Thursday, May 17, 2007

Prime Minister visits PI

I just got a phone call from LA. The hotel guy confirming my reservation. It gave me the opportunity for my line of the week: "Sorry I missed your call, I was in a press conference with the prime minister." Silence. "Pardon?" - "Well, I mean the government supports the Institute with 50 Mio $, that's a reason for a press conference, eh?"

As I've mentioned in an earlier post, Canada is great and the present government "provides $50 million to the Perimeter Institute in 2006–07 to support its leading research, education and public outreach activities". So today there is the press conference to make sure the media has a chance to appropriately appreciate the investment in research and development.

Sounds good, but is actually pretty annoying. Starts with me being unable to find a parking spot, I had to park on the museum lot next door, which has a 2 hour limit.







The lobby is crowded with suits in black and blue, and it takes me some while to locate the secretary who has a package for me at the reception. (Turns out to be the SUSY '06 proceedings.) The press conference is scheduled for 11:40 am. We researchers were asked to please sit in the back. The auditorium is full with cameras. The Mr. Importants arrive appropriately late at exactly noon. On the photo below from left to right: Mike Lazaridis also known as He-Who-Started-It-All or Mr. BlackBerry; then there's the Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper; in the middle the person with the crumpled suit and sloppily knotted tie is our Director Howard Burton; then there's another minister, and another minister. I think it was the minister for Industry and the one for Finances. Or the other way round. Sorry for the bad photo quality. And sorry, being an ignorant immigrant, I have no idea who these ministers are.





They all said a lot of nice words that are too big to fit into this blog. To make a long story short, science and technology is important for Canada's future, funding research and development is essential for innovation and national competitiveness, and "Canada promotes World Class Excellence" (i.e. PI). As the information brochure Mobilizing Science and Technology says "The Government of Canada will ensure that its policies and programs inspire and assist Canadians to perform at world-class level of scientific and technological excellence". Wow. I am tempted to send this brochure to Angie. But seriously, sitting in the back of the large lecture hall with flash lights flickering, I felt the urge to thank Mike for making PI possible. I have been at quite a number of Institutes but PI is without doubt in several regards exceptional.


Anyway, if you want to see motion in research, the easiest way to mobilize scientists still is just a good buffet.






Now I've got to go move my car. I hope all the TV vans are gone by now.


Update:

17 comments:

stefan said...

Dear Bee,

thank you for this quasi-live coverage of this important event ;-)
I hope your car was still there...

Cheers, stefan

Uncle Al said...

Upon what can a gang of theorists spend 50 megaloonies/annum? (Hmmm... put that way maybe the answer is not so obscurated.) Really thick pieces of chalk? A dumpster of 2 GB thumb drives for PowerPoint storage? A tonne of green Kopi Luwak coffee beans and a Beowulf cluster-interfaced massively parallel 53-bean micro-roaster array?

Winter heating bills?

Bee said...

I don't know. It for sure doesn't go into my travel grant.

Gordon said...

Bee: Your background wallpaper looks like silver chromate stains of neurons a la Ramon y Cajal---?
BTW what did you do to piss off Lumos so much at Reference Frame? That flame seemed to come out of right field. I do remember him teeing off on Christine Dantas awhile back and
thinking it was abit over the top, eh.

Gordon said...

Thats Lubos, not Lumos...wouldnt want to fan the flames...:)

Bee said...

Hi Gordon,

what did you do to piss off Lumos so much at Reference Frame?

I don't know actually. I didn't do anything except writing the comments that you can read over there. I mean, besides being who I am. I guess he's just run out of answers and figured he hasn't called anybody a crackpot for a long while. It's kind of amusing but I currently don't have the time for that.

Best,

B.

paul valletta said...

Hi Bee, just noticed that you have adopted a new "lightcone" direction?..has the gravity workshop finished, if so will you let us know the outcome?..anyway very nice and interesting idea's, best paul.

Anonymous said...

The contrast is hard to ignore. The PM of Canada visits, of all the places he can pick, an institute for theoretical physics, the hardest of hardcore science. His government announces deep funding for S&T. The president of US have never come within 10 miles of any building of science in his 7 years, never said a word for science. But did pronounce 'evolution and intelligent design deserves equal attention', and 'no funding for stem cell research'. No wonder faith-based string theory researchers in the US are feeling fully tenured.

Bee said...

Hi Paul,

yes... the website is as new as a website can be. It's not yet found by Google though that's why I put the link here. Best,

B.

Rae Ann said...

I think it's true that a good buffet attracts most people. ;-) It's cool that you were part of a celebration of science.

Plato said...

I notice Harper with the mathematics behind him, when he was commenting about the high cost of gasoline.

I asked my wife yesterday where he was, and off handedly she said one of our universities. For some reason I knew it was PI.

Plato said...

The Lightcone Institute aims to pursue research on those questions that are the most relevant to our society -- fundamental questions of nature as well as the connections between politics, sociology, economics and the natural sciences. Also, the social dynamics of research itself is a new and important subject of scientific study. In a rapidly growing, global scientific community it is crucial to understand how science works, how progress can be optimized, and how resources can be used most efficiently.

I look forwad to what the institute has to offer.

The characteristic feature of this spacetime is the Light Cone, a double-cone centered at each event in Spacetime. (By the conventional choice of units used in relativity, the sides of the cone are sloped at 45 degrees. This corresponds to choosing units where time is measured in seconds and distances in light-seconds. A light-second is the distance light travels in one second.)

No place for us lay people to contribute,eh? I understand:)I like the lightcone as well.

http://www.theory.caltech.edu/people/patricia/gifs/cone3d.gif

Here's to "tipping" light cones :)

Plato said...

Oh the gif up top did not work as a link so I thought I would give Patricia's link here

Bee said...

Hi Plato:

I notice Harper with the mathematics behind him, when he was commenting about the high cost of gasoline.

Yeah. He said something like 'How am I supposed to get a majority vote with all these equations behind me' (audience laughter).

It's kind of ironic though. The only thing that really got people's attention was the gasoline prize (so much about 'mobilizing' science)! I don't know the story behind this, but I never understood why people are so keen on having taxes cut. I mean, it's not like we are paying taxes and the money is burned, but its supposed to be used elsewhere - ideally to our all advantage.

What they should really work on are the rates for car insurance. Its really UN-BE-LIE-VABLY high, and if there's a good reason for it, maybe somebody can tell me. I mean, they've told me a lot of blahblah how great the coverage is in Canada (compared to the US that's true), but as far as I can tell its what is common standard in Germany. Just that the rate is about ten times as high.

btw, how did it go with your move?

Best,

B.

Bee said...

PS: I look forwad to what the institute has to offer.

Yeah, me too. I will have a post about it sooner or later. So far, it's going pretty good, there is a lot of interest in the idea. I wasn't really aware of it before I started looking into the topic but the area between social sciences and physics/technology is getting more and more attention. I think the importance of research in this field will continue to grow.

Best,

B.

Plato said...

Hi Bee,

Even though the development of alternative energy sources can help mitigate the problem, energy will still become more scarce than it is today. This poses a serious challenge to the organization of our society, its technological status, and wealth. Energy supply plays an important role for the stability of our societies and global economical equilibrium; the availability of energy is crucial for resilience. In a case of dwindling energy supply, complex organizational structures can no longer be supported and will tend towards a state of lower complexity.

Simplicity,in terms of living has many lessons from our forefathers who travel from the European countries to settle here in Canada in the early 1900's.

How many of us know how to live in the ways they did without the infrasturcture that currently exists?

Plato said...

Laughlin is very interesting in terms of complexity. Type in Laughlin