The Quantum Pontiff

Hawking Gets New Chair

The blackberry hole (aka the Perimeter Institute) has swallowed another person. Most fittingly, however, this time the observer will exist both inside and outside of the Perimeter Institute, thus giving us an answer to the black hole information paradox:

WATERLOO, Ontario, Canada, November, 2008 – Dr. Neil Turok, Director of Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI), is pleased to announce the appointment of internationally regarded scientist Prof. Stephen Hawking to the position of PI Distinguished Research Chair.

Prof. Hawking will conduct regular stays at PI in coming years, beginning in the summer of ’09, and says, “I am honoured to accept the first Distinguished Research Chair at the Perimeter Institute. The Institute’s twin focus, on quantum theory and gravity, is very close to my heart and central to explaining the origin of the Universe. I look forward to building a growing partnership between PI and our Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, at Cambridge. Our research endeavour is global, and by combining forces I believe we will reap rich rewards.”

In announcing that Prof. Hawking will visit PI for extended periods each year, PI Director Neil Turok said, “The appointment marks a new phase in our recruitment that will see leading scientists from around the world establish a second ‘research home’ at Perimeter Institute. I am delighted that Stephen has agreed to accept the first of a projected 40 such visiting Chairs. We look forward to hosting Stephen in Waterloo, Ontario, to benefiting from his wise mentorship and guidance which has been so successful in Cambridge, and to the many stimulating scientific collaborations which will undoubtedly emerge.”


  1. #1 Lassi Hippelไinen
    December 1, 2008

    Hawking drives his Chair on the left lane. The folks at PI really need to fine tune their quantum entanglements to avoid collisions…

  2. #2 milkshake
    December 1, 2008

    The post (and the preceding comment) is written in a shockingly poor taste. But at least you did not make a snowmobile joke.

  3. #3 Dave Bacon
    December 1, 2008

    Bah, bad taste my rear.

    Or to quote the man himself (here):

    This oracle usually resides at Cambridge University in England, where he occupies the professorial chair once held by Sir Isaac Newton. From his wheelchair, Dr. Hawking remarks with typical humor, “They say it’s Newton’s chair, but obviously it’s been changed.”

  4. #4 Bee
    December 1, 2008

    Well, the whole building was specifically designed so we ‘collide’ with each other. It can be pretty damned annoying though if you can’t even go to the restroom without ‘colliding’ with somebody in this ‘interactive atmosphere’. That’s supposed to say, occasionally one just has to work. Possibly I’m just not the most social person.

    Anyway, calling PI a ‘hole’ is far from appropriate. In contrast, it is constanly radiating quite a substantial amount of activity and inspiration. And no, it’s no Hawking radiation, we definitely don’t have any trapped surfaces here. (Also, if you translate it into German, calling a place a ‘hole’ is quite an insult.) Best,


  5. #5 Dave Bacon
    December 1, 2008

    Yes calling a place a blackberry hole in an obvious joke on the founder, the fact that it has sucked up nearly all of quantum computing theorists, and the fact that it has major programs in quantum gravity and cosmology is a horrible thing to say.

  6. #6 Ian Durham
    December 1, 2008

    the fact that it has major programs in quantum gravity and cosmology is a horrible thing to say

    Baaad Dave.

  7. #7 Dave Bacon
    December 1, 2008

    Yes (calling a place a blackberry hole (in an obvious joke on the founder, the fact that it has sucked up nearly all of quantum computing theorists, and the fact that it has major programs in quantum gravity and cosmology) is a horrible thing to say.)

  8. #8 Pieter Kok
    December 2, 2008

    I fail to spot the `shockingly poor taste’ in both the post and the first comment. Care to elaborate, milkshake?

  9. #9 Eric Lund
    December 2, 2008

    I fail to spot the `shockingly poor taste’ in both the post and the first comment.

    I’m not Milkshake, but I can figure out what set him off about the first comment: the “drives his Chair” remark. The poster was referring to the fact that Hawking, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, uses a wheelchair to get around. IMHO that was in dubious taste but not over the line. YMMV.

    I share your bafflement regarding the original post. Perhaps Milkshake, like Bee, did not get the obvious (to me as it was to Dave) “blackberry hole” joke. But that’s just speculation. There isn’t anything in there to offend a native English speaker (though as Bee points out, that’s not necessarily true for those whose native language is not English).

  10. #10 milkshake
    December 2, 2008

    Calm down, my feigned horror at the double entendre wheelchair jokes here was only a joke.

  11. #11 Dave Bacon
    December 2, 2008

    Milkshake your comment is in shockingly poor taste.

  12. #12 milkshake
    December 2, 2008

    See, and I didn’t even have to make a snowmobile joke

  13. #13 Dave Bacon
    December 2, 2008


  14. #14 Neil B ?
    December 2, 2008

    Well, since things have taken a snarky turn I might as well mention the hilarious fictional visit of SH to a Mensa group in “The Simpsons” – since I’m a member of the real Mensa, it was hysterical. Money line from Hawking (his real computerized voice): “Your theory of a donut shaped universe is intriguing, Homer. I may have to steal it ….”

    PS: If you care about deep quantum questions, then I have a most basic one to consider in comments at the next post, “CIFAR quantum postdoc.” Basic summary: why doesn’t interaction with a beamsplitter etc. “collapse” a photon before it even reaches “detectors” if “detectors” aren’t really special?

  15. #15 Ian Durham
    December 2, 2008

    since I’m a member of the real Mensa, it was hysterical

    But it’s only hysterical to Mensa members. It is merely funny or, perhaps, amusing to non-members. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. #16 milkshake
    December 3, 2008

    Please don’t make insensitive comments about Mensa members – it’s not their fault. How would you like to inhabit a World where navel gazing was the only form of enjoyment available to you?

  17. #17 Pieter Kok
    December 3, 2008

    Ah, Poed! Well done milkshake ๐Ÿ˜‰

    As for the photon not decohering on a beam splitter: since the photon is not absorbed by the beam splitter*, the only way it interacts with the beam splitter is by imparting momentum dp upon reflection. However, the beam splitter (plus the optical table it is bolted to) is so heavy that the dp does not put the beam splitter in an orthogonal quantum state. Therefore, to excellent approximation, the beam splitter remains in a separable state with respect to the photon.

    *If it is, we don’t care about this event because there is no detector click.

  18. #18 Neil B
    December 3, 2008

    But milkshake, we do at least gaze at each others’ navels and not merely our own individual navels. And some cool people have been members, like Isaac Asimov! (Also, some Internet weirdos like “Uncle Al.”) Not one Nobel Prize winner thought, AFAIK. (Naturally, I want to be the first.) But we do have a taste for “arrogance”, just look at the title of my blog as well as my various claims to have seriously tickled at known physics.

    Pieter Kok, that’s a reasonable and neo-orthodox (?) way to look at the question. Yet consider, because of relative momentum considerations, perhaps we are verging on insight into “objective collapse” criteria?

  19. #19 A
    December 4, 2008

    About the photon “not decohering” at beamsplitter – actually it does, only thing is that decohering, that it quantum collapse is observer dependent (quantum analog version of special relativity property, quantum computation style)

  20. #20 andy.s
    January 8, 2009

    i can has $latex \LaTeX$ ?

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