By Hamish Johnston
I have just returned from the Perimeter Institute (PI) in Waterloo, Canada where I enjoyed a fantastic few days immersed in discussions involving some of the sharpest minds in physics. The great and good were at the PI for the first Convergence conference and from what I have heard, the participants are calling it a great success.
But could it be even better next time?
At the panel discussion that closed the conference on Wednesday, several people suggested that “challenge” should be the theme of the next meeting. In particular, the structure of the meeting should facilitate questioning the views of individual researchers as well as more general critiques of accepted wisdom – cosmic inflation was one topic suggested from the audience. Indeed, one person in the audience suggested that participants in a forum could be asked to argue on behalf of an idea that they don’t accept.
In my experience, most physicists are extremely pleasant and polite people who are interested in understanding and developing the ideas of their colleagues rather than challenging them in a public forum. As a result, a “Challenge” conference could be difficult to pull off but it would certainly be an event I would want to attend.
The talk that came closest to fitting the bill for “Challenge” was Kendrick Smith’s lecture “Planck results and future prospects in cosmology”, which you will shortly be able to watch for yourself here.