Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Random samples

Three little items....

First, the Foundational Questions folks have announced their funding recipients. These grants, intended for fundamental questions in physics and cosmology, are supposed to target topics "unlikely to be otherwise funded by conventional sources". I'm a bit skeptical about that, since it sure looks like a number of these people are getting funded for topics that sound just like their regular research. Still, I do think it's a good thing to put some resources into real foundational questions. For the condensed matter people in the audience, our token representation on the list is Subir Sachdev, who is extending his theory formalism to cover black holes (!), and Keith Schwab, who is going to do true quantum mechanics by building micromechanical systems that exist in a quantum regime.

Second, this paper is one of the more bizarre things I've seen on the arxiv lately. It's from some folks trying to find efficient ways to compute pagerank numbers (useful in search algorithms for the web). They claim to have a Schroedinger-like equation that describes the pagerank. I was intrigued, in part because of all the lame joke opportunities this suggested. Funky.

Lastly, it's disappointing to read articles like this one and this one. I don't know what's more sad - that the the Holmdel Bell Labs site is being sold to developers, or that the Wall Street Journal can run multiple long articles about the discord and tribulations at the top of Alcatel-Lucent and not even mention Bell Labs. I can't help but think that the US will really miss industrial long-term research.