A Double Conference

Here’s a cool way to cut carbon emissions: a double conference. The idea is to have a conference in two faraway locations connected by live video stream, to reduce the amount of long-distance travel!

Even better, it’s about a great subject:

• Higher algebra and mathematical physics, August 13–17, 2018, Perimeter Institute, Waterloo, Canada, and Max Planck Institute for Mathematics, Bonn, Germany.

Here’s the idea:

“Higher algebra” has become important throughout mathematics, physics, and mathematical physics, and this conference will bring together leading experts in higher algebra and its mathematical physics applications. In physics, the term “algebra” is used quite broadly: any time you can take two operators or fields, multiply them, and write the answer in some standard form, a physicist will be happy to call this an “algebra”. “Higher algebra” is characterized by the appearance of a hierarchy of multilinear operations (e.g. A-infinity and L-infinity algebras). These structures can be higher categorical in nature (e.g. derived categories, cohomology theories), and can involve mixtures of operations and co-operations (Hopf algebras, Frobenius algebras, etc.). Some of these notions are purely algebraic (e.g. algebra objects in a category), while others are quite geometric (e.g. shifted symplectic structures).

An early manifestation of higher algebra in high-energy physics was supersymmetry. Supersymmetry makes quantum field theory richer and thus more complicated, but at the same time many aspects become more tractable and many problems become exactly solvable. Since then, higher algebra has made numerous appearances in mathematical physics, both high- and low-energy._

Participation is limited. Some financial support is available for early-career mathematicians. For more information and to apply, please visit the conference website of the institute closer to you:

North America: http://www.perimeterinstitute.ca/HAMP
Europe: http://www.mpim-bonn.mpg.de/HAMP

If you have any questions, please write to double.conference.2018@gmail.com.

One of the organizers, Aaron Mazel-Gee, told me:

We are also interested in spreading the idea of double conferences more generally: we’re hoping that our own event’s success inspires other academic communities to organize their own double conferences. We’re hoping to eventually compile a sort of handbook to streamline the process for others, so that they can learn from our own experiences regarding the various unique challenges that organizing such an event poses. Anyways, all of this is just to say that I would be happy for you to publicize this event anywhere that it might reach these broader audiences.

So, if you’re interested in having a double conference, please contact the organizers of this one for tips on how to do it! I’m sure they’ll have better advice after they’ve actually done it. I’ve found that the technical details really matter for these things: it can be very frustrating when they don’t work correctly. Avoiding such problems requires testing everything ahead of time—under conditions that exactly match what you’re planning to do!

4 Responses to A Double Conference

  1. Blake Stacey says:

    That’s a neat idea!

    • That is indeed a neat idea. I’m thinking that maybe one can extend the idea to each of the participants using their own network feed, and that would then cut the travel way down.

    • John Baez says:

      People keep saying that the problem with these nontraditional conference formats is that people can’t chat informally, for example at lunch and dinner—this being one of the main things that makes conferences productive.

      That’s true!

      And I keep advocating a hotel chain where people can have a conference in a room with video links to rooms in other branches of the chain…. featuring a restaurant that has video booths where people can have dinner with someone at another branch. If you had a good video screen running the length of the table, the illusion of sharing a meal might be pretty good… though you couldn’t ask someone to pass the salt.

      I think we need to try things like this.

  2. domenico says:

    I am thinking that it should be interesting to create a virtual conference (with people who stay in many different universities, or at home), with speakers who see the audience like avatars on the screen, like seated in a virtual theater (by checking the attention requesting that the software verify that the the mouse is moved sometimes); with the possibility to chat with only neighbors (chosen to bring distant people closer), exchange messages, save the talks and save the slides, asks the speakers questions, vote for the speakers; it would be nice to exchange a few chats after the conference in a virtual hall for further information and contacts.
    The cost of the conferences, transports, restaurants and overnight would be reduced for universities increasing the research spending, and reducing the carbon emission of a conference; and all would be available to scholars, spreading knowledge.
    A single, and simple, open source tools could be provided to all, with a test tool to verify that everything work before a conference.

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