Blog Profile / Shtetl-Optimized

Filed Under:Academics / Physics
Posts on Regator:215
Posts / Week:0.6
Archived Since:December 19, 2008

Blog Post Archive

My Quora session

Here it is.  Enjoy!  (But sorry, no new questions right now.)

Three announcements

(1) When you announce a new result, the worst that can happen is that the result turns out to be wrong, trivial, or already known.  The best that can happen is that the result quickly becomes obsolete, as other people race to improve it.  With my and Adam Yedidia’s work on small Turing machines that […]

The 8000th Busy Beaver number eludes ZF set theory: new paper by Adam Yedidia and me

I’ve supervised a lot of student projects in my nine years at MIT, but my inner nerdy teenager has never been as personally delighted by a project as it is right now.  Today, I’m proud to announce that Adam Yedidia, a PhD student at MIT (but an MEng student when he did most of this work), has […]

“Largely just men doing sums”: My review of the excellent Ramanujan film

[Warning: This movie review contains spoilers, as well as a continued fraction expansion.] These days, it takes an extraordinary occasion for me and Dana to arrange the complicated, rocket-launch-like babysitting logistics involved in going out for a night at the movies. Show More Summary

Me interviewed by John Horgan (the author of “The End of Science”)

You can read it here. It’s long (~12,000 words).  Rather than listing what this interview covers, it would be easier to list what it doesn’t cover.  (My favorite soda flavors?) If you read this blog, much of what I say there will be old hat, but some of it will be new.  I predict that you’ll enjoy […]

Grading Trudeau on quantum computing

The emails starting hitting me like … a hail of maple syrup from the icy north.  Had I seen the news?  Justin Trudeau, the dreamy young Prime Minister of Canada, visited the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, one of my favorite old haunts.  At a news conference at PI, with a math-filled blackboard […]

A postdoc post

I apologize that this announcement is late in this year’s hiring season, but here goes.  I’m seeking postdocs in computational complexity and/or quantum information science to join me at UT Austin starting in Fall of 2016.  As I mentioned before, there’s a wonderful CS theory group at UT that you can work with and benefit from, including Adam […]

Quantum. Crypto. Things happen. I blog.

1. A bunch of people emailed me to ask about the paper “Realization of a scalable Shor algorithm”: a joint effort by the groups of my MIT colleague Ike Chuang and of Innsbruck’s Rainer Blatt.  The paper has been on the arXiv since July, but last week everyone suddenly noticed it because it appeared in Science. Show More Summary

From Boston to Austin

I have some big news—well, not for the world, but for me personally.  Starting this summer, I’ll be leaving MIT, and starting a new phase of my life, as David J. Bruton Jr. Centennial Professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin.  I’ll also be the founding director of UT Austin’s new quantum […]

The universe has a high (but not infinite) Sleep Number

As everyone knows, this was a momentous week in the history of science.  And I don’t need to tell you why: the STOC and CCC accepted paper lists finally came out. Haha, kidding!  I meant, we learned this week that gravity waves were directly detected for the first time, a hundred years after Einstein first predicted them […]

“Why does the universe exist?” … finally answered (or dissolved) in this blog post!

In my previous post, I linked to seven Closer to Truth videos of me spouting about free will, Gödel’s Theorem, black holes, etc. etc.  I also mentioned that there was a segment of me talking about why the universe exists that for some reason they didn’t put up.  Commenter mjgeddes wrote, “Would have liked to hear your […]

Here’s some video of me spouting about Deep Questions

In January 2014, I attended an FQXi conference on Vieques island in Puerto Rico.  While there, Robert Lawrence Kuhn interviewed me for his TV program Closer to Truth, which deals with science and religion and philosophy and you get the idea.  Alas, my interview was at the very end of the conference, and we lost track of the time—so […]

Marvin Minsky

Yesterday brought the sad news that Marvin Minsky passed away at age 88.  I never met Minsky (I wish I had); I just had one email exchange with him back in 2002, about Stephen Wolfram’s book.  But Minsky was my academic great-grandfather (through Manuel Blum and Umesh Vazirani), and he influenced me in many other […]

Happy Third Birthday Lily!

  (I promised a while ago that I’d upload some examples of Lily’s MOMA-worthy modern artworks.  So, here are two!) A few quotable quotes: Daddy, when you were little, you were a girl like me! I’m feeling a bit juicy [thirsty for juice]. Saba and Safta live in Israel. They’re mommy’s friends! [Actually they’re mommy’s parents.] Me: […]

Edging in: the biggest science news of 2015

For years, I was forced to endure life with my nose up against the glass of the Annual Edge Question.  What are you optimistic about?  Ooh! ooh! Call on me!  I’m optimistic about someday being able to prove my pessimistic beliefs (like P?NP).  How is the Internet changing the way you think?  Ooh, ooh! I […]

6.S899 Student Project Showcase!

As 2015 winds down, I thought I’d continue my tradition of using this blog to showcase some awesome student projects from my graduate class.  (For the previous project showcases from Quantum Complexity Theory, see here, here, and here.  Also see here for the showcase from Philosophy and Theoretical Computer Science.) This fall, I taught 6.S899, a one-time […]

Ask an unbounded question, get an uncomputable answer

Just when I thought I could relax, as the waters slowly receded from the latest D-Tsunami, my inbox and Facebook feed once again lit up with inquiries—this time, asking me to confirm or deny that “A Paradox at the Heart of Mathematics Makes a Physics Problem Unanswerable.” Uh-oh! Luckily for my blood pressure, though, this one turned out […]

Google, D-Wave, and the case of the factor-10^8 speedup for WHAT?

In retrospect, I should’ve been suspicious, when more than a year went by with no major D-Wave announcements that everyone wanted me to react to immediately.  Could it really be that this debate was over—or not “over,” but where it always should’ve been, in the hands of experts who might disagree vehemently but are always careful to qualify […]

If I can’t do math, I don’t want to be part of your revolution

1. Emma Goldman, the fiery early-20th-century anarchist, is credited for giving the world the immortal refrain “if I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” (actually it’s not clear that she ever said it so pithily, but she did express such a thought).  Admittedly, no one would mistake me for either a dancer or an […]

Talk, be merry, and be rational

Yesterday I wrote a statement on behalf of a Scott Alexander SlateStarCodex/rationalist meetup, which happened last night at MIT (in the same room where I teach my graduate class), and which I’d really wanted to attend but couldn’t.  I figured I’d share the statement here: I had been looking forward to attending tonight’s MIT SlateStarCodex meetup as I […]

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