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Second week Aspen

This is an overdue report about the activities in Aspen.  As to the talks I attended and liked they were as follows:

Fiona Burnell from Oxford told us about universal phase transitions in topological lattice models. While I guess I understood the main idea and appeal of the topics, there was a clear inverse perspective effect: the more details and more explanations Fiona gave the lesser my understanding got. Partly this was due to the specifics of the workshop talk: you want not only be comphrehensive in general, you wish to demonstrate that you belong to a specific community… Short way to do so is to use a specific slang without explanation,

Felix von Oppen told us about energy relaxation and thermalization of hot electrons in quantum wires. There was a tedious calculation meant to illustrate electron-hole asymmetry of energy relaxation in 1d geometry and explain thereby recent experimental findings of Amir Yacoby. The theory is all fine while I am not sure about the answer upon substituting the numbers: looked too big of an effect…

Chetan Nayak from Microsoft Station Q gave a talk about recent developments with Ising anyons and nearly Ising anyons. This reported an attempt to expand possibilities of topological quantum computation beyond its known limits, beyond braiding. While I appreciate vigour, determinance and beyond-the-road inventiveness of the authors, I could not accept the stream of the research. As to me, if you formulate a problem, you’d bring an answer at some stage. Reformulating the problem again and again just because the the answer does not look interesting not satisfying topologically-ideological constrains that lay beyond the subject itself must be an interesting educational game.

Colloquium by Joerg Schmalian, Iowa State, on the physics of Fe-pnictides was pleasantly reminiscent of my solid state youth. Was all as in good old days: new physical system, simple phenomenological approach, intriguing new symmetry revealed…

Our exercises with Leonid Glazman were about density of states in SNS systems in specific limits. Each day brought a new fancy answer that provided a fascinating picture and at the same time could make an exemplary problem in mathematical analysis: at the second-third year level. If we were ph.d. students we would know how to fill our thesises: unfortunately, the happy times have passed and, by the end of the week, we’ve decided to think of more serious stuff.

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