Ah. This is just perfect. I actually looked into my Institute For Advanced Study news magazine this time around and noticed a gem I’d like to share. Edward Witten gave a lovely talk entitled Knots and Quantum Theory for a (sort of) general audience, and there is video of it available. Ever wondered why mathematicians study knots? Why do physicists care? What do they bring to the table? Well, this could be a talk for you to take out a bit of time to watch.
Not long ago I wrote a post about Ed, his huge influence on the field of theoretical physics, and some of his role in my own development as a physicist during my time at the IAS back in the early 90s. You can read about that here. It was a wonderful time for me (and of course for physics) back then, during the development of powerful ideas and techniques in string theory, quantum field theory, and through those, areas of mathematics (that was roughly the same time that features heavily in Brian Greene’s book The Elegant Universe – we were members there at the same time). I’ll ought to write more about that period one day.
Here is the link to the talk: [mp4: big, small], from the IAS Friends of the Institute page, which I urge you to read. It is nice to note that Ed is really flowing nicely through the subject here (I’ve listened to 50% of it so far). The talk is nicely paced, understandable at many levels (if you are patient enough to follow it through, and perhaps stray beyond the edge of your comfort zone a bit), with nice touches of light humour and heavy doses of insight from the undisputed master of this sort of beautiful and powerful combination of mathematics and physics. It brings back happy memories, just listening to him talk about this stuff after (for me) so very long.