The Unapologetic Mathematician

Mathematics for the interested outsider

Conference and travel

One of the few things that this city gets right is its airport. Free high-speed wireless and plenty of open power taps. What more could a junkie like me want? Well, maybe for the newsstands to carry Scientific American so I could read Scott Aaronson’s article on the plane. It seems everyone at the Clifford Lectures had been reading it, even though most of us are already rather familiar with the ins and outs of quantum computation to begin with. That’s sort of the point, this year.

Yes, despite how great a topic it is, I’ve got to leave on a jet plane this morning for DC, since if I waited until the end of the conference it would be a lot more expensive, and I’m not making that sweet, sweet postdoc money yet, let along tenure-track. Worst of all is that I have to miss Sam Lomonaco’s talk about his upcoming paper with Lou Kauffman (when are the old guard going to get blaths?). Not to worry, though. He gave me the inside scoop yesterday, and while I can’t go public with them yet I can say that they’re taking the interactions between knot theory and quantum computation in a completely new direction, and it’ll be interesting to see where that leads.

I spent much of the day shamelessly self-promoting my new paper to the assembled luminaries, especially pushing the introduction where I tie (no pun intended) my tangle program to topological quantum computation. And the group was very much inclined to think in terms of categories of tangles as well. In fact, the talks were kicked off by Phil Scott, whose topic was so close to that of John Baez’ and Mike Stay’s paper that he’s had to tweak his notes in the last couple days.

Incidentally, those of you who have been around for a while may remember him from when I talked about closed categories. I think both of us fell victim to the magic of the intarwobs back then, and overstated things a tad. I admit that there are other categories with closure but without monoidal structure, but I don’t see them arising naturally in what I do, but to say the definition I gave is “totally wrong” is a bit much. Actually, when he left that comment, he says he was thinking of a certain example he mentioned in his talk, which turns out to have a tensor product — we just don’t know what it looks like! And when he mentioned that example, I thought, “well that’ll show that guy who left that comment…” Ah, what a small, small world academic mathematics is. It’s all good, though.

The main lectures are being given by Samson Abramsky, and they’re straight down the lines of my own thoughts on the structure of quantum (and otherwise non-classical) information and symmetric monoidal closed categories. And they’re very accessible, so the junior I’ve been advising through his reading of the Aharonov-Jones-Landau paper was able to keep up, and probably will through much of the rest of the series. Of course, introductions were made to Sam, and maybe he’ll apply to UMBC’s computer science department next year. Have I sabotaged a poor innocent undergraduate into a life of knots, categories, and quantum computers? Horror!

But the plane boards soon, and then I bum around College Park for the day. I’ll try to get back to the expository line tomorrow.


March 13, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. s/Horror!/Hooray!/

    Just saying… 😉

    Comment by Michi | March 13, 2008 | Reply

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