Quick Links

Now back from the West Coast, here’s a list of things I’ve run across that may be of interest:

  • One piece of news from Berkeley is that Peter Scholze will be there this fall, giving a course describing new techniques for dealing with Langlands conjectures for number fields in an analogous manner to ones successfully used in the function field case. The course announcement (described by David Ben-Zvi as “shockingly futuristic”) is here.

    Since it’s never too early for Fields Medal predictions, I’m predicting an award for Scholze at the next ICM, in Rio, August 2018.

  • It also wouldn’t surprise me if Scholze gets one of the $3 million Milner/Zuckerberg breakthrough prizes in mathematics before then. I’m pleased to see that last week there was an announcement that some of the winners of this year’s math prize have banded together to fund graduate math fellowships in developing countries.
  • On the physics front, rumor from Peter Coles is that:

    I have it on very good authority that Planck’s analysis of the Galactic foregrounds in the BICEP2 region will be published (on the arXiv) on or around September 1st 2014.

    so next week we may (or may not…) find out if BICEP2 was seeing primordial gravitational waves or just dust.

  • In the meantime, this week there’s COSMO 2014, a cosmology conference going on in Chicago. The conference organizers have decided to have their public event mix artists and scientists, brought together around the topic of Multiverse: Fact, Fictions and Fantasies.
  • Also in the Chicago area, Fermilab last week hosted a Nature Guiding Theory workshop, considering the question of what to make of the failure of the LHC to find SUSY or other physics predicted by the “naturalness” paradigm. Some of the discussion was of the conventional SUSY or multiverse variety. For instance, see here, or Raman Sundrum’s Super-Natural vs. Other-Worldly in Fundamental Physics, which ends up arguing that:

    Naturalness, anthropic selection, Multiverse are Meta-theories. The collection of naturalness-related experiments – LHC, flavor, axion searches, tests of Inflation (e.g. BICEP2, …), Dark Matter search, form a Meta-experiment.

    I’m not sure what a “Meta-experiment” or “Meta-theory” is, other than that it’s not the conventional sort of science where you have the usual notions of how to make scientific progress.

    Some talks dealt with dumping the “naturalness” argument in favor of ideas about fundamental conformal invariance that I mentioned here. See for example here and here. By the way, Natalie Wolchover’s excellent article on these ideas has been given by Wired the title Radical New Theory Could Kill the Multiverse Hypothesis.

  • Going on at the same time as the cosmology conference in the Chicago area this week is a Fermilab workshop on Next Steps in the Energy Frontier. Today there were talks on future plans from Fermilab, CERN and the Chinese. The Chinese now have a Center for Future High Energy Physics directed by Nima Arkani-Hamed and are talking about a huge new machine that would start off as an electron-positron Higgs factory in 2028, then become a 50-90 TeV proton-proton collider in 2042. CERN is discussing similar plans, although they will have the high-luminosity LHC keeping them busy through 2035.

    On Thursday Arkani-Hamed will end the conference with a talk at 12:15 entitled “Go Big or Go Home…” (the US I guess already has decided to go home, with no plans for a big new machine). He really is ubiquitous at fundamental physics conferences in a variety of areas, since at 9-9:45 that morning he’ll be addressing COSMO 2014 up in Chicago on the topic of “Cosmological Collider Physics”. This Tuesday night he’ll be at the other public event there, a showing of the movie Particle Fever, which stars him discussing the multiverse.

  • There seems to be little scientific news anymore about string theory, but it is everywhere in popular culture. This past weekend it made Dilbert, it’s playing a big role in DC superhero comics, and a few weeks ago some peculiar British TV show designed to torment young “child geniuses” had string theorist Brian Wecht bringing an 11-year old to tears with questions on the subject.
  • John Horgan has put online an interesting interview with Carlo Rovelli, following up on one with George Ellis. Both Ellis and Rovelli criticize physicists for knocking philosophy. On the whole I’m quite sympathetic to what both Ellis and Rovelli have to say, although I think the problem with string theory is not really the “philosophical superficiality” that Rovelli sees as the problem. Jerry Coyne has a blog posting criticizing Rovelli as an “accomodationist”. Note that if you want to argue about religion, please do it at Coyne’s blog, not here.
  • For those interested in the metaphysical end of philosophy as applied to physics, Oxford is hosting a conference in October on The Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics. It’s organized by the Power Structuralism in Ancient Ontologies and Metaphysics of Entanglement Projects. The first of these is funded by the European Research Council, the second by the Templeton World Charity Foundation (which I’ve never heard of before, and wonder about its relationship to the Templeton Foundation). Entanglement is the hot topic in fundamental physics these days. The Metaphysics of Entanglement project promises to bring quantum mechanics and theology together bu (Jerry Coyne is going to hate this…)

    bringing the research results of the above investigation to bear on our understanding of questions regarding the metaphysics of the incarnation and of the Trinity in philosophy of religion.

  • Anyone interested in making some easy money might want to contact Gordon Kane. He has a letter to the editor in the latest Scientific American arguing that string/M-theory predicts superpartners visible at the LHC and complains that:

    Predictions based on such theories should be taken seriously. I would like to bet that some superpartners will be found at the LHC, but I have trouble finding people who will bet against that prediction.

Update: One more. The New York Times today has a very good story about IMPA, the math institute in Rio de Janeiro.

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11 Responses to Quick Links

  1. arithmetica says:

    It seems more accurate to say that Scholze is working with mixed-characteristic local fields as if they were characteristic-p objects, which after all is his speciality. Number fields don’t really seem to be in the picture yet – though I don’t disagree with Ben-Zvi’s assessment!

  2. ManuelM says:

    There is also a video, where the agravity idea is explained at the end:

  3. ManuelM says:

    Sorry, it is actually this link:

  4. lun says:

    Among “curious” fundamental physics announcements, you might want to comment on this rather curious press release,
    What does “the holographic universe” have to do with what is actually measured?

  5. Peter Woit says:

    Seemed best to ignore that. I did write about it a couple years ago, see


  6. Bill says:

    Peter, you criticized the trend of giving all the attention to a few chosen stars and yet you do it here yourself with Scholtze. If you read his course syllabus, he is building upon the ideas of many other people, including recent ideas. He looks like the real thing though, so I wish him well. Let’s wait and see.

  7. Peter Woit says:

    My criticism of the academic star system is the same criticism I have of the US economy in general, a belief that having outsized rewards going to a small number of people is not healthy. This is something quite different than the question of how much attention I’d advise people to pay to certain people’s work. Sure, Scholze is building on lots of other people’s work, but he is doing so more successfully than others in his field. So, he should be getting a lot of attention. On the other hand, I don’t think the $3 million check he’s likely to get at some point is a particularly good idea, and, whatever department he ends up in, if he’s paid vastly more than his colleagues, that won’t be particularly healthy either (in the sense of causing him or anyone else to do better mathematics).

  8. From the Quanta piece

    >the new models require a calculation technique that some experts consider mathematically dubious,

    anyone care to elaborate? I’m a mathematician, and I know path integrals are already mathematically dubious, though from a physics POV ok – is there some extra-dubiousness going on?

  9. David Ben-Zvi says:

    For those interested, MSRI has arranged to videotape Scholze’s lectures (though they are taking place down at the University) and make them available on their webpage – you can find the listings here for example.

  10. jd says:

    Big Planck conference 1-5 December. Draft program available. Just search on Google.

  11. Peter Woit says:

    For a long time the story has been Planck data release on polarization in October, the conference in December to discuss. For a while now though there have been rumors of an earlier data release, of data about the BICEP2 patch. This keeps getting pushed back, and now it’s September 2, with the rumored September 1 date past. Waiting for the supposed arXiv paper, or new rumors…

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