On the pseudo-science front, the Resonaances blog describes a talk at CERN by string theory enthusiast Jim Cline, about a variant of the anthropic principle called the “Entropic Principle” as “pushing the idea to the edge of absurd.” For beyond the edge of absurd, there’s today’s NYT Science Times section, which features a piece by John Tierney about the ideas of philosopher of science Nick Bostrom. Bostrom runs a web-site called anthropic-principle.com and has made a career for himself in the anthropic principle business which now has him running a Templeton Foundation-funded [actually this is not accurate, see here] Institute at Oxford called the Future of Humanity Institute. The New York Times article is about Bostrom’s idea that there’s a significant probability that our universe is just a simulation being conducted by a more advanced civilization, an idea that he considers to be one of the “interesting applications” of the anthropic principle. He has yet another web-site, simulation-argument.com, where he propounds this argument. Tierney supplements the NYT article with an on-line discussion of how we should we all behave, given that we are just simulated creatures. Maybe we should be trying to entertain our creators so they will not turn off the simulation? Anyone who thinks it is a good idea to discuss these questions seriously is encouraged to do so at Tierney’s site, not here.
Today’s Science Times also has an interview with Gino Segre, who has a new book called Faust in Copenhagen: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics, about the 1932 conference in Copenhagen hosted by Neils Bohr at the time of the beginnings of modern nuclear physics. Segre says that he became a physicist for an unusual reason. His father was an historian, brother of Emilio Segre, the co-discoverer of the antiproton, and the two siblings were estranged. When he was 15, Segre’s father told him “I think you should become a theoretical physicist, and I want you to surpass your uncle”, and he did as he was told.
American Scientist has a review of the Segre book, together with David Lindley’s recent Uncertainty: Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and the Struggle for the Soul of Science.
American Scientist also has an interview with Frank Wilczek about books he is reading and that have influenced him. He strongly recommends a book by an author I’d never heard of, Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker.
A Turkish mathematician, Ali Nesin, ran into trouble with the authorities for running a mathematics summer school without permission. Alexandre Borovik has set up a web-site with a petition about this. Latest news is that the summer school has been re-opened, although Nesin still may face charges of “education without permission”.