Saturday, September 10, 2016

Field Trip: Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

Got an inside tour of Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada. It’s one the world’s leading theoretical physics institutes. I overheard that it’s the “third most cited in the field, reputation ranked second to Princeton, and the largest grouping of theoretical physics since the Manhattan project”. 

Further, it’s a “world-leading centre of research in the lowest-cost, highest-return area of science: fundamental physics. Training the next generation of physics pioneers.”

Stephen Hawking even has his own office; apparently the only place outside of Cambridge where he has granted putting his name on a door. Tends to a rather chaotic place when he visits. 

Seems my brother may had had a role in this: decades ago he worked for the Ontario government bestowing grants to hire full-time engineers for start-ups; one of such recipients became Research In Motion. Once RIM (now Blackberry) became the hottest phones on the market, one of the founders gave a third of his wealth away to create PI.

And just why is this important? As PI’s annual report states, “In the 20th Century, “trillions of dollars of new wealth, and million of jobs, were created from breakthroughs in fundamental physics that lead to transistors, computers, MRI, GPS, smartphones and more.”

I only met spoke to one big brain there, Lee Smolin an expert on quantum gravity and time. He mentioned that he recently saw a movie about to been screened at TIFF about time. I asked him if he tried watching it backwards, but he didn’t seem amused. I had to bite my tongue to not ask if Dark Matter and Dark Energy are just rounding errors. Aren't they?

The only refuge from blackboards are the washrooms. 

Lots of stuff to stimulate the mind and to create "collisions" between interdisciplinary minds.

Took me a while, but I got this joke:

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