The Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation presents the HLF Portraits: Edward Witten

# Author Archives: physicsgg

# Exploring Gravitational Lensing

**Tilman Sauer, Tobias Schütz**

In this article, we discuss the idea of gravitational lensing, from a systematic, historical and didactic point of view. We show how the basic lensing equation together with the concepts of geometrical optics opens a space of implications that can be explored along different dimensions. We argue that Einstein explored the idea along different pathways in this space of implication, and that these explorations are documented by different calculational manuscripts. The conceptualization of the idea of gravitational lensing as a space of exploration also shows the feasibility of discussing the idea in the classroom using some of Einstein’s manuscripts.

Read more https://arxiv.org/pdf/1905.07174.pdf

# Einstein’s biggest mistake?

**Gary J. Ferland**

What, if any, was Einstein’s biggest mistake, the one most affecting our physics today? There is a perhaps apocryphal story, recounted by George Gamow, that he counted his cosmological constant as his biggest blunder. We now know his hypothesized cosmological constant to be correct. His lifelong rejection of quantum mechanics, an interesting side-story in the evolution of 20th-century physics, is a candidate. None of these introduced difficulties in how our physics is done today. It can be argued that his biggest actual mistake, one that affects many subfields of physics and chemistry and bewilders students today, occurred in his naming of his A and B coefficients…

Read more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1905.09276.pdf

# Planetary Poles and Magnetic Fields

Dr Meghan Gray chats about magnetic fields and the Earth’s changeable poles.

# Quantum Computing as a High School Module

**Anastasia Perry, Ranbel Sun, Ciaran Hughes, Joshua Isaacson, Jessica Turner**

Quantum computing is a growing field at the intersection of physics and computer science. This module introduces three of the key principles that govern how quantum computers work: superposition, quantum measurement, and entanglement. The goal of this module is to bridge the gap between popular science articles and advanced undergraduate texts by making some of the more technical aspects accessible to motivated high school students. Problem sets and simulation based labs of various levels are included to reinforce the conceptual ideas described in the text. This is intended as a one week course for high school students between the ages of 15-18 years. The course begins by introducing basic concepts in quantum mechanics which are needed to understand quantum computing.

Read more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1905.00282.pdf

# THAT Black Hole picture

Mike Merrifield, Omar Almaini and Meghan Gray react to the much-anticipated black hole photo from the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration.

# Joe Polchinski Memorial Lecture: A Brief History of Branes

**Paul Townsend (University of Cambridge, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, UK)**

Abstract of the memorial lecture “A Brief History of Branes”: Joe Polchinski made many groundbreaking discoveries in theoretical physics. This talk will focus on his contributions to the circle of ideas that led to M-theory in the late 1990s, especially his work of the 1980s on supermembranes (’86) and D-branes and T-duality (’89). This will be part of a survey of the changing role of branes in physics, with personal commentary on various related topics (such as M-branes, U-dualities, black branes) in supergravity and string theory.

Polchinski was a professor at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His great contributions to theoretical physics, including the discovery of D-branes –– a type of membrane in string theory –– have led to advances in the understanding of string theory and quantum gravity. In 2008, he shared ICTP’s Dirac Medal with Juan Maldacena and Cumrun Vafa for their fundamental contributions to superstring theory. The three scientists’ profound achievements have helped to address outstanding questions like confinement of quarks and QCD mass spectrum from a new perspective and have found applications in practical calculations. In addition to the Dirac Medal, Polchinski was awarded the American Physical Society’s 2007 Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics, the Milner Foundation’s Physics Frontiers Prize in 2013 and 2014, as well as the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. His work touched the lives of many ICTP scientists, from the hundreds who attended his lectures to those who worked directly with him.