This series covers all areas of research at Perimeter Institute, as well as those outside of PI's scope.
Richard Feynman is said to have said that philosophy of science is of no more use to scientists than ornithology is to birds. I will describe how a sociologist looks at the search for gravitational waves. Is it ornithology to birds?
Preon models enjoyed considerable popularity during the early 1980s, but have seen little progress since then. I will describe a correspondence between one of the more successful preon models and a simple game involving the twisting and braiding of ribbons, subject to straightforward topological conditions. This reproduces the fermions and gauge bosons of the standard model, as well as the electromagnetic, weak and colour interactions. The prospect that such structures may occur naturally within Loop Quantum Gravity will be discussed
The problem of vacuum energy is reviewed. The observational evidence in favor of a non-zero cosmological constant is described. I then discuss several possible explanations for how a theoretically natural huge value of vacuum energy could be adjusted down to the unnaturally tiny but observed value.
Synchronization phenomena are abundant in nature, science, engineering and social life. Synchronization was first recognized by Christiaan Huygens in 1665 for coupled pendulum clocks; this was the beginning of nonlinear sciences. First, several examples of synchronization in complex systems are presented, such as in organ pipes, fireflies, epilepsy and even in the (in)stability of large mechanical systems as bridges. These examples illustrate that, literally speaking, subsystems are able to synchronize due to interaction if they are able to communicate.
Many systems take the form of networks: the Internet, the World Wide Web, social networks, distribution networks, citation networks, food webs, and neural networks are just a few examples. I will show some recent empirical results on the structure of these and other networks, particularly emphasizing degree sequences, clustering, and vertex-vertex correlations. I will also discuss some graph theoretical models of networks that incorporate these features, and give examples of how both empirical measurements and models can lead to interesting and useful predictions about the real world.
Noncommutative geometry is a more general formulation of geometry that does not require coordinates to commute. As such it unifies quantum theory and geometry and should appear in any effective theory of quantum gravity. In this general talk we present quantum groups as a microcosm of this unification in the same way that Lie groups are a microcosm of usual geometry, and give a flavour of some of the deeper insights they provide. One of them is the ability to interchange the roles of quantum theory and gravity by `arrow reversal'.
The causal set -- mathematically a finitary partial order -- is a candidate discrete substratum for spacetime. I will introduce this idea and describe some aspects of causal set kinematics, dynamics, and phenomenology, including, as time permits, a notion of fractal dimension, a (classical) dynamics of stochastic growth, and an idea for explaining some of the puzzling large numbers of cosmology. I will also mention some general insights that have emerged from the study of causal sets, the most recent one concerning the role of intermediate length-scales in discrete spacetime theories.