Friday, June 5, 2015

Workshop + Conference @ The Fields Institute

"The year of the 100th anniversary of the formulation of Einstein's General Relativity will be remembered as the least productive one for the general-relativity community."

This is what I've heard more than once during the time spent at The Fields Institute in Toronto these weeks :-)
The Institute is organizing a long Focus Program to celebrate the centenary of one of Einstein's greatest achievements, the formulation of a relativistic theory of gravitational interactions, General Relativity for short.

The reason for the pessimist statement above is that this is only one of the numerous events that have been organized around the world to celebrate this important discovery. Now that the term ended, scientists are more free to travel to conferences and workshops and, to save time and money, it's very common to go directly from one conference to another on the week after. This does not leave too much time to sit down and do "actual" work.

Last week I've attended a very interesting workshop on Perturbation Theory which was organized here at the Field Institute as part of the Focus Program. This week instead the Institute is hosting a conference on Black Holes which ends today. Speakers at the conference included Clifford Will, Saul Teukolsky, Robert Wald, Eric Poisson, Gary Horowitz and William Unruh, to mention a few. Personally, I found the workshop much more stimulating and useful than the conference, but it's certainly suggestive to take the opportunity to discuss with some of the fathers of modern General Relativity.

This coming summer will be very busy with other events, especially in July and August, so I tend to agree that year 2015 will not be the most fruitful one in terms of actual work done.

On the other hand, do not underestimate the importance for the community to gather together and discuss open problems and (possibly) crazy ideas! Peer discussion and new collaborations are at the core of the scientific process and they are a crucial part of the duties of any scientist.  For this reason I am positive that the discussions and the collaborations that originate during these meetings will certainly contribute to solve open problems in the field and, who knows, perhaps the next breakthrough is just around the corner in 2016!

Doing a short tour of Toronto with Helvi Witek. Helvi was Ph.D. student in Lisbon when I moved there 4 years ago and she is now postdoc at Cambridge University working on numerical simulations of black-hole systems.

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