Various Links

A few pre-Thanksgiving items:

  • International Journal of Modern Physics A has a new issue with “Featured Topic” part I of a discussion of the proposed Chinese supercollider project. The high profile contributions are from C. N. Yang, China should not build a supercollider at this time, and a response from David Gross: Why China should build the Great Collider. Both I think do a good job of making the case for and against the project, with the central question that of the high cost. If this was a $1 billion project there would be no question it would get done, and if it was a $100 billion project it could never happen. The problem is that the order of magnitude is $10 billion.

    There are some other contributions to the debate, including sensible pro-collider pieces by Yifang Wang and Weimin Wu. There’s also a bizarre piece by Henry Tye, making an ad hominem argument against Yang, based on the fact that in 1980 Yang was skeptical about the future of high energy physics. I’m afraid that this doesn’t work very well as an argument against Yang, whose prediction of no post-1980 breakthroughs looks unfortunately prescient these days.

  • According to the New York Times, one possibly imminent non-HEP breakthrough is a Microsoft quantum computer. Their project grew out of one they funded led by topologist Mike Freedman.
  • Last weekend there was a celebration at Caltech of John Schwarz’s 75th birthday. No slides or video of talks it seems. I’ve wondered what Susskind’s take on supersymmetry is these days, so curious what might have been in his talk entitled “Supersymmetry and the Limits of What We Know”.
  • Howard Burton was the founding director of Perimeter, helping to get it off the ground and turn it into the success it has become (Sabine Hossenfelder here notes that the term of the current director Neil Turok is up and wonders who is next). In recent years Burton has been running something he calls Ideas Roadshow, and now has a new blog called In Search of Refinement. He writes about a recent event with Roger Penrose, discussing his new book, and has kind things to say about my review of the book. Ideas Roadshow now has accumulated a significant number of interesting interviews, worth your while if you’re looking for high-quality but not free internet content to support.

Update: One more. Yet more private funding for US scientific research. The New York Times reports on the Simons Foundation Flatiron Institute, a planned $80 million/year, 200 employee research institute. The focus will be on computational work, and doing better science by freeing scientists from having to apply for grants.

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21 Responses to Various Links

  1. Another Anon says:

    Neil Turok’s term “about to run out” means May 2018. He’ll probably just get renewed.

  2. Abbyyorker says:

    Paywalled, the whole thing which is strange as its public commentary drawn from unpaid sources. I’d like to see what yang says.

    How come he didn’t win two Nobel prizes?

  3. Narad says:

    Paywalled, the whole thing which is strange as its public commentary drawn from unpaid sources.

    The IJMPA? I haven’t checked all of the papers, but the Yang was just nagwalled (one has to register).

  4. curious says:

    ” Chinese supercollider”

    Peter do you think a Chinese supercollider should be funded, or is that money better spent elsewhere?

    From what i read elsewhere they are hoping to achieve 50km radius and perhaps 50-70 TEV collision, which for the price doesn’t sound like a large leap over LHC of 14 TEV.

  5. Peter Woit says:

    I don’t know enough about the situation in China to have an informed opinion on this. Yang’s argument is that China is still too poor a country to do this, but the situation there is changing rapidly. I would support such a project in the US, don’t want to engage in the usual simplistic arguments about government spending on anything (please anyone who wants to do this, resist the temptation).

  6. Jeff M says:


    Is there any expectation that you would see anything new at 50TEV? What would the point be of that sort of collider? When people were considering the superconducting collider in the states, or the LHC, the expectation was that you would find the Higgs. I don’t see any expectation that anyone is going to find anything at 50 TEV, for that matter, I don’t see anything at 500TEV, no?

  7. Peter Woit says:

    Jeff M,
    Plans for such a collider typically involve two stages: an electron positron collider in the large tunnel that would be a “Higgs factory” allowing a much more detailed study of the Higgs properties than at the LHC, and a higher energy proton-proton collider. The second one would explore a higher energy range than the LHC, and that’s of value in itself, there might be something unexpected, but also allow measurement of the Higgs self-coupling, again telling us something about the Higgs that the LHC can’t.

  8. Bobito says:

    Private funding for math research may be a poison pill. Someday the government might perceive that there’s no need for public funding …

  9. Casey Leedom says:

    “The New York Times reports on the Simons Foundation Flatiron Institute, a planned $80 million/year, 200 employee research institute.”
    Woah, really? That’s an insanely high Burdened Employee Rate. It used to be about % Full Time Equivalent employees per $1M several years ago. In Silicon Valley it’s getting close to 4 FTEs/$1M. Even with that higher rate, $80M/year should fund 320 employees. So they apparently are getting a lot of salary … or there’s a lot of overhead …

  10. Casey Leedom says:

    [[ Sorry, no ability to edit: That should have been “_5_ FTEs/$1M several years ago” … ]]

  11. Parisian says:


    You need things such as computer clusters, postdocs, etc. to do research. $80M should cover all those things, including paying for electricity. I’m surprised that the budget is not bigger.

  12. Bernhard says:

    I just read both Yang’s and Gross’ papers on the CEPC. It would be interesting if Yang would write a response, as I think Gross made a better job arguing in favor than Yang did against it.

  13. curious says:

    how does chinese collider compare with proposals of a higher energy 28 tev LHC using more powerful magnets?

  14. GoodAndNotSo says:

    It’s wonderful the way Jim Simons chooses to spend his money. Aside from the
    math/physics projects, all of which seem to be innovative and well thought-out
    (rather than the huge prizes which usually go to make the rich richer and cause a huge media splash), he built a beautiful park near Stony Brook.Those are the only projects I happen to know about, partly because he doesn’t seem to care about getting publicity.

    In contrast, his Renaissance Technologies co-founder (and now CEO Robert Mercer
    is who we can thank for bringing us Ted Cruz, Breitbart, Bannon, Kellyanne, and Donald. The damage to math/physics in particular, education in general (not to mention 1000 other things) caused by the latter may well outweigh all the good done
    by our guy… But who knows? we shall see….

  15. Bill says:

    Special presenter in the math category at Breakthrough Prize Ceremony, , seems to indicate that the prize will go to a number theorist. Could it be Andrew Wiles, or Yitang Zhang?

  16. anon says:

    I don’t think that having Jeremy Irons as a special presenter necessarily tells anything. I would have been surprised if they didn’t have any actors from The Man Knew Infinity present, no matter who gets the prize.

  17. Marco Renzi says:

    Gross claims that the Higgs could have a substructure. Is there any hint that the Higgs has non-zero size?

    Why is looking for substructure f the Higgs a reason to build a collider, whereas looking for substructure of the electron is not?

  18. Peter Woit says:

    Marco Renzi,

    There are some reasons to believe the Higgs may not be an elementary particle like others. For example, the Higgs phenomenon is quite analogous to what happens in superconductivity, and there the analog of the Higgs field is a composite one. Also, unlike other elementary particles, the Higgs has self interactions not due to gauge interactions. At this point these self-interactions have not been observed, and doing so would be one goal of a 100 TeV collider.

    Electrons are much simpler and much better understood, with purely gauge interactions (+coupling to the Higgs). Their short distance behavior has been measured at LEP to be that expected of an elementary particle down to very short distances. A new collider would likely have a first stage involving an electron positron machine of higher energy than LEP. This would check for substructure to even shorter distances than LEP, but since, unlike the Higgs, the electron is so well understood, it seems very likely that we know how this will turn out.

  19. My MilkShake says:

    Hi Peter, I ran across this fascinating article that you will like:

    … will it turn out that one can prove the Riemann hypothesis using techniques from quantum mechanics?…

  20. Frog Leg says:

    I saw this intriguing tweet from Peter Koppenberg via Jester, but I haven’t heard anything else. Any ideas on the significance of this possible finding?

  21. Anon says:

    The Simons Foundation has recently joined the CMS experiment. I’m not sure if this is directly the institute mentioned in the NYT article, but it seems likely.

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