Thursday, May 08, 2008

PI Director Announcement

PI's new Executive Director will be announced tomorrow 9:30 am EDT.

[And no, I don't know who it is.]

Update Friday 7:45 am: Click here to view the webcast.

Update Friday 9:45 am: PI's new director is (drums please!) Neil Turok!!

Update Saturday 3:30 am: Here is the official blahblah

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, May 9, 2008 - The Board of Directors of
Canada's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Neil Turok to the position of Executive Director. The appointment, effective October 1st, comes with the unanimous endorsement of the Institute's Board following an extensive search and the unanimous recommendation of the Search Committee composed of Perimeter Institute researchers, members of its international Scientific Advisory Committee and members of the Institute's Board of Directors.

Mike Lazaridis, the founder of Perimeter Institute and Chairman of the Board, personally led the successful search and says, "We are extremely pleased to welcome Professor Turok to Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. He is a world-renowned scientist of the highest calibre and provides tremendous research and leadership experience. He is ideally suited to build upon Perimeter Institute's considerable international achievements to date in scientific research and educational outreach as we move forward in our next, ambitious phase of development."

Commenting on his appointment, Dr. Turok says, "I am thrilled and honored to serve as the next Executive Director of Perimeter Institute, or PI. The Institute's innovative approach, its flexibility and its determination to tackle the most basic questions are already attracting the world's most brilliant students and researchers to Canada. Working with the excellent PI team, I hope to strengthen these developments so that PI becomes a world epicenter for theoretical physics, catalysing major scientific breakthroughs."

Professor Stephen Hawking, the internationally acclaimed scientist at the University of Cambridge and a close colleague of Dr. Turok, says, "Neil Turok will make an excellent Director of the Perimeter Institute which has established itself as a world leading center of research in theoretical physics. He has been a colleague of mine for a number of years and I have been very impressed by his insight and originality. The combination of Neil and PI is brilliant and holds great promise for the future."

About Dr. Neil Turok

Dr. Neil Turok currently holds the Chair of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, where he is also the Director of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology. He earned his PhD at Imperial College and, in 1994, became a Professor of Physics at Princeton University. Among his many honours, he was awarded the 1992 James Clerk Maxwell medal of the U.K. Institute of Physics.

Dr. Turok has worked in a number of areas of theoretical physics and cosmology, focusing on observational tests of fundamental physics. In the early 1990s, his group showed how the polarization and temperature anisotropies of the cosmic background radiation would be correlated, a prediction which has been confirmed in detail by recent precision measurements. The team also developed a key test for the presence of the cosmological constant, also recently confirmed.

With Stephen Hawking, he later developed the Hawking-Turok instanton solutions describing the birth of inflationary universes.

Most recently, with Paul Steinhardt at Princeton, he has been developing a cyclic model for cosmology, according to which the big bang is explained as a collision between two "brane-worlds" in M-theory. In 2006, Steinhardt and Turok showed how the model naturally allowed the cosmological constant to relax to very small values, consistent with current observations. Steinhardt and Turok co-authored the popular science book "Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang." A full online multimedia talk about this subject may be viewed online by clicking on Perimeter Institute Public Lectures and reviewing Dr. Turok's presentation "What Banged?".

Born in South Africa, Dr. Turok founded the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS, Based in Cape Town, this postgraduate educational centre supports the development of mathematics and science across the African continent. For this work and his many contributions to theoretical physics, Dr. Turok was recently awarded a prestigious TED
( and a "Most Innovative People" award at the 2008 World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (WSIE).

About Perimeter Institute

Canada's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics is an independent, non-profit, scientific research and educational outreach organization where international scientists cluster to push the limits of our understanding of physical laws and develop new ideas about the very essence of space, time, matter and information. The award-winning research centre provides a multi-disciplinary environment to foster research in areas of Cosmology, Particle Physics, Quantum Foundations, Quantum Gravity, Quantum Information, Superstring Theory, and related areas.

The Institute, located in Waterloo, Ontario, also provides a wide array of educational outreach activities for students, teachers and members of the general public in order to share the joy of scientific research, discovery and innovation.

In partnership with the Governments of Ontario and Canada, Perimeter Institute continues to be a successful example of private and public collaboration in science research and education. A full history is available at

Update Saturday 4:30 am: Globe and Mail: Cambridge scientist takes Canada to cutting edge of physics theory


  1. Hi Bee,

    “[And no, I don't know who it is.]”

    Perhaps, ‘t Hooft’s lecture at this time is not simply a coincidence? He is on the PI advisory committee.



  2. I join Phil's bet because the new director is described as a leading scientist of the highest order. ;-)

  3. Internationally respected scientist of the higest order? Give me a break. I think that Alan Guth's picture of a monkey was closer to reality.

  4. Dang, I was betting on Lubos Motl.

    Anyway, Turok is a good choice. I have been a fan since I was a child.

    OK, to be serious, a really good choice. A real gentleman, much needed in these barbarous times, and an outstanding scientist who [and this is much much rarer] works on really interesting things. But wasn't he appointed head of a Cosmology centre in Cambridge just a few months ago? How will he do both?

  5. Founded the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Muizenberg

    "Sergeant Muys (meaning "mouse"), from whom Muizenberg (formerly Muysenbergh and Muys Zijn Bergh (Muys' mountain) before that) gets its name."

    Muad'Dib! Muad'Dib! Muad'Dib! Muad'Dib! Muad'Dib!

  6. I wonder if "Neil's brane" will collide with anyone else's, without Paul Steinhardt?

  7. Great, another famous and/or accomplished Neil moves upwards! (Despite what lumo implies - sour grapes?) (Finding that Neil Armstrong would be the first person to walk on the moon was always a thrill for me, it made up for some of the associations connected to my last name. It was a kick to watch him do it live, but did they ever settle whether he included "a" in his historic announcement?) I hope to join the set in due course ...

  8. PS: Plato, I don't know if "Neil's brane" will collide with anyone else's, but this Neil's brain certainly collides with a lot of other brains ...

    BTW, should I assume you are a Platonist, or maybe not? What does that really mean today?

  9. Hi Bee,

    Well my speculative guess turned out wrong and yet I was correct that a PI public lecturer would be chosen. As you recall Prof. Neil Turok gave a PI lecture just two months back entitled “What Banged”. Despite some feelings as to his selection I would agree it was an excellent choice and they are lucky to have him.

    He brings youth and yet is a mature researcher with a good understanding of what the current issues are. One might complain he may be too slanted to perhaps the string multidimensional perspective and yet with his exposure to Hawking with his understanding for GR has me think their may be no one better in terms of depth and scope. Take this with the fact that he didn’t really need the job and I say you got something here.

    One last point to note is in his lecture I observed with the feeling he expressed for his old high school teacher and the work he’s done to upgrade the African outlook in education I would say you have a director with innate and genuine compassion for people. This I’m confident will serve all of the researchers and the benefactors of their outreach commitment well. I say bravo Perimeter and congratulations with grateful thanks Prof. Dr. Neil Turok.



  10. NT was an exact contemporary of mine & we both went to the HEP summer school at Edinburgh in 1981. Unusually for me (not), I was voicing sceptical comments about the state of Quantum Field Theory at the final session causing an outburst from Prof. David Wallace ("We do our best!") ... anyway, whatever Lubos may say, Neil Turok cannot be all bad as he was (off the record, of course) agreeing with the points I making while we were travelling back ... Good luck to him & this shows how Cosmology as a subject is in the ascendant as Quantum Field Theory declines ...

  11. hey don't get me wrong.....I know Turok will bring a nice rounded view to the current processes going on at PI. Some may have interpreted it otherwise?

    Would never inject a Christopher Columbus's a "Brane New World" if I did not think it was essential to the developing of the theories?:)

    Savas Dimopoulos:Here’s an analogy to understand this: imagine that our universe is a two-dimensional pool table, which you look down on from the third spatial dimension. When the billiard balls collide on the table, they scatter into new trajectories across the surface. But we also hear the click of sound as they impact: that’s collision energy being radiated into a third dimension above and beyond the surface. In this picture, the billiard balls are like protons and neutrons, and the sound wave behaves like the graviton.

  12. Chris I am trying to imagine how it can be, "Good luck to him & this shows how Cosmology as a subject is in the ascendant as Quantum Field Theory declines ..." In what sense is QFT in decline and how do you define that? I can't imagine it's from QFT being all figured out, we still don't really understand QM, renormalization (admitted to being a tape job by the honest cognoscenti). Is it a matter of, what more can we do with it and just accept the mess such as it is?

  13. Hi Neil',

    I do not think that it is controversial to say that cosmology is in the ascendant, especially with so much new observational data coming from space-based platforms such as Hipparcos and WMAP.

    As for QFT being in decline, yes, I will stick by that. Nothing that theorists have come up with since the 1970s has been seen in a laboratory, and with the liking for hyper-theoretical models involving extra-dimensions, etc. now firmly established it is difficult to see how this situation can change. The hope now of course is that the Higgs particle will be found at the LHC, but one should bear in mind that this is a piece of 1960s theory, and what is more, one that has a poor mathematical pedigree.


COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG ARE PERMANENTLY CLOSED. You can join the discussion on Patreon.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.