Wednesday, June 17, 2009

First Principles by Howard Burton

After returning home from our little vacation, I've hunkered down to read, and I thought this would be a good time to come to know of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada and how it started up.

As you know I've linked the Q2c site coming in September as well as I think after ten years this Institute has done a very good job of promoting a science based view toward the latest in the science frontiers.

Mike Lazaridis Donates Additional $50 Million to Perimeter Institute

In his remarks on behalf of the Government of Ontario, The Honourable John Wilkinson, Minister of Research and Innovation said: "Ontario's $3B Innovation Agenda focuses on our government acting as a catalyst to support our top researchers and entrepreneurs - extraordinary people like Mike Lazaridis who are leading the way to turn groundbreaking ideas and innovation into Ontario's next generation of jobs. Ontario's commitment to fundamental and applied research has not only been informed but also inspired by Mike's personal commitment to innovation, and his contributions to the Perimeter Institute. That's why our government has already invested over $65M to support this important initiative. This new investment will strengthen the Institute and the government-industry partnerships that have made it possible, and help us to continue to attract the world-class talent and the scientific knowledge Ontario needs to compete in the 21st century."See: Mike Lazaridis Donates Additional $50 Million to Perimeter Institute

Now you should know that I had received earlier notice of Howard's book from Bee of Backreaction. I have always been under the notion that what can be learnt can be learnt from all ages and there is no one aspect that we can not learn from, when we read and write about the thoughts of bloggers who have something to share with regard to their own journeys.

Bee of Backreaction writes:
The book tells the story of the first years of Perimeter Institute. From Mike Lazaridis' donation, over the search for a name, for a mission, for a location, the joy of building constructions, the hiring of the first faculty members, the establishment of PI's public outreach program, and the successful acquisition of governmental funding, to Howard's departure.

It is very entertainingly written and quite informative in addition, though I admittedly had hoped for more gossip stories about the research and the researchers. The chapter about who talked to whom when and where to pull the strings for governmental support is somewhat lengthy and tiresome, but provides interesting inside views. The book also has an amusing chapter titled "The Trouble with Physicists" about the difficulties in saving scientists from administrating themselves into dysfunctionality. I'm very tempted to quote the funniest paragraphs, but I think you should read the book yourself. It comes with some characterizations of well-known physicists that are quite to the point indeed.

The book is probably more interesting if you know some of the people involved, but besides this it conveys authentically and passionately the fascination, joy and importance of theoretical physics. Overall recommendable. If this was an Amazon review, I'd give 5 stars.
Howard Burton: First Principles

I think this is what I like most that what can be revealed in our blogging encounters, that what was written can go out toward the public to what had be done for me in the exposure of a book. I scoured the bookshop shelves for something interesting to read about science. Of course, in this case it was Howard' Burton's book First Principles.

At 5:18 PM, April 09, 2009, Blogger Plato said...

I have been watch this developing institution as well. In a weird sort of way feeling quite proud that such an institution was given impetus out of which an appreciation for developing of the science perspective was displayed here in the north, by Lazardis

I really don't think it is a Ivory Tower that is being described while Turok resides in his position. Just that what you do as a theorist is brought in line with cosmology. It's much like working the LHC and see that it is working from two perspectives, not just one.

I don't see anything wrong with that.

Nice to see a few prominent names like Susskind, Hawking and Hooft associated with PI.

When I seen the name of the book and the time you spent at PI Howard I was drawn to the idea of what Condense Matter theorists spoke of, in the same way Robert Laughlin looked at how he might describe the "foundational basis" that Phil was talking about.

Witten and others understood the condensed matter point of view as well.

Again I will read the book once finding it.


Now you must know something about this lay person who writes this blog. Previous to Howard's selective title I came across this term when I was looking for some basis as if in equatorial description that was simple to think it has some relation in algorithmic proportion that this could be the basis of all organization thought that could have exploded amongst the computer world. The very essence and core of our being as it was translated to reveal the very nature of who we are as beings.

This is when I came upon my own "Correlations of Cognition," as the condense matter theorist came to mind. I saw this relevance in how organization could be thought of at a fundamental level. Here in this case, "string theory" held my mind. So when I seen Howard's title of his book it resonated with me, for this is something that had stayed with me for years as I've remained part of the blogging experience of scientists and their engagements with each other.

How is it you then I could not learn to think, that by experiment, that one could line up two counter and oppositional points of view, to see what can be held as truth, and what remains as abstraction of the theoretical division of exploration. You know that what can reside internally as to the mode of operation as to what is self evident(arche), is something that you can place in the external world as well.

So Howard and young students become "mindful of the conduct becoming" and we see this value orientation as to the discussions between scientists. Some students become discouraged and subtle voices strain to speak,"May the ole work horses die?":)

The Book

Anyway I am on page 47 for those readers that have their books. I recognize some aspect of what Mike Lazaridis likes in Howard as to the letter he wrote, preparing the way for his future as to what? I see this fateful discerningly as to a course of action, to much in how after serving their time in the academics, that they must make their way to the financial responsibility toward providing food and sustenance to the family. No fooling around now is there.

So the letter is a spark of genius in terms of putting it out there for hire. Mike Lazaridis recognized something in himself, in what was written by Howard Burton. Mike Lazaridis although an engineer, was was much like him? Avenues to freedom then were the ability to put together a plan once accepting the job, and Howard ability to get to work even though it didn't seem like Howard Burton had a job, was exactly what Mike seem to me what he was looking for.

I liked Chris Isham too, in his explanations, and toward this regard, Chris Isham reminded me of Penrose. I found it kind of odd that later on as Howard is making his way gathering information on Institutes that when again visiting Isham that there was a distance and unknowing attribute of who Howard was? I find this strange when mentioning about his wife and who was meet first as to consequence of saying?


  1. Hi Plato,

    Just to say as I related on Bee’s site that I have just finished the book. On the surface for the best part it’s simply a straight narrative of Burton’s experiences through it all. Yet when you take it all as a whole it gives one more then a peek into what Burton thinks, holds as important and cares about. The synopsis or crystallization of this is found in a late chapter entitled “ The 3 Percent Solution “.

    Although you might feel that Perimeter is only to be bettered in its purpose and direction under Turok, I wouldn’t say he holds exactly the same overall vision as Burton has which he imprinted onto it during his time. I’m not saying the science of the place will not do better, yet rather the work of science will not fare as well. If Mike Lazaridis and Perimeter’s board had any true wisdom they would plead with Burton to become it’s outreach director and leave him with the autonomy to mould, run and expand it his very insightful way.



  2. Hi Phil,

    For somebody who had never started an institute before and then, to see it having gone on to become a first class institute,
    saids much as you point out about Howard's ability.

    It's hard to substitute on the job training with any course on institute building and that's if there was a course out there.

    I'll have to refresh my memory on the 3 percent.


  3. Phil comments:Yet the most valuable thing I found it to be, was in its telling the story of a wonderful adventure of a man who took up a challenge that in itself amounts as being a work of discovery. The discoveries which Howard made, as like science itself, still remains incomplete. Yet due to the vision he formed, which was brought to be realized provided the strong foundations required for its successful continuance.

    Yes Phil, this sums it up nicely.

    It is not without some understanding on my part that a nonprofit was started by myself, sat as a chairman on another, to see that what one can help direct toward inception, could then be transformed into a life of it's own. Mission statement, bylaws, and constitution formation. I felt much the same in terms of education and making available to donate books to help educate in another attempt by others.

    So as I read I understood the attempt and work given here to provide and direct, although my attempts not on the scale seen by Howard. My feelings toward the societal deliverance of hope and a excitement brewing quite real in seeing this unfold. It's as if as Mike saids it, "that there is something on the horizon" and I feel it too.

    Howard should be proud of this work as you show it's importance "as founder" along with the financial incentive of Lazaridis.


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  5. Hi Plato,

    “I'll have to refresh my memory on the 3 percent.”

    In as like myself, you are not one of those that are actually at the centre of it all, I would have thought this chapter would resonate the most strongly for you. Also, because it gives both note to and warning of fears you and I share about the state of the world in general in its relation to science, I thought even the more so.

    This however is the one time that I was somewhat disappointed in the scope of Burton’s vision in as only 3% representing the goal; for I would argue 100% is what should be hoped for as the final state of our kind. This of course is much the same world Plato of antiquity envisioned, both as his dream and the destiny of humanity.

    Perhaps though, this shows that while Burton having the mind of a philosopher is also a realist and the 3% representing only the initial hurdle that must be cleared. So then who am I to quibble, when Perimeter stands itself to serve as his demonstrated expertise in such matters.



  6. Phil:In as like myself, you are not one of those that are actually at the centre of it all, I would have thought this chapter would resonate the most strongly for you. Also, because it gives both note to and warning of fears you and I share about the state of the world in general in its relation to science, I thought even the more so.

    Howard indeed pointed out this curious thing about pride(page 193 para3) in the community of Waterloo that he felt unfamiliar with, yet realized that it was part symptom of a larger realization about the Institutes success. Books? He recognized the interest.

    So the centre is something that we can own internally as we see the realization extend toward the larger society as the program continues toward foundational realization as our being part of, yet indeed ,not of it's centre.

    If you recognize the synopsis and and find relation internally about a struggle toward an ideal then why would you lesson the importance of something that you see as inherent in association toward "non profit" as a course set out in the building of an institute?

    Philanthropy is not just the amount of money you can give and feel pride about, but of the importance that a direction set out(one's internal hopes) can be echoed out amongst society, and sent toward the future. Science's success.

    The thing about gifting is that when it is done "you let go completely of the ownership" trusting that it will find it's way into the very ideal I am talking about as a motivation toward bringing the society forward together with a unanimous approach politically to discovery and being part of, based on the out reach program set up.

    This has always been part of my involvement with scientists, was to encourage this kind of openness. Not just stoic faces of what past as a teacher/student relation, secular. Why, discovery of what Socrates had to say was to transform the wisest amongst us, by what can be found in you when you set out to bring forward "the teacher" in each of us.

    The "lesson of gifting" is an important one about selflessness and about egocentricity.


  7. Hi Plato,

    Yes, I understand the wonderfulness of philanthropy and recognize that it is and still remains a strong part of what forms to be a better aspect of humanity. However, this is not what forms to be the central theme and focus of this chapter. The heart of it is Burton’s recognition that we live in a society, built on the discoveries and manifestations of science, where the numbers of its members who are familiar with or interested in it have become alarmingly small and ever shrinking.

    This he realized to be a recipe for decline, disaster and eventual ruin. He thus feels strongly that a large part of the mission of PI was to play a role in addressing this problem and acting as a agent of cure; rather than one to further ignore or worse foster the disease, which such institutions often serve as doing in unwittingly increasing the divide.

    This strong concern of Burton’s was most poignantly demonstrated in the book when he was asked by the editor of the Globe and Mail what he saw wrong with his newspaper, with Burton retorting why do you continue to have the horoscope as a daily feature. The answer of course is to understand that newspapers not only inform people, yet what they inform them of is reflective of the readers to whom they serve. So yes Burton is a true visionary, yet not one that represents the past, but as one with a understanding of science as his guide, recognizing and the acting to help bring what's required for each and every one of us to have a optimistic and sustainable future.



    P.S . Happy Canada Day a strange yet heartfelt wish from one who hopes one day that will be simply be Happy third rock from the sun day:-)

  8. Phil:He thus feels strongly that a large part of the mission of PI was to play a role in addressing this problem and acting as a agent of cure; rather than one to further ignore or worse foster the disease, which such institutions often serve as doing in unwittingly increasing the divide.

    Yes, "unknowingly" he had to have an ideal that would be set higher in terms of a standard in order to make it a institute "that can lead" instead of just follow. An institute that provides "a fun place to allow ideas to emerge" under the most appropriate format and expression, and to understand that this institute can serve to foster the "next step" whether it be here in Canada or some other place of learning. It is only by such freedoms that we can creatively manifest "the next step."

    So it is also about fostering creativity and participation in my views and to get this sense of participation meant to have it become "a central place" not only in terms of standing within the larger framework of the community of science, but to bring the general public close to that same sense of awe, as if both are waiting with regard to that horizon or around some corner that some of us feel with regard to discovery, is just waiting for the collaborations to ignite new science and research. There has to be this expectancy both within the science community and the general public at large. This can only be accomplished as I mention earlier by fostering creativity under the right light.

    So yes I think it all about how "ideas can manifest" given the right circumstance. How you can help others "to feel" how they are part and parcel of something larger and looming in the future.

    The part about the horoscope, with "an ideal of and intent" that one sees of Burton one can understand why he would say such a thing on being queried. It's a stance I find among a lot of scientists in terms of outreach and teaching that goes beyond their institute. Feelings of some scientists in terms of empowering the community with "right knowledge" about science and our place in the universe.

    That some of us might have ideas about "mapping of information and presentation from historical backgrounds" does not in any way limit the exposure of and understanding geometrics places before the new generation of thinkers. So I might feel some attachment to the fates of something beyond us(polytopes in uteri), that could write the predictions as to course of events as they unfold, as something meaningful in solidification, yet, not disregard the implication of absolving the self of being responsible, whether they choose to act one way or another.

    So, in that vein I would agree with Burton, yet, respectively encourage the idealization of, for every action there is an equal and opposite sociological reaction.

    Think about this then when one enters the doorway and what Plato ideals respectfully ask of you as you enter that PI institute. It's an ole tradition of Plato's that is re-enacted in the "soul plate" and mission statement of starting the academy. Not all with this geometrical understanding will understand this ,and a few now, should take notice.

    I will be focusing on a new post with regard to a person involved to show the influence they have had also in this endeavours of institute development so you understand how the saying of Plato's became part of this new Institute called PI. I could be wrong so that will be up to the persons involved to judge as I make the information I have aware.


  9. Yes, Happy Canada Day, and to your larger vision, Phil.