Thursday, May 31, 2007

KITPC opening II

(Continued from here)

So, the KITPC is open, on time, remarkably, after only a year and a half of the idea being mooted. The six story building has been formally opened, lectures have been held, students are seen buzzing around, the blackboards are full of musings and equations and though the smell of coffee hasn't yet infused the walls, I'm sure that's only a matter of time.

The opening ceremony was held in one of the grand rooms of the Great Hall of the People. Fred Kavli himself came along and gave a rousing speech, discussing his long term dream to be able to add to the sum total of humanity and indeed with 14 institutes set up around the world allowing for the cultivation and exchange of ideas and theories on both the most theoretical and applied ideas in the sciences, it seems that his dreams are being fulfilled. He spoke of his high esteem for the Chinese, both culturally and from an academic standpoint. At 80 years old, he walks tall and speaks powerfully on a topic which has clearly driven him to do great things, both financially and in parallel philanthropically.

A short extract from Wikipedia:

Already in his early teens while attending Firda Landsgymnas high school in Sandane this entrepreneur had visions of doing something for the good of humanity. A deeply philosophical person he is influenced by his high school studies of Nietzsche, Kant, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner and Dostoyevsky.

At 14 together with his brother Aslak he began his first enterprise creating wood pellet fuel for cars. During these early years during the Second World War and the Nazi occupation of Norway he experienced dramatic incidents. Due to the lack of fuel he would regularly steal fuel and lubricants from the enemy. Only luck saved him and his brother when they were observed by a German airplane patrol while smuggling weapons to relatives in the mountains.

The following speakers talked not only about the great efforts which have gone into creating the KITPC but also of the future efforts which will be necessary in order to place the institute as a true, international centre for excellence.

Michael Freedman
gave a talk entitled 'How topology will save Moore's law'. This was on the topic of quantum computation and in particular how one can study two-dimensional systems of interacting electrons, the topological states of which can be manipulated to give 'natural' quantum computers. If you get a chance to see Michael speak, this is a good advanced public level lecture and his musings on artificial intelligence emerging from a quantum system are interesting, if not terribly well-founded. Note that this is not the strong conjecture of consciousness emerging from quantum mechanics in the brain (a la Penrose). My uncle, sister and friend came along and with a psychology and two mathematics degrees between them agreed that they understood a lot more than they had expected to.

Around 11 we left the Great Hall of the People and headed into the furnace outside. We knew that it was hot, but hadn't realised that it was the hottest day in Beijing for over 50 years - 39 degrees in Tiananmen. I spent the next few hours going around Qianmen market nearby with my family, dodging in and out of the shadows and haggling for gifts to take back home.

I didn't have a chance to see the lectures which resumed on Saturday afternoon in the KITPC. The two day conference on frontiers in physics included talks on extra-planetary life, string cosmology, quantum computing, laser powered particle acceleration and much more.

The Powerpoint files can be found here and videos should follow.

Now the first of the programs, 'quantum phases of matter' is starting officially tomorrow and I will try and give an update when video files start to be uploaded.

Again, I urge people to come along to these programs and please contact me if you have any questions about coming to China.

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