Some Quick Links

John Horgan keeps moving his blogging activities to different locations, the latest one is here.

For a truly sad and distressing story about what has happened to Billy Cottrell (who was mentioned snarkily by me long ago here), see this LA Weekly article and a Clifford Johnson posting. The abuse of people going on in this country associated with labeling them “terrorists” is just appalling and deeply shameful.

More from Steinn Sigurdsson on Yarn Theory.

Cern Courier reports on the recent Axion workshop at Princeton and the 2006 Quark Matter conference in Shanghai.

Lee Smolin’s book is out in the UK, here’s a review from the Financial Times.

The latest London Mathematical Society newsletter has a review of Not Even Wrong.

David Ben-Zvi was here last week and gave a wonderful colloquium talk on Langlands duality, loop spaces and representations of real groups. Much of was somewhat general philosophy about a new way of thinking about these topics, and this was quite compelling, although I need to find a sizable chunk of time to sit down and really understand what he is doing. If I can do this, maybe I’ll then take a stab at trying to explain this here. He did convince me that one needs to think not only about stacks, but derived stacks. There’s a long foundational document about this by Jacob Lurie (see here), something more readable from Bertrand Toen.

This semester Edward Frenkel is running a seminar on Topics in the geometric Langlands program. The slides of a talk by Ben Webster that are there are wonderful. One problem with this field has always been how unreadable much of the material about is. People like Webster and Ben-Zvi are starting to do a great job of explaining what is going on in a form that others have some chance of following.

Later this month the IAS will have a conference related to this topic, next year a whole program.

I’ll be travelling most of the next week and a half or so, so blogging will be light to non-existent. Behave.

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18 Responses to Some Quick Links

  1. LDM says:

    It is simply heartbreaking to hear of someone being denied their physics (and other) books and writing materials, being denied access to the kind of work where their skills might best be put to use – Clifford
    What rubbish.
    You break the law. You go to jail. You loose freedoms. Anybody who can understand string theory can undoubtledly understand this.
    However, the terrorist charge, based on the “evidence” in the links, looks wrong…yes, therefore the sentence should be reduced accordingly.

  2. Choo says:

    Uh. Yes, you lose freedoms. But if you read the article, this is not what they are complaining about. They object to the mischaracterization and voodoo fear of Billy’s science training, taking his papers away as a “fire hazard” and inconsistent treatment on account of his “terrorism” label. Now, I actually lean towards calling him at least some sort of an economic terrorist, but not if it encourages this kind of result.

  3. yeti says:

    The notion that Billy Cottrell should have gotten leniency because of his intellect and talent is offensive.

    The notion that someone should get 7-8 years in jail for what he did is also offensive.

    The notion expressed in the LAWeekly article that ELF does not exist is ridiculous. Maybe it has no clear organizational structure, but the folks are out there. Go to Oregon.

  4. D R Lunsford says:

    Peter – bon voyage – I promise to behave 🙂

  5. amused says:

    “I’ll be travelling… Behave.”

    An incitement to wreak havok if ever there was one 🙂
    Proposals for discussion topics in Peter’s absence:
    — Einstein, Dirac and Feynman were all wrong
    — discussion of papers banned from arxiv
    — vilification of prominent string theorists
    — psychoanalysis of Lubos
    — mysticism in physics
    — supernatural phenomena (have you seen ghosts?)

  6. Chris Oakley says:

    Re: Billy Cottrell, I think that the authorities have got it right. If only one could use this “fire hazard” excuse to stop people working on String Theory at universities.

  7. joseph smidt says:

    It’s unfortunate what this country will automatically do to people if you are ever labeled a terrorist.

    This kid deserves to be behind bars but it is terrible he is treated so differently just because he is smart and currently labeled as a terrorist. Also, if he could be productive with books why not give him some. We are we against prisoners making the world, or at least a small corner of it, a better place?

  8. Ralf says:

    Methinks, Tony Sudbery is no Alain Connes.

  9. relativist says:

    Seeing this section is labelled `quicklinks’, and given the broad interests of this blog, I think it is appropriate to point out new work by one of the best quantum theorists around, just placed on the arXiv, as follows:

    Title: A Topos Foundation for Theories of Physics: I. Formal Languages for Physics
    Authors: A. Doering, C.J. Isham

    This paper is the first in a series whose goal is to develop a fundamentally new way of constructing theories of physics. The
    motivation comes from a desire to address certain deep issues that arise when contemplating quantum theories of space and time. Our basic contention is that constructing a theory of physics is equivalent to finding a representation in a topos of a certain formal language that is attached to the system. Classical physics arises when the topos is the category of sets. Other types of theory employ a different topos. In this paper we discuss two different types of language that can be attached to a system, S. The first is a propositional language, PL(S); the second is a higher-order, typed language L(S). Both languages provide deductive systems with an intuitionistic logic. The reason for introducing PL(S) is that, as shown in paper II of the series, it is the easiest way of understanding, and expanding on, the earlier work on topos theory and quantum physics. However, the main thrust of our programme utilises the more powerful language L(S) and its representation in an appropriate topos.

    Title: A Topos Foundation for Theories of Physics: II. Daseinisation and the Liberation of Quantum Theory
    Authors: A. Doering, C.J. Isham

    This paper is the second in a series whose goal is to develop a fundamentally new way of constructing theories of physics. In this paper, we study in depth the topos representation of the propositional language, PL(S), for the case of quantum theory. In doing so, we make a direct link with, and clarify, the earlier work on applying topos theory to quantum physics. The key step is a process we term `daseinisation’ by which a projection operator is mapped to a sub-object of the spectral presheaf — the topos quantum analogue of a classical state space. In the second part of the paper we change gear with the introduction of the more sophisticated local language L(S). From this point forward, throughout the rest of the series of papers, our attention will be devoted almost entirely to this language. In the present paper, we use L(S) to study `truth objects’ in the topos. These are objects in the topos that play the role of states: a necessary development as the spectral presheaf has no global elements, and hence there are no microstates in the sense of classical physics. Truth objects therefore play a crucial role in our formalism.

    Title: A Topos Foundation for Theories of Physics: III. The
    Representation of Physical Quantities With Arrows
    Authors: A. Doering, C.J. Isham

    This paper is the third in a series whose goal is to develop a fundamentally new way of viewing theories of physics. In paper II, we studied the topos representations of the propositional language PL(S) for the case of quantum theory, and in the present paper we do the same thing for the, more extensive, local language L(S). One of the main achievements is to find a topos representation for self-adjoint operators. This involves showing that, for any physical quantity A, there is an arrow $\breve{\delta}^o(A):\Sig\map\SR$, where $\SR$ is the quantity-value object for this theory. The construction of $\breve{\delta}^o(A)$ is an extension of the daseinisation of projection operators that was discussed in paper II. The object $\SR$ is a monoid-object only in the topos, $\tau_\phi$, of the theory, and to enhance the applicability of the formalism, we apply to $\SR$ a topos analogue of the Grothendieck extension of a monoid to a group. The resulting object, $\kSR$, is an abelian group-object in $\tau_\phi$. We also discuss another candidate, $\PR{\mathR}$, for the quantity-value object. In this presheaf, both inner and outer daseinisation are used in a symmetric way. Finally, there is a brief discussion of the role of unitary operators in the quantum topos scheme.

    Title: A Topos Foundation for Theories of Physics: IV. Categories of
    Authors: A. Doering, C.J. Isham

    This paper is the fourth in a series whose goal is to develop a fundamentally new way of building theories of physics. The previous papers in this series are concerned with implementing this programme for a single system. In the present paper, we turn to considering a collection of systems: in particular, we are interested in the relation between the topos representation for a composite system, and the representations for its constituents. We also study this problem for the disjoint sum of two systems. Our approach to these matters is to construct a category of systems and to find a topos representation of the entire category.

  10. Vogelsang says:

    >new work by one of the best quantum theorists around,

    Relativist, just out of curiosity, are you Doering or Isham?

  11. Peter Orland says:

    Fellow scientists,

    Let’s maintain our sense of shame. No abstracts on Peter Woit’s
    blog please! That’s what archive is for.

  12. Who says:

    The UK paperback edition of Peter’s book is scheduled to come out 7 June 2007.

    The publisher is Vintage. Evidently people are already advance ordering because the UK amazon sales rank (among all books) is currently #6,726.

    The US paperback edition is scheduled to come out in September:

    Currently Smolin’s book is #1 on the UK amazon physics bestseller list and Peter’s book (hardcover) is #7

    Both are doing rather well, I’d say, judging by their sales ranking among all books. For example Smolin’s book is currently #49
    among all books that UK amazon sells, as can be seen here:
    That is pretty astonishing for a physics book, because it is #49 in competition with popular genre—detective, cookbooks, selfhelp, humor, diet, fantasy, Harry Potter, and so forth.

  13. yagwara says:

    Off topic, but I just had to share this someplace:

    What makes this so weird is that it is a crackpot site, but it presents no red flags (at least to me). It is a beautifully designed site (no CAPITAL LETTERS IN DIFFERENT COLOURS) and the animation is lovely. Moreover, it starts out completely sane in dimensions 1-4. Then it turns to complete garbage.

    I’ve sometimes seen real physicists’ websites that look like crackpottery at first glance, but this is the first time I’ve seen crackpottery that looks totally professional at first glance.

    (Although in retrospect, the inclusion of a category for “songs” should have given me pause.)

  14. Ptolemy says:

    yagwara: he seems unaware that 10 dimensional superstrings are composed of a worldsheet of 1 time dimension and 1 spatial dimension, plus 8 other dimensions to include supersymmetric particle physics, 6 of which are accounted for the the Calabi-Yau manifold.

    But if you examine anthropology objectively, you find the coincidence that we have 10 fingers (and also 10 toes) which is the same number as the number of superstring dimensions! Anthropic ideas are currently used (in default of anything else) in string theory to try to select the standard model from the landscape of 10^500 models string theory includes.

    The anthropic principle implies that the reason for particle physics being the way it is, is due to the fact that we are around to see it. Anthropically, we have ten fingers and ten toes, and most commonly we use base ten. So, we have evolved with as many fingers/toes as there are supersymmetric dimensions. Coincidence?

    Remember, as a great Harvard assistant professor once wrote, ‘God wrote the world in the language of superstring theory’.

    Thus, it’s logical that God made the superstring from 10 dimensions, so that people can use their fingers to count them.

    As for the eleven dimensional supergravity bulk in M-theory, can it be a coincidence that he square root of 137 is merely 6% higher than the number eleven?

    But the anthropological fact we have 10 fingers is quite irrefutable. So it is pretty water-tight evidence for string theory being on the right track. In addition, because 2 of those fingers are really thumbs, we have 2 thumbs plus 8 other fingers. This is exactly like the 2 dimensional worldsheet, plus 8 added dimensions for conformal symmetry of particle physics. Don’t try to tell me this is coincidence. It first suggests that the anthropic principle is valid (the world is the way it is because people exist!), plus it indicates that there are hidden clues in evolution which tell us about string theory.

  15. LDM says:


    Red flags are obvious, although it is a beautiful flash application.

    In part 5, he mentions part five “waves of probability” from Quantum Physics.
    There are no waves of probability in Quantum Physics.

  16. yagwara says:


    Oh yes, certainly, if you get to section 5 you’re already waist deep in crazy. I just meant there were no red flags at first glance.

    Usually you can look at a website from across a room and tell in an instant if it is a crackpot site.

  17. Robert Musil says:

    According to the Economist magazine the LHC may lose out on the discovery of the Higgs ( – subscription required):

    To find [the Higgs], scientists at the European particle-physics laboratory, CERN, in Geneva, are building what will, when it starts up later this year, be the world’s most powerful particle smasher. This machine, known as the Large Hadron Collider, is designed especially to look for the Higgs boson. But the Europeans may be pipped at the post by rivals working at what is the highest-energy collider working today, the Tevatron, at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) near Chicago.

  18. Anon says:

    On a totally unrelated note:

    is an audio clip of Luc Illusie reminiscing about Alexander Grothendieck, his work, etc.

    Just thought you’d like to know.

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