Saturday, August 25, 2012

Trieste Physics on the Beach

The International Centre for Theoretical Physics was the brainchild of Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam who felt that a place was needed for international physics meetings.  In particular he wanted a place to allow scientists in otherwise isolated nations to interact with the best of the best.   Salam was a terrific politician and he managed to get funding from Italy, from the UN, and from the International Atomic Energy Agency to build this institute in Trieste Italy.    Perhaps his greatest genius though was putting the Centre right on the beach of the Adriatic.  This picture is the view from one of the guest-house balconies.  Yes, admittedly only half of the rooms face the ocean.  But still,  whichever way your room faces, you only have to walk about 50 meters down the road to get to a beach.  Awesome!

Last week's conference at Trieste (which can only be called "Majorana Fest 2012") was an excellent (if perhaps a bit over-focused) short workshop bringing together some great researchers from all over.   If you are curious you can listen to all the talks online here.  My talk starts about two thirds through this file  and then is finished in this file.

During this conference I tried out a new way of doing physics --- that would be physics while floating.   One day, puzzled by some physics emails from collaborators, I decided to go for a swim. I floated on my back silently for half an hour and pondered these emails -- deciding on a route forward only after having become completely pruney.    Feeling that this was productive, the following day I scheduled a physics meeting out in the water.  Jason Alicea and I had a rather long discussion about topological physics in two and three dimensions  -- -parafermions and fibonacci anyons and all sorts of other interesting things  -- all while paddling around in the Adriatic.   Somehow I really like this way of doing physics.   Perhaps just because it is so different from the usual day at the office, it seems surprisingly productive.  Maybe Abdus Salam had this in mind.

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