I have just returned from the annual Society of Fellows dinner in the Fogg museum; a previous report from a similar event is here. It was a lot of fun. I have consumed about 6 glasses of Scotch with water, white wine, red wine, and champagne, and my immediate inability to determine the equilibrium horizontal SO(2) subgroup of SO(3) (or to hit the right key on the keyboard) is far from being unmeasurable. I am curious how this text will look to me tomorrow. ;-) As you can guess, I am trying to make the influence of the alcohol undetectable but it is not quite a trivial task. One thing seems clear: the human ability to control himself or herself can be compromised by toxic compounds a lot before the influence becomes truly damaging. ;-)
The event has been entertaining and one could have learned many things. Diane Morse, the secretary of the Society of Fellows, was celebrating 60 years last week so we were singing stupid drunk songs for her - congratulations! - and I was sitting next to Amy who is currently an extremely helpful part-time assistant of Diane. She told me a lot of interesting things, for example about her four-day-long stay in Canada after 9/11/2001 - the day of my PhD defense. She also follows all the stories of the daughters and sons of the recent fellows and the fellows from the recent past.
Christine Forman-Jones who was a junior fellow between 1975 and 1978 explained me how the Harvard-Smithsonian center for astrophysics really looks like and how it works, together with some incredibly unlikely stories involving her family and the collaboration with their prominent Russian colleagues. (Sorry, Willie, but she does not believe that you're right about the climate - maybe next time.) In fact, Christine was also the person who introduced the profession of the chocolate stewards into the Society of Fellows - a great idea because chocolate may often be a pleasing material - and who was able to codify that the single fellows are getting the same financial support as the married ones which was not the case in 1975.
Joel Primack from University of California at Santa Cruz (where I spent the first six months of 2000), another former junior fellow, told me about the recent observations from Namibia, Western Africa, that indicate a multi-TeV cold dark matter particle. It sounds like exciting news except that it could jeopardize my bet about supersymmetry with Michal Fabinger who attended the dinner, too. Prof. Primack also informed me that the statements about the 511 keV annihilation spectral lines coming from the galactic center are garbage, and because I don't have any sufficient independent verification algorithms, I cautiously trust this eminent dark matter expert and co-founder of the cold dark matter paradigm. Christine Forman recommended me to trust him, too.
Noel Goddard, a current junior fellow focusing on biology and physics, remained a shining example of an attractive member of the elite club who also knows how to talk about her field. She has partly identified herself with the Czech national character, partly because of dumplings-pork-cabbage, a Czech national food.
One of the current fellows whose identity should remain anonymous told us that Boston does not have a sufficient appreciation for sexuality - in a sharp contrast with the New York City - which induces a significant amount of frustration to this junior fellow from the South and probably not only to her or him. This fellow has also agreed with me that the people who complain about the discrimination of women don't have any idea how a real discrimination of women looks like - for example how the wives must call their husbands in certain states of the Union.
Another current junior fellow, when asked what is happening in his or her field, told me that he or she has not looked at the answer for a couple of years :-), but he or she is always able to provide the field with relatively important contributions. It is the kind of entertaining and independent answer that highlights the creative freedom that the Harvard junior fellows enjoy.
Well, I am also partly looking forward to the moment when I can ignore the relatively nonsensical topics that other people are working on, and focus on the obviously important questions that can clearly be answered if one looks at them systematically and rationally for a certain period of time. ;-) I've tried to convince our own Xi Yin, a new junior fellow from 2006, that it may be a useful idea to determine the relative normalization of the probabilistic weight of different topologies in an OSV/OVV ensemble - something that could identify the compactifications with small topological invariants (such as the Hodge numbers) as the preferred ones.
Morgan Liu has offered, among other things, an interesting analysis how the fellows from different fields are able to present their field as the most fundamental one: anthropology, philosophy, physics, and so on. I was happy to see Noah Feldman again: still alive and doing well. This young star NYU lawyer is a living piece of evidence of the fact that the Western civilization has not yet died, despite its slightly problematic co-existence with the Islamic world. Shahab Ahmed was sitting next to Noah.
Once again, it's been fun and I am curious whether this report is going to look like an acceptable one tomorrow, despite the predictable hangover that might interfere with my duty to call the Continental Airlines again and with other duties of mine ;-).