Monday, October 19, 2009


As previously mentioned, Perimeter Institute presently hosts the Quantum to Cosmos festival to celebrate its 10th anniversary. If you're among those who, like me, can't be there in person, you can follow the festival online. Most of the events are recorded by the media partner TVO, and the website is well organized, well maintained, and even looks well designed. I'm totally impressed.

The event is also covered in the blogosphere by Martin Durrani from PhysicsWorld who is presently Inside the Perimeter and intrigued by BlackBerries and Blackboards. Sean Carroll talked about time and Neil Turok lets us know that Lee Smolin is working on a new book called "The Reality of Time." Yes, it's about time.

Yesterday evening, Lee lead a very interesting discussion with Neal Stephenson and Jaron Lanier (recording here), on "Seeing Science Through Fiction."

They talk about the multiverse, virtual reality, music, anti-intellectualism, the propagation of stupidity, and the future of writing. If you have an hour time on your hand, give it a look. I just want to quote a snippet of the discussion that I found very interesting because it ties to something we have discussed here on this blog previously:

"Jaron, (min 38:40): I think there is a benefit to having encapsulation around intellectual activity [...] The notion that everything should be opened and mixed all the time is not good because then you can't nurture something long enough to really understand it. And I think that's a sort of a mistake that's going on on the internet, there's this notion that creativity only happens if everything is as open as possible...."

In my post "And how open would you want your science" I made the same point. Maximal connectivity and exchange of ideas is not necessarily beneficial for scientific progress. I argued that too much exchange bears the risk of washing out differences in approaches too early (I referred to that as "thermalization"), and of streamlining ideas before they have reached maturity. Jaron Lanier has a new book coming out, "You Are Not a Gadget." I suppose I should put it on my reading list.

If you don't have an hour at hand, what you should definitely check out are Alice and Bob in Wonderland. These are one minute comic-clips addressing some essential physics question. Just lovely and definitely worth the one minute :-)


  1. They didn't talk much about seeing science through fiction, but seeing fiction through science.

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  3. Hi Bee,

    Thanks for you’re reporting of the Festival, one for which unlike yourself geography doesn’t prohibit my personal attendance, rather my accursed work schedule. I am then thankful TVO is recording all of this, as I will definitely go through it as time allows. I did try last evening to watch Sean Carrol’s talk, yet found myself nodding off; not due to his presentation mind you, yet rather more resultant of my physical state.

    One thing though, I wish there was some way to avoid all the preambles when someone is discussing their ideas about time, as how often is it we need to hear one can’t have a omelette turned back into an egg. I will of course be looking forward to the publishing of Smolin’s new book on the subject and I really should go out and get Sean’s as well. The problem of course is to find the time to read them. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could provide some of that along with their books, as this for certain would guaranty to have them become best sellers :-)



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