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September 24, 2013

Clay Mathematics Conference

Posted by John Baez

A while back, Bruce Bartlett announced a Workshop on Quantum Mathematics and Computation at Oxford. But that’s part of a bigger thing:

Clay Research Conference, September 29 – October 4, 2013, Oxford University.

Here are a few talks that look fun to me:

  • Ed Witten will give us a “new look” at the Jones polynomial, an invariant of knots related to quantum field theory.
  • Steve Awodey and Vladimir Voevodsky will talk about homotopy type theory.
  • Martin Hyland will talk about functional interpretations of type theory.
  • Anton Zeilinger will talk about experiments with entangled photons.
  • Eric Allender will talk about relationships between computational complexity and algorithmic information theory.
  • Maxim Kontsevich, Ed Witten, Sergei Gukov and Dirk Kreimer will talk about connections between number theory and physics — I don’t see titles for these talks yet!

Among nn-Café regulars, David Corfield, Minhyong Kim, Jamie Vicary and Jeffrey Morton will be there. Who else?

I’ll be there, and I’ll talk about categorified quantum mechanics:

You may remember an old puzzle here on the nn-Café, about two different ways to ‘categorify the Heisenberg algebra’. The first showed up in the work of Domenico Fiorenza, Chris Rogers and Urs Schreiber on higher symplectic geometry: just as the Heisenberg Lie algebra arises naturally from a symplectic vector space, we get a Lie 2-algebra from a ‘2-plectic vector space’, and so on. The second, a version of the associative Heisenberg algebra where the canonical commutation relations hold only up to isomorphism, showed up in Khovanov’s work on representation theory, and again—in a somewhat different guise—in Jeffrey Morton and Jamie Vicary’s work on spans of groupoids as a categorified version of operators between Hilbert spaces.

I have nothing to say about the relation between these two gadgets; indeed they seem quite different to me. The first is not really ‘categorifying’ the Heisenberg Lie algebra; it’s using higher categorical ideas to generalize the Heisenberg Lie algebra from the symplectic case to the nn-plectic case. The second is really categorifying the associative Heisenberg algebra, in that we can apply a standard decategorification process and get back that algebra.

But I’ll say a bit about how the second one shows up in physics, since this had been rather unclear up to now. Briefly, whenever we have a 4-dimensional (or higher-dimensional) TQFT, we get ‘2-Fock space’: a 2-Hilbert space that describes collections of particle-like topological defects. And then, we get an action of Morton and Vicary’s categorified Heisenberg algebra on this 2-Fock space.

One goal of my talk is to discuss some work by my former students, since it fits together in nice patterns that I haven’t seen people talking about. I especially mean these papers:

Posted at September 24, 2013 1:34 AM UTC

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4 Comments & 0 Trackbacks

Re: Clay Mathematics Conference

I’d be interested to hear what this talk reveals:

Fernando Rodriguez Villegas
The Birch—Swinnerton–Dyer Conjecture: a Status Report

Posted by: David Roberts on September 24, 2013 5:35 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Clay Mathematics Conference

It was a great overview talk, even I understood some chunks of it. It was just that though - a status report, not new results. It started with 5 min of “historical thoughts” by Bryan Birch.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on October 2, 2013 7:00 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Clay Mathematics Conference

I’d like to get down there, but it’s the first week of term for us, so it’ll be rather busy here then.

Posted by: Simon Willerton on September 25, 2013 10:22 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Clay Mathematics Conference

Darn.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on October 2, 2013 11:52 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

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