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Tag archives: string theory

A 21st-century discourse on quantum mechanics and space–time

Image of Nima Arkani-Hamed

Revealing the secrets of space–time? (Courtesy: Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics)

By Tushna Commissariat

If you fancy a bit of late-night quantum mechanics, make sure that tonight you tune into the live webcast of “Quantum Mechanics and Spacetime in the 21st Century” – a lecture that by physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed as part of the Perimeter Institute’s Public Lecture Series. Arkani-Hamed, who won the inaugural Fundamental Physics Prize in 2012, says that he hasn’t “been this excited about physics in a very long time”. He will talk about how the most recent advances in quantum mechanics shed new light on our understanding of the universe’s fabric of time and space. In the past, Arkani-Hamed has shown how the weakness of gravity, compared with the other fundamental forces of nature, might be explained by the existence of extra dimensions of space. He has also recently been involved in the 2013 documentary Particle Fever, about the search for the Higgs boson.

The webcast will begin at 11.45 p.m. GMT (7 p.m. EST) and you can send questions to Arkani-Hamed by tweeting @Perimeter and using the hashtag #piLIVE. Take a look at a short teaser video for his talk below and tell us what you think about it in the comments section.

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The pin-up of particle physics, an octopus-inspired robot and Witten versus Horgan redux

 

By Hamish Johnston

One of my favourite radio programmes is The Life Scientific, in which the physicist Jim Al-Khalili talks to leading scientists about their lives and work. Al-Khalili introduces this week’s guest as “the pin-up of particle physics”, whose remarkable career has taken him from playing keyboards in pop bands, to winning a Royal Society University Research Fellowship to do particle physics, to hosting one of the BBC’s most popular science programmes.

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A scientific pyramid scheme, symmetry through the ages, why physics students are “standing a little taller” and more

Pyramid power: this lovely pyramid has nothing to do with postdocs. It is model of a much larger  Sierpinski tree that can be found on London’s South Bank.

Pyramid power: this lovely object has nothing to do with postdocs. It is a simpler version of a much larger Sierpinski tree that can be found on London’s South Bank.

By Hamish Johnston

Just this week six people were convicted in Bristol of crimes related to running a pyramid scheme. This involves taking money from lots of new investors and giving it to a smaller number of investors who signed up earlier – until the pyramid collapses. Is the current model for training scientists a pyramid scheme of sorts? That is the claim in a piece on the US’s National Public Radio (NPR) website written by Richard Harris.

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A huge cycle in Sheffield, $30,000 for falsifying global warming and another physicist goes into advertising

Celebrating the Tour de France and Hans Krebs in Sheffield (Courtesy: University of Sheffield)

Celebrating the Tour de France and Hans Krebs in Sheffield. (Courtesy: University of Sheffield)

By Hamish Johnston

Sports fans in the UK are spoiled for choice this weekend, with the Wimbledon finals in London and the kick-off of the Tour de France in Leeds. This is only the second time that the famous bicycle race has started in the UK and to celebrate, the University of Sheffield has created a huge image of a bicycle in a field near to the route. But as well as celebrating the passing cyclists, the image honours a very different cycle that makes the race and indeed much of life on Earth possible.

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So, do you fancy winning $3m?

Money talks – $3m is the proze. (Courtesy: iStockphoto/solvod)

Money talks – $3m is up for grabs in the Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation’s  Breakthrough Prize. (Courtesy: iStockphoto/solvod)

By Matin Durrani

An e-mail arrived in my inbox this morning from Rob Meyer, who names himself “administrator” of the Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation, seeking nominations for the Breakthrough Prize, which is worth a tasty $3m, and for the $100,000 New Horizons Prize, which is aimed at “young researchers”.

In case you’ve forgotten, the foundation was funded by the Russian investor Yuri Milner, who did a degree in physics at Moscow State University before making squillions investing in start-up companies such as Facebook and Twitter.

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Lateral Thoughts: some things never change

By Margaret Harris

This is the second in a series of blog posts about “Lateral Thoughts”, Physics World’s long-running humour column. You can read the first one here.

The Lateral Thoughts column of humorous, off-beat or otherwise “lateral” essays has been part of Physics World ever since the magazine was launched in October 1988. In my previous post about the column’s history, I described some ways that Lateral Thoughts have changed since the early days (tl;dr version: loads of sexism, side order of class conflict).  But in my trawl through the archive, I’ve also discovered that some things haven’t changed very much at all over the past quarter-century.

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A Bohemian rhapsody on string theory

By Matin Durrani

I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has had the seemingly bright idea of remaking a well-known song, altering the lyrics so they’re about some “cool” aspect of science, and then unleashing a cataclysmically awful video to the rest of the world, with the original song mangled to death.

So I braced myself before playing this new a capella version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, entitled “Bohemian Gravity”. It is sung and performed by Tim Blais – a student in theoretical physics at McGill University in Canada, who recently completed his Master’s thesis under Alex Maloney.

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Perimeter Institute welcome speech reignites the string wars

Neil Turok at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (Courtesy: Gabriela Secara)

Neil Turok at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. (Courtesy: Gabriela Secara)

By Hamish Johnston

A series of four articles about people at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) has been published in the Canadian magazine Maclean’s and one article in particular has got people talking.

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Supersymmetry revisited

By Hamish Johnston

Supersymmetry and Beyond

Courtesy: Basic Books

I think it’s safe to say that Peter Woit was never going to like Gordon Kane’s latest book about string theory. Woit, who is at Columbia University, is a prolific anti-string-theory blogger and author of Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Continuing Challenge to Unify the Laws of Physics, whereas Kane is a leading string theorist who is based at the University of Michigan.

Kane’s latest tome is called Supersymmetry and Beyond: From the Higgs Boson to the New Physics and it will be published later this month by Basic Books. On his blog – also called Not Even Wrong – Woit compares the new book with Kane’s previous effort Supersymmetry: Unveiling The Ultimate Laws Of Nature, which was published in 2000.

Woit makes the controversial claim that about 75% of Supersymmetry and Beyond is a simply a rehash of the 2000 book. To make his point, Woit focuses on several examples of how Kane has updated the text to paper over the fact that little experimental evidence for supersymmetry has been found over the past 13 years.

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String theorist bags $3m Fundamental Physics Prize

By Hamish Johnston

Alexander Polyakov

Alexander Polyakov has something to smile about. (Courtesy: Technion University)

The string theorist Alexander Polyakov has won the 2013 Fundamental Physics Prize. The $3m prize is awarded by Milner Foundation, which is funded by the Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner and was inaugurated last year.

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