Update (8/19): I’ve answered most of the remaining questions and closed this thread. If your question wasn’t answered earlier, please check now—sorry for the delay! And thanks to everyone who asked.
This blog was born, in part, out of existential anguish. My starting axioms, reflected in the blog’s title, were that
- nerds like me are hothouse plants, requiring a bizarre, historically-improbable social environment to thrive in life;
- if such an environment ever existed, then it didn’t survive one or more major upheavals of the twentieth century, such as the sexual revolution, the Holocaust, or the end of the Cold War;
- I and other nerds were therefore essentially walking fossils, absurdly maladapted for the civilization in which we found ourselves (even, ironically, as that civilization relied more than ever on nerdly skills); and
- all that being the case, I might as well kill some time by proving quantum complexity theorems and writing a blog full of crass jokes.
And therein lies the problem: this summer, I’ve simply been enjoying life too much to want to take time out to blog about it. Happiness, it seems, is terrible for my literary productivity.
Still, enough people now rely on this blog for their procrastination needs that I feel a moral obligation to continue serving them. So to overcome my own procrastination barrier, from now on I’m going to try writing entries that are basically just “requests for comment”: stones in a stone soup, with the intellectual barley, discursive salt, argumentative carrots, and dialectical beef chunks to be supplied by you, my readers.
(To a few commenters: thanks so much for the plywood, rotting raccoon carcasses, and used syringes, but the soup should be fine without them…)
To start things off, today we’re going to have another open thread. You can ask pretty much anything; my one request is that you don’t ask for grad school or job application advice, since we already covered those things ad nauseum in two previous open threads.
Here are a few examples of things to ask me about:
1. My recent trip to the Azores for the FQXi Conference on Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2. My recent trip to Paris for the Complexity’2009 conference
3. My recent trip to Lexington, Kentucky for the Quantum Theory and Symmetries conference
4. The recent breakthrough paper by Jain, Ji, Upadhyay, and Watrous, finally proving what many in the quantum complexity world long suspected: that QIP=IP=PSPACE. That is, quantum interactive proof systems provide no more computational power than classical ones. (For more see this post from Lance and Steve Fenner, or this one from the Pontiff.)
5. The exciting new Polymath Project, to find (under some number-theoretic assumption) a deterministic polynomial-time algorithm for generating n-bit primes. (Hat tip to Ryan O’Donnell.)
Oh, one other thing: while you’re welcome to ask personal questions, they’ll most likely be answered not by me but by Pablo the PSPACE Pirate.
Update (7/31): One question per person, please!