Jim Simons in the New York Times

There’s an article (unfortunately not available for free) in today’s New York Times based on an interview with the normally publicity-shy mathematician Jim Simons of Chern-Simons fame. Simons runs the incredibly successful hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, and I’ve written something about this earlier. The New York Times article describe his mathematical career as follows: “A former crypt analyst – a code breaker, that is – he did important work in mathematics that helped lay the foundation for string theory.”

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9 Responses to Jim Simons in the New York Times

  1. Off topic, but did you see the mention of your blog in the latest issue of Science?

  2. woit says:

    Hi Cameron,

    No, I hadn’t seen it. Thanks for pointing it out. For anyone interested, it’s at the bottom of:


  3. Tony Smith says:

    The science web page cited by Peter also mentions John Baez, saying:
    “… For nearly 3 years, mathematical physicist John Baez of the University of California, Riverside, has discoursed on books and papers that catch his interest …”.

    In fact, John has been writing “This Week’s Finds” since 1993. His first entry can be found at http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/week1.html

    Could the description of the time period between 19 January 1993 and now as “nearly 3 years” be indicative of the lack of mental discipline that has crept into science reporting during the superstring era?

    Tony Smith

  4. Chris W. says:

    Maybe that was supposed to be “nearly 13 years”, ie, a copy-editing oversight rather than sloppy reporting and fact-checking.

  5. Tony Smith says:

    Chris, you say, about the science web page description of John Baez’s This Week’s Finds that says it has been written by John “… For nearly 3 years …”,
    “… Maybe that was supposed to be “nearly 13 years?, ie, a copy-editing oversight rather than sloppy reporting and fact-checking. …”.

    Are you suggesting that the reporter/writer wrote “nearly 13 years” and that a copy-editor changed it to “nearly 3 years” ?
    If so, it would appear to me that such copy-editing, which changes correct writing to incorrect publication, is far worse than a mere “oversight”.
    It might even indicate that editors, seeing a 13-year time frame, are so ignorant, lazy, and stupid that they just cannot believe that something similar to a blog could have possibly existed in the far distant past beyond 3 years ago, and that they are so confident of their wrong concept (no blog-type stuff in such distant past) that they are too arrogant and lazy to even look at John’s web site to which the article itself refers.
    If so, such editors would, in my view, be much like what I regard as typical superstring theorists.

    In the alternative, if the reporter/writer did initially write “nearly 3 years”, then maybe the editors would be guilty of no more than oversight (due, probably, to a mixture of laziness and ignorance with a little stupidity thrown in). However, the reporter/writer would then indeed be guilty of what you describe as “sloppy reporting and fact-checking”, to say the least.

    Tony Smith

  6. Nigel says:

    The arrogance of untestable string theory makes the whole of physics look like a time-wasting fantasy, so why should editors waste time checking the details?

  7. anon says:

    Let’s face it. Science journalism at present is attrocious. Often, 90% of an article consists of a press release from a university, full of disingenous exaggerations. I also particularly dislike the cliche story trying to portray a particular scientists as an amazing individual that young ones should admire and emulate. Well, I’ve know a lot of Physicists, having a Phd in physics myself, and very few were worthy of my admiration as human beings. I love physics, but physicists I could happily do without. Paul Farmers they are not.

  8. frank flaherty says:

    jim simons is a co-author in chern-simons. he also bet the right way on the british pound when maggie thatcher was PM.

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