Arcadian Functor

occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world

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Location: New Zealand

Marni D. Sheppeard

Friday, November 27, 2009

FFP10 Day 3

The three days of the conference passed quickly, and it seems that most people have already left Perth. I arrived early on the last day, in order to spend time with the lorakeets, kookaburras, ducklings and galahs.

Links: The Halton Arp website has interesting quasar information, as discussed by C. Fulton. The conference proceedings will be published early next year, and you can now play spot the physicist on the conference photo.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

FFP10 Day 2

On Day 2 of FFP10, John Hartnett spoke about an alternative cosmology that does not require gravitational waves.

In a later, split session on alternative cosmologies, we heard from Robin Booth, who has a concrete prediction for the recently launched Planck: the photon noise for the CMB should be 40 times that predicted by the standard cosmology. Perhaps more on the quasars later.

So by the time it came to the conference dinner, in the extravagant University Club, all participants seemed quite comfortable telling jokes about how many string theorists it takes to change a light bulb.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

FFP10 Day 1

FFP10 has a variety of interesting badge wearing participants, including Apoxyomenos. However, as a statue, Apoxyomenos has difficulty taking a seat in the air conditioned lecture hall.

Professor 't Hooft began the proceedings with his lecture on Gravity and the Quantum. First he discussed a concept of classical black hole complementarity for internal and external observers: the former seeing objects behind the horizon, but no Hawking radiation, and the latter observing Hawking radiation. In principle, these observers should see the same physics. The proposal of so called extreme complementarity sets up a perfect time reversal symmetry between the causal structures for internal and external observers. These assumptions allow for a conformal factor relating two observations, and the suggestion that generators of scale transformations have a non local character. The second part of his talk discussed cellular automata as deterministic systems with a quantum mechanical description. That is, acceptable hidden variables in a theory of dynamics of states.

Huw Price thankfully managed to avoid multiverses in the first half of his talk on Time's Arrow and Eddington's Challenge, starting with a clear explanation of the distinction between dynamic and block views of Time (although the potential use of both together was not, as usual, considered). The most notable proponents of the latter view, in relatively modern times, include Einstein and Boltzmann. On the dynamical side we have Eddington, who, in 1928, said:
Events give ... no indication that they undergo what has been described as the formality of taking place.
Eddington supposedly coined the concept of the changing world as becoming, but that sounds rather like Hegel to me. Unfortunately, from this point on, the multiverse takes over as an attempt to address the challenge of Time's Arrow ... by creating universes that restore the overall symmetry.

Monday, November 23, 2009

From Perth

Carl and I are now happily settled at UWA, enjoying Perth's notoriously perfect weather. We are only a 5 minute walk from beaches on the Swan river. The FFP10 fun starts tomorrow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mt John News VI

Weather permitting, today's plan involves a pleasant wander up the Hopkins valley with a few astronomers. Tomorrow I head for Christchurch, and Monday for Australia. Put a prawn on the barbie for me ...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Mt John News V

I'm now up to roughly 21 complete postdoc job applications for the year end! Employers looking for a hard working, mature, friendly, intelligent, categorical M theorist will have to get in quick!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Supernovae Seminar

Next Thursday, the astronomer Robert P. Kirschner visits the South Island to talk about supernovae observations, without necessarily committing to the Dark Force.
Supernova samples are now large enough that systematic errors dominate over statistical uncertainties, so better understanding, not just a larger sample, is required to make progress on this question. New observations carried out at near-infrared wavelengths promise to reduce these errors and lead to a more certain knowledge of the nature of dark energy.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Mt John News IV

Without realising it, I submitted a paper some months ago to a respectable journal that uses blind refereeing. As far as I know, this is the first time I have sent a paper for blind review. Yesterday I was told that, with minor changes, the paper was accepted for publication. For the first time in my life, I found that the referee's report was constructive and polite. The world indeed works in mysterious ways.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Mt John News III

Now that most physics jobs require three references from professionals who are familiar with one's work, I am struggling to apply for anything. As far as I can tell, only two current applications of mine are complete. Thanks all the same to those who have helped. On my return from Australia in December, I have lined up a mountain job for the Christmas and New Year period: warden of French Ridge hut. Those of you who have visited this spot will appreciate the inevitability of an improvement in my fitness. This midsummer, I will fall asleep to the sounds of rumbling icefalls.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Quote of the Month

In the 1975 book by Maurice Pope on the history of decipherment (of Egyptian hieroglyphs, cuneiform and Linear B) there is a quote by the esteemed Professor Hyde, from 1700:
Travellers' graffiti ... a monument of ill writing and inexpert sculpture ... late, insignificant and scarcely worth the trouble of solving.
This was his assessment of the great Achaemenid tombs of Naqsh-e Rustam, which he visited. They date back as far as 1000BC. Having stood beneath these tombs once myself, I can testify that only a fool would think them insignificant to the age of decipherment. With three parallel texts, the tombs were a key element in the eventual decipherment of Old Persian cuneiform, and this in turn led to an understanding of other, far more ancient forms of writing, back to the evolution of writing from symbols and accounting systems in the dawn of history.

Anyone can be wrong.