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Various News

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 01:15 PM PST

Now back from vacation in a much warmer location than New York. Some things I noticed while away:

  • I see that Paris has a bid to host the 2022 ICM. Everyone should strongly support this, one can’t have too many excuses for a trip to that city.
  • I’m pleased to see that Sabine Hossenfelder will now be a columnist for Quanta magazine. She’s starting off with a piece on asymptotic safety. Also recommended is her new arXiv preprint on fine-tuning and naturalness.
  • There’s an Indian interview with Nati Seiberg, much of which consists of defending string theory research against the accusation of being a science with no scientific evidence. It’s more or less the usual defense that, despite failure as a theory of unification, string theory research has led to other progress in fields such as condensed matter, astrophysics, cosmology and pure mathematics. One problem with this is that it’s very unclear now what “string theory research” really is these days, other than a sociological term. About the failure to find SUSY as predicted, he says:

    One idea is that we will find SUSY particles at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) but this hasn't happened yet. So given that it hasn't, I think the odds that it would happen in the near future are very small. It's not a likely scenario. If you had asked me 10 or 20 years ago, I would have thought it was quite reasonable that they would find it. But they haven't and that idea did not prove to be right. But people who worked on it should not be penalised for it because they just laid out possibilities and things that experimentalists would like to have.

    I don’t think the issue is whether to “penalize” people for working on SUSY, but rather just to acknowledge that the failure to find SUSY at the LHC has important scientific implications, providing significant evidence against heavily promoted speculative ideas about supersymmetric extensions of the SM and superstring unification.

  • To keep up on the latest hot trends in particle theory, and sometimes find an excuse for a trip down to Princeton, I periodically take a look at the IAS High Energy Theory Seminar listings (available here). I was surprised to see that this week they’ve invited Steve Hsu to give a talk about something having nothing to do with HEP theory. His topic is “Genomic Prediction of Complex Traits”, a topic motivated by his long-standing interest in finding genetic determinants of intelligence.

    I heard from Hsu back in 2011, when he wrote to ask me if I would publicize this study, which he wrote about here. Hsu was looking for volunteers of “high cognitive ability” (he thought most theoretical physicists would qualify), who would get “free genotyping and tools to explore their genomes”. You can read some more debate about this here. A few years back he wrote an essay for Nautilus about how genetic engineering will one day create the smartest humans who have ever lived.

    Until a year or so ago I used to follow Hsu’s blog, finally stopped after getting sick of reading his defences of Trump and Steve Bannon. Besides the interest in race determining intelligence (see for instance here), Hsu has what seems to me a disturbing interest in the politics of racial resentment, from the white/East Asian side, which shows up in his fondness for Trump/Bannon. This also shows up in his involvement in a campaign to get Harvard to stop its current affirmative action policies and admit more students of East Asian descent.

    No, I’m not going to allow any arguments over this topic in the comments section. Such arguments immediately descend to an extreme level of stupidity, whatever the IQ of those involved.

Update: I just noticed that Steve Hsu has a blog post about this here, which surely is a better place to discuss what he’s up to.