new, improved hype. One argument seems to be that string theory has led to new developments in hype about black holes (for these, Scientific American has you covered here).
- Today on Twitter Sabine Hossenfelder explains her current academic employment situation (no permanent position, latest grant application denied.) She’s a very unusual case, and has a successful new book and other ventures that to some degree can replace a standard academic income. For everyone though, the way academic jobs in theoretical physics work, if you decide you want to pursue topics other than very conventional ones that a group is already working on, you’re going to have a very hard time. Getting older and having a life also tends to be inconsistent with pursuing the very few opportunities that might come up.