Perimeter Institute

A Visit to the Perimeter Institute

July 3, 2007

Roy Lisker

On July 3, 2007 and a rainy Wednesday, my host in Toronto and I traveled 75 miles to pay a visit to the Perimeter Institute for Research in Mathematics and Theoretical Physics , in Waterloo, Canada.

Hardly anyone was there: most of the current fellows of the Institute were in Mexico attending a Quantum Loop Gravity conference. A simple stroll about the premises was enough to convince me that Perimeter is a mathematics research institute extraordinary in all respects in comparison to any other in the world!! Not that I've visited all of them , but this doesn't matter. Any even more extraordinary research institute would long have made front-page headlines.

Broad vistas, magnificent architecture, alcoves with chairs and blackboards on each floor, squash courts, a "Black Hole Bistro", a "Theatre of Ideas", programs for high school teachers and students, classical music concerts and more besides. The Institute lacks only a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter.

This comment is comfortably non-trivial: until these or comparable social services are incorporated into the design of scientific institutions, the established religions will always hold the upper hand over the sciences. After all, who cares if the world is 14 billion, or only 6,600 years old? But one never knows when he or she may find him or herself in need of a home and a meal.

Anyway, the building is so replete with drama, so magnificent in every respect, so fitting a tribute to the glory of mathematics and all its diligent and humble servants, that I could not resist taking pictures or everything in sight.

I'd taken about 30 or so pictures , when a research fellow, his face flush with anxiety, his gestures resonant with impatience and fear, came running out of his office to inform us that that it is forbidden to photograph the interior of the Perimeter Institute. He was very insistent, although he allowed that if I could get permission from the administration he would relinquish his watchdog status.

I went downstairs to speak with a helpful and friendly administrator by the name of LeeAnne Kane. I wanted to know if the prohibition against taking pictures had any security implications , in the wake of 9/11 and the ensuing world-wide distribution of NGTA's ("Non-governmental terrorist attacks" , as opposed to those staged by the CIA, the KGB, the Special Branch, the NSGE, Mossad and others. This is an important distinction since, according to the Bush Administration, the perpetrators of any government sanctioned terrorist attack is protected by the Geneva Conventions. )

She gave me reassurances to me that this had nothing to do with the matter. It appears that the architect himself was concerned that the omnipresent light, cascading through the myriad tesseracts that compose its windowing, might throw athwart reflections and shadows that, as distorted through the lens of a camera, would disfigure the very essence of his conception!!

A novel idea: imagine that Bela Bartok had forbidden recordings of his string quartets for all time to come , or that Charles Dickens had specified that no one be allowed to read his novels when under the effects of opium!!

It is in the spirit of revolt against absurdity, and in the belief that no one, not even an artist , has the right to carry about a chip on his shoulder, that I've opted to ignore the acute anxieties of the architect, and transmit this selection of photos of the interior of the Perimeter Institute.

As all readers of Ferment Magazine are of outstanding ethical character, I know that they will not send these pictures of the interior of the Perimeter Institute on to anyone else without express permission from its architect.

However, it was later suggested to me that there might be industrial secrets pertinent to Quantum Computing or Quantum Cryptography embedded in the chalk doodles covering the blackboards.

Possibly some readers will be able to decipher noteworthy discoveries embedded in these equations. If so, I trust them to immediately contact me with this information to share the profits.

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