End of Year Links

A collection of links to round out the year:

  • The Seminaire Bourbaki talks this January look unusually interesting. Luckily I’ll be in Paris at that time.
  • For an end of year present, Jacob Lurie has posted a version of his unfinished next book, Spectral Algebraic Geometry. It’s advertised as much more user-friendly than previous versions of the same material and that’s quite true after reading the first chapter.
  • If 850 pages or so of this sort of thing isn’t enough to keep you busy during the break between terms, try Lurie’s Harvard colleague Dennis Gaitsgory’s A study in derived algebraic geometry, a book project with Rozenblyum, also in a preliminary version (around 1100 pages), with more to come. I’m hoping for the more user-friendly version of this one…
  • Also from Harvard, videos of last month’s Current Developments in Mathematics talks are now available here. At least the first of Peter Scholze’s talks is rather user-friendly.
  • Very, very user-friendly (especially if you read Japanese) are the Japanese television versions of Edward Frenkel’s talks earlier this year at MSRI, available here.
  • If you just can’t get enough of the new 750 GeV particle, you probably should read Tommaso Dorigo’s take on it.
  • Back when I was writing about the AMS’s role as a mouthpiece for the NSA in its attempts to mislead people about their role in backdooring an NIST crypto standard (see here and here), one thought I kept in mind was that since this standard supposedly was never used in anything important, maybe one shouldn’t get so upset. Recent news (see Matthew Green for an explanation) is that this bad crypto actually was used in something quite important: widely used firewall/VPN hardware from Juniper Networks. Quite likely this was used by the NSA to get access to much of the traffic on a wide variety of networks.

    The story is actually much more complicated than one can believe, with a still unclear sequence of changes in the software indicating that others, possibly a foreign government, took advantage of the NSA backdoor to compromise these systems. Green points out that this makes very clear the problem with government-mandated backdoors: even if you trust the government, they make it much easier for others to take advantage of the security problems they have introduced:

    One of the most serious concerns we raise during these meetings is the possibility that encryption backdoors could be subverted. Specifically, that a backdoor intended for law enforcement could somehow become a backdoor for people who we don’t trust to read our messages. Normally when we talk about this, we’re concerned about failures in storage of things like escrow keys. What this Juniper vulnerability illustrates is that the danger is much broader and more serious than that.

    The problem with cryptographic backdoors isn’t that they’re the only way that an attacker can break into our cryptographic systems. It’s merely that they’re one of the best. They take care of the hard work, the laying of plumbing and electrical wiring, so attackers can simply walk in and change the drapes.

  • If you just can’t get enough of my and other people’s views on string theory, Ben Winterhalter has a piece on the Jstor blog, telling the story of his attempts to figure out what’s going on with extra dimensions.
  • Among the many great articles at Quanta, I can recommend this one, which features my Columbia colleague Wei Zhang.

Happy New Year!

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19 Responses to End of Year Links

  1. Thomas says:

    Thanks! Have a nice change of year too!

  2. John Fredsted says:

    Thanks for all the nice blog posts this year, always interesting to read. I am looking forward to new ones in the year to come. Happy New Year!

  3. uair01 says:

    Agree with the others: many thanks for the blog and have a good New Year.

  4. Tim May says:

    Many thanks for your blog over the years. I especially appreciate the links to mathematics work. It’s through this blog that I first heard about the Langlands project. And it does appear that the most interesting “fallout” of the string theory effort has been in the AdS/CFT work.

    I arrived on your blog some years ago, maybe around 2004 or so, just before your book, but possibly just after Smolin’s book. Not sure. I know I had read his “Three Roads” book.

    I’d been unpersuaded by a string theory popular book I read around 1987 or so, from before the later changes, and then still unpersuaded by the Brian Greene book. And so I was pretty skeptical of the hype.

    However, I think things have gotten a lot healthier in recent years. Some of the hype of the “we now know that everything is vibrating strings, a symphony of different chords” has settled down.

    I’ve seen several talks by Lenny Susskind and am much impressed. (Not a lot of talk about string theory, though.)

    Anyway, Dr. Woit, I have enjoyed your blog as a breath of fresh air. And I appreciate the many links to modern mathematics. (I am still amazed that even pure mathematicians like Gaitsgory refer to physics!)

    I hope to be reading your blog ten years from now.

  5. geometriclanglander says:

    Frenkel’s MSRI lectures were meant to be aimed at undergraduates, but watching the first two, they actually seem to be more appropriate for middle schoolers.

    Thanks for the CDM links in particular. Scholze’s lectures are truly beautiful. Donaldson’s review of Kahler-Einstein metrics for Fano manifolds is also a fantastic overview. The subtlety (and comedy timing) with which he trolls Gang Tian with the ‘4 different proofs now exist’ at the beginning of his second lecture is quite amusing.

  6. Ramsey Glissadevil says:

    Happy New Year Peter!

  7. Neil says:

    Happy New Year! Looking forward to 2016 and news from LHC. May the 750 GeV bump be with us.

  8. paddy says:

    Like the rest above, I send wishes for a Happy New Year and a thanks for all the columns and links.

  9. MathPhys says:

    Best wishes for 2016!

  10. Happy New Year says:

    For me this is the greatest blog on physics and mathematics. It’s serves students, researchers, and the general public.
    Happy New Year Peter and everyone who has posted a comment or simply read this blog.

  11. Peter Shor says:

    Happy New Year!

  12. srp says:

    Happy 2016!

  13. Dave Miller in Sacramento says:


    Thanks for your ongoing coverage of the NSA backdoor cryptography story. It is interesting to note that a news story that broke towards the end of the year is that NSA intercepted communications between Netanyahu and members of Congress and passed them on to the White House. Congress is not pleased… should be an interesting story as it unravels.

    Thanks for all your work on this blog, and Happy New Year.

    Dave Miller in Sacramento

  14. Mario says:

    I was searching for this info, but haven’t found anything related serios: In 2016, LHC should provide ~10times the number of collisions compared to 2015, which means the 750GeV boson riddle will be resolved. But when will we get trustful information about it? I assume that there will be some high-energy conferences in 2016, where it is expected that ATLAS and CMS will provide updates. Can somebody point to dates and names of such conferences? Or will we find out in other ways (at this blog, like for the Higgs 3.5years ago 😉 )? Thanks!

  15. Peter Woit says:

    The current schedule has a first period for physics data-taking April 25 – End May and if that goes well they should have more data than from the 2015 run, enough to see if the bumps persist. My impression is that two of the major summer conferences are June 13-18
    and August 3-10
    My totally uninformed guess is that June 13-18 is too early to have analyses ready (but I may be wrong, I was surprised how much was done by Mid-December this year, only 6 weeks after the run was over). So, August 3-10 might be the dates to keep in mind. Also, they seem to now like to announce important things at CERN instead of at regularly scheduled conferences, so the dates of the conferences may be irrelevant.

    Post-Higgs, I’ve to some extent retired from putting much effort into tracking down reliable rumors, but if I hear something interesting, it likely will be a topic here…

  16. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    Despite your retirement from the rumor mill, here’s hoping something shows up that’s worth reentry.

    Best wishes for 2016!

  17. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    Nice layman’s article on the use/abuse of Bayes’ Theorem by John Horgan @ SciAm. Hopefully relevant and useful to your less statistically-savvy readers, given the recent meeting in Munich.


  18. Peter Woit says:

    I second the recommendation about John Horgan’s discussion of the Bayes business, but please discuss this over there on his blog. My earlier experience with discussions about this here convinced me that the world is full of people who want to argue about irrelevant aspects of this, and that Joe Polchinski’s Munich contribution conclusively proved that the idea of evaluating string theory/multiverse research this way is laughable.

  19. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    OK, sorry! Glad it was worthy of note in your latest post, at least.

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