If I May Brag on Behalf of My School for a Moment

One of the tangentially fun things about being at Stony Brook is the sort of “David and Goliath” fun of knowing that, in spite of being a smaller, state-funded school, we sport an excellent physics department with enough clout to attract visitors and speakers from all of the “big name” universities around the world. That’s something most schools can’t do, even some of the other public universities that are known for their physics programs. Even Colorado, while home to a lot of excellent physicists, didn’t manage to attract the big-name guys elsewhere as speakers very often.

That’s why I’m excited about what’s happening tomorrow, as our (literally) shiny new building, the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics, opens for the first time and holds its inaugural conference on mathematical physics. My classes are all cancelled to allow us (and the professors!) to attend the presentations, and while I won’t be able to make all of them, I’m looking forward to sitting in on at least a couple.

The program, taken from the Simons Center Website, is as follows:

9:00 am Sir Michael Atiyah, University of Edinburgh
10:00 am Coffee Break, Atrium, 1st Floor
10:45 am Alexander Polyakov, Princeton University
11:45 am Lunch
2:00 pm Andrei Okounkov, Princeton University and Columbia University
3:00 pm Break
3:15 pm Edward Witten, Institute for Advanced Study
4:15 pm Afternoon Tea, Common Room, 5th Floor
5:00 pm Cumrun Vafa, Harvard University

There’s no particular reason you should recognize those names if you’re not a physicist (or at least maybe a mathematician) but I can tell you it’s the theoretical physics equivalent of an ensemble cast. If you made a list of the 10 smartest, most cutting-edge physicists (at least in particle theory and fundamental mathematical theory research) you’d put every one of these five fellows on the list.

I expect it will be a good performance on my part if I can understand 10% of what they talk about. But it should be an exceptionally fun state of bewilderment, I’m sure of that.

Oh, and please note how excellent it is that they’ve scheduled in a break for afternoon tea.


About Colin West
Colin West is a graduate student in quantum information theory, working at the Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook University. Originally from Colorado (where he attended college), his interests outside of physics include politics, paper-folding, puzzles, playing-cards, and apparently, plosives.

2 Responses to If I May Brag on Behalf of My School for a Moment

  1. Moominmamma says:

    Congratulations to all the physics folks at Stony Brook! May you enjoy years of highly productive intellectual energy and output, and may your funding never run dry (beware of Republicans in colonial costumes).

  2. S says:

    So a russian, an iranian, a brit, and an american walk through a bar. What are the odds?

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