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Warren Buffett's vicepresident donates $65 million to UCSB visiting theoretical physicists

Charles Munger, the vice-president of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., donated over $65 million in stocks to the University of California in Santa Barbara. It's the largest individual gift to UCSB ever, beating the previous record $50 million in 2012. The university doesn't quite understand the concept of "holding stocks" so it immediately converted them to cash.

Munger wants the money to be used to house visiting theoretical physicists – probably to build a new dormitory for guests. He is impressed by the achievements of the physicists over there.




I have been to Santa Barbara about five times – and one of the visits was half a year long. That was in H1 of 2001 when I had to pay an acceptable rent as a lodger; maybe grad students on similar programs may be covered today. ;-) It is of course a wonderful place. It's also true that the people have made great contributions to physics.




This comment is particularly true when it comes to string theory. UCSB isn't an Ivy League school and most people wouldn't count it in their top ten but its contributions to string theory almost certainly place it in top 5, especially due to its (and [K]ITP's) crucial role in the early stages of the Second Superstring Revolution. I've heard quite some things about the lunch conversations of Andy Strominger and Joe Polchinski etc. – they would be good enough for a movie.

I think that the gift is very large, from both perspectives. On the recipient side, it may encourage quite some interactions among the physicists. On the donor side, the gift is equal to 6% of Munger's wealth – or 650 years of his salary. That's a lot; most people don't even work for 650 years. Bloggers in California may forget to thank him but I won't: thank you very much, Mr Munger!

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snail feedback (32) :


reader Cesar Laia said...

"Maybe, in the next 15 years, the solar panels will become 5 times cheaper or more effective, or something like that, and we will be able to switch this huge portion of the economy to "carbon-free" technologies. "


Don't think so. Photovoltaics has been around for 40 years, and we learned that progress is rather slow. There is a large number of technical difficulties to achieve such a goal in just 15 years. It will become increasing important, especially for energy microgeneration.


reader Dilaton said...

This is great for cool theoretical physics, and I thank him a lot too in case he reads TRF :-))) !

Thanks for this happy news Lumo !


reader paul said...

They also have some great condense matter physics over there. Having visited in 2005, I also agree it is a wonderful place.


reader OneString said...

I really love it when I have to scroll down two super big advertisement banners to read the text.


reader kashyap vasavada said...

This is great news. It comes at a time when U.S. govt is giving up on support for basic research. This probably proves that scientists should give publicity to their new discoveries in words which general public and especially rich people understand !! Of course I am not saying that they should engage in hype!


reader Gene Day said...

UCSB already has its share of Nobel Laureates, including my mentor, Herb Kroemer, who won his physics Nobel in 2000.
I’m sure that David Gross is just delighted.


reader Curious George said...

Let's follow Germany's lead on reducing CO2.


reader Luboš Motl said...

With all my appreciation for David Gross' traces of asceticism that must be hiding somewhere as well, I also think that he must be feel some ecstasy now! ;-)


reader Luboš Motl said...

Your protectorate-like-sounding slogan is based on complete bullšit. Germany's CO2 emissions were obviously rising, as a trend, in recent years

http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Germany-CO2-Emissions.png


reader Luboš Motl said...

These are not the largest banners. There also exists the 300 x 600 large skyscraper.


At any rate, I can tell you how much money you may send me for me to remove the ads for a month.


reader john said...

To my knowledge Princeton (including IAS of course) is the 1st, Harvard is the 2nd and UCSB and Caltech shate 3rd and 4th places. Who is the 5th one ? Stanford ? Rutgers ?


reader OneString said...

1. I said I love them.

2. I think you lost your mind.


reader Rehbock said...

I am surprised that you are bothered given the vanishingly small cost to read the most excellent TRF. If the money ever flows to blogs based solely on merit, I am sure we would see fewer ads here and fewer blogs elsewhere,
Meantime if you cant find the donate button amidst the ads that is a valid concern. 😉


reader Dilaton said...

I almost wanted to say a similar thing:

If there would be enough nice people who feel some love for fundamental physics and who have enough financial power too, the trolling governemental funding decisions could be ignored ...

However, I am not sure if more publicity in popular media channels would help to find such good people. The popular media channels are dominated by ignorant dilettants and even agressive trolls. So the first task of real good physicists would be to clean things up and blow the omnipresent vermin away by a globally coordinated effort, before they could start explaining cool nice physics to seriously interested non experts.


reader John Archer said...

You're out of tune.


reader tomandersen said...

Already, if solar panel cost was zero it would still be a euro per kWh, once it's transmited stored and built .


reader Petros said...

Mr. Munger's son, Charles T. Munger Jr. is an experimental particle physicist with affiliations at Stanford/SLAC and UC Berkley. His major HEP experiment was Mark II at SLAC, where the number of neutrinos in the Standard Model was shown to be less than 4 by studying the invisible width of the Z. Since then, he appears to be working on QED and EDM experiments. Don't know whether physics was discussed at dinner tables, but it must had positive influence.

The funny thing though is Mr. Munger's donations go to building residences for grad students and researchers: Stanford Munger Graduate Residence, Michigan Law school housing, Michigan grad students residence, and now the UCSB KITP residence :-)


reader smolin strikes again! said...

after throwing lisi under the bus, smolin is hyping is next garrett "ed witten is a dick" lisis: http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=7247#comments "Dear Peter,

If the conferees want an answer to the question “Are there any plausible alternatives to string/M-theory as a fundamental theory of physics?” they ought to invite some of the people contributing to the development of such alternatives and have an honest examination of the question. They have plenty to choose from, they could start with the speakers at Loops 13, which 200 people attended:http://www.pirsa.org/C13029.

Fifteen or twenty years ago it was possible to say that string theory was more promising than its alternatives, and indeed 15 years ago I switched my research from LQG to M theory. But I think that any objective evaluation of the evidence has to credit much more substantial progress has taken place since concerning the alternatives; especially spin foam models, but also other background independent approaches including shape dynamics, CDT, group field theory and tensor models, etc."



Smolin studies M Theory and not LQG? Since when?


Is this more smolinspeak?


reader Makayla Oxley said...

PDF z Bieleho domu ma viac anomalii, napriklad podpis matky Dunham v
18a. je "D" - v greyscale, a "unham" ako BW, co by aj najstupidnejsi
Obamov poskok nedokazal prehliadnut, resp. nemal dovod takto sfusovat,
takze sa priklanam k nazoru, ze sa aj tato anomalia vytvorila
automaticky v SW pri jeho snahe zvysit kompresiu pomocou rozpoznavania
objektov.

NyLotto


reader mesocyclone said...

Let's hope he nailed the parameters down tightly, or UCSB will use it to study climate change, or some other green nonsense.


reader Peter F. said...

He he isn't (reading it) then someone ought to urge him to do so! :-)


reader ChrisFahlman said...

Sweden, Switzerland, France, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Norway: all are now non-nuclear or have plans to reduce it drastically. At the same time, they want to reduce carbon emissions. Lots of energy experts would say this is silly. But the Euros create pseudo-experts and, like the best lawyer defending a case, use them to tell a story that flatters their opinions rather than challenging them.



This shows that they are unserious at a fundamental level. But this is predictable, since it happened before!



The Euro-project displays a similar unseriousness. All experts saying that it was a non-optimal currency area, and that a fiscal union might be needed were ignored. And are still ignored even though it is obvious they were right after the total financial and political catastrophe which is ongoing.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Right, the energy regulator on Thursday was saying the same things. Having non-nuclear renewable energy for the bulk of needs is silly in any near future.


Still, your precise description has a solution. All the countries you mentioned may import energy from others. Well, energy when it's needed. Germany etc. creates lots of irregular pinwheel energy. And the rest of Europe may compensate for this stuff. We just need to be properly paid for that.


Of course, the flawed energy strategy is just one aspect of the EU unrestricted insanitization. These people have largely lose contact with reality on all issues, and they are given unrestricted power. Just to be sure, the national governments still matter but the "main spirit" of the common policies is dictated by the detached bureaucrats flying somewhere in the vacuum of Brussels.


reader Curious George said...

Exactly. Let's follow Germany's lead on CO2 - and maybe France's lead on budget deficits. Proclamations are cheap.


reader Andrew Kidd said...

Munger Jr. is also a very prominent conservative activist! So much again for the "Republican War on Science!"


reader Luboš Motl said...

Right. I wanted to embed a few videos with his views on Occupy Street and related things, but I decided not to politicize this discussion.


reader cynholt said...

America Ranks 26th In The Developed World For Math

http://www.oecd.org/pisa/keyfindings/PISA-2012-results-US.pdf

The US doesn't value education, it values credentials. And math/science has very poor esteem culturally. You can't be good at something you don't value.


reader ny-ktahn said...

Housing is a great thing. It is a basic necessity. A home,good food and support go a long way. The absence induces feelings and behavior that are completely alien to the uninitiated observer. In situations where someone lacks one or more of the mentioned and engages in discourse with people about the situation, a few things happen. a) The environment displays indifference because society has taught us that in the face of suffering difference is a sign of strength. b) Further attempts to explain how you feel would result in specific psychiatric classification. c) At this point all credibility is taken away from you. It is sad that people feel so confident about this to issue diagnosis. What this man has done is great!
FYI~ I am not a conspiracy theorist, but you can call me one if it makes life worth while for you.


reader ny-ktahn said...

I meant indifferencen


reader ny-ktahn said...

indifference*


reader SteveBrooklineMA said...

Interview with Naomi Oreskes in the NY Times today, FYI.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/28/science/naomi-oreskes-imagines-the-future-history-of-climate-change.html


reader RAF III said...

And yet this happened: http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/197359/