Talks by John Baez

The Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection

John Baez University of California

In 1930, the famous statistician and geneticist Ronald Fisher claimed to have proved a "fundamental theorem of natural selection". He compared this result to the second law of thermodynamics, and described it as holding "the supreme position among the biological sciences". But others found it obscure, and in its most obvious interpretation it is simply false. Luckily there is a true result closely resembling Fisher's claim: a general theorem connecting dynamical systems and information theory. I'll explain this, give the very simple proof, and draw a few conclusions.

Can We Understand the Standard Model Using Octonions?

John Baez University of California
Dubois-Violette and Todorov have shown that the Standard Model gauge group can be constructed using the exceptional Jordan algebra, consisting of 3×3 self-adjoint matrices of octonions. After an introduction to the physics of Jordan algebras, we ponder the meaning of their construction. For example, it implies that the Standard Model gauge group consists of the symmetries of an octonionic qutrit that restrict to symmetries of an octonionic qubit and preserve all the structure arising from a choice of unit imaginary octonion.

Can We Understand the Standard Model?

John Baez University of California
40 years trying to go beyond the Standard Model hasn't yet led to any clear success. As an alternative, we could try to understand why the Standard Model is the way it is. In this talk we review some lessons from grand unified theories and also from recent work using the octonions. The gauge group of the Standard Model and its representation on one generation of fermions arises naturally from a process that involves splitting 10d Euclidean space into 4+6 dimensions, but also from a process that involves splitting 10d Minkowski spacetime into 4d Minkowski space and 6 spacelike dimensions.

Energy and the Environment - What Physicists Can Do

John Baez University of California
The global warming crisis is part of a bigger transformation in which humanity realizes that the Earth is a finite system and that our population, energy usage, and the like cannot continue to grow exponentially. While politics and economics pose the biggest challenges, physicists are in a good position to help make this transition a bit easier. After a quick review of the problems, we discuss a few ways physicists can help. 

Higher-Dimensional Algebra: A Language for Quantum Spacetime

John Baez University of California
Category theory is a general language for describing things and processes - called "objects" and "morphisms". In this language, many counterintuitive features of quantum theory turn out to be properties shared by the category of Hilbert spaces and the category of cobordisms, in which objects are choices of "space" and emorphisms are choices of "spacetime". This striking fact suggests that "n-categories with duals" are a promising language for a quantum theory of spacetime.