Spring in the Virgin Islands

One thing that a career in math or physics research can get you, courtesy of financial industry wealth, is a nice trip to the Virgin Islands. A couple current possibilities are:

  • The Simons Foundation funds week-long Simons Symposia, at Caneel Bay, on St. John. The next one is next week, on Knot Homologies and BPS States. These are serious, invitation only, family members discouraged, events. To get this trip you better be a top expert in a specific field of the Symposium. The Simons Foundation plans to accept proposals for next years Symposia in the fall, see here.
  • If you’re a “renowned physicist”, preferably one with a Nobel prize, then you’re eligible for a trip to financier Jeffrey Epstein’s own Virgin Island, Little Saint James. Epstein (described by Wikipedia as “an American financier and science philanthropist, and convicted sex offender”) a couple weeks ago “Convened a Conference of Nobel Laureates to Define Gravity”, according to this press release from his foundation. The event was organized by Lawrence Krauss, who is quoted as describing the situation as follows:

    “Right now we’re floundering,” Krauss admits. “We’re floundering, in a lot of different areas.”

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10 Responses to Spring in the Virgin Islands

  1. jpd says:

    “an American financier and science philanthropist, and convicted sex offender”
    i am not sure which is most disgusting

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  3. Yatima says:

    Financier – Provides jobs and shifts resources where they are needed
    Science philanthropist – Provides money for people to perform tasks that do not need to show a ROI next quarter
    Convicted sex offender – For all we know, bonged a slightly underage beauty early in his life to the great horror of the “no fun allowed” puritanicals around

    À priori, I see nothing to be disgusted about.

  4. Peter Woit says:

    I think the two comments above more than enough cover the range of reactions to Epstein’s sexual behavior. Please, that’s enough on that topic.

  5. Tim Duckley says:

    How should we construe the lack of Witten at the conference? Did he refuse to go or was he refused an invitation? Were you invited Peter and if so why did you refuse to attend?

  6. Peter Woit says:

    Tim Duckley,

    Since attendees at Epstein’s symposium are supposed to be physicists with Nobel prizes or equivalent scientific achievements, it would be absurd to invite me. If instead of “renowned physicists”, he decides to have a symposium of “renowned physics bloggers”, maybe I’ll get invited. I have no objection as a matter of principle to helping wealthy financiers spend their money.

    I have no idea if Witten was invited, his achievements certainly qualify him for an invitation. Unlike me though, Witten is a very serious person, I suspect not much interested in the entertainment value of a week of hob-nobbing and snorkeling with illustrious people. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned down this travel opportunity (and many of the others he gets offered). For a somewhat related story, I was amused to read in David Kaiser’s “How the Hippies Saved Physics” about how a yearly series of Werner Erhard-funded theoretical physics conferences came to an end once string theory took off, so Witten’s presence would be expected, but Witten (quite sensibly…) wanted nothing to do with that sort of thing. See my review of the book here:


  7. Shantanu says:

    Peter or anyone else, is there a website for this conference? Note that there was a similar one in 2006 http://www.phys.cwru.edu/events/grav_ws.php

  8. Don Murphy says:


    I sent Krauss and email asking if there is a website for the conference and if there will be any results published. I am awaiting a reply. I found nothing on his website.


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  10. Wojciech Langer says:

    It is hard to reply to this very well ‘camouflaged’ information – so many restrictions placed by the author 🙂

    I found this site looking desperately for any reviews or comments by scientific community, regarding recent Krauss’ book “A Universe from Nothing”.

    I read Krauss books 7 years ago: “Quintessence” and “Hiding in the Mirror”, both quite good. Man , oh man, how he has ‘evolved’ since then!
    Epstein’s recent ‘conference’ info can be found googling ‘Epstein Foundation’.
    The conference was IMO essentially meaningless to the scientific world (as per Krauss quote), but snorkeling must have been nice! What money can do!

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