Page 8 - 2012-01-20

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Can one speed the rate of discovery in a field as foundational as theoretical physics, through a
strategic intervention? Or are such basic discoveries completely unpredictable, made by solitary
geniuses whose emergence is essentially random?
Here at Perimeter, we believe that the answer to the first question, as ambitious as it seems,
is yes. One can create an institution deliberately designed to foster new breakthroughs. That
was the thinking behind our creation of the stunning new Stephen Hawking Centre (SHC): it is
our version of the Starship Enterprise, enlarging Perimeter’s space in ways both physical and
metaphorical. Perimeter is now the largest independent theoretical physics institute in the world
– and has an exceptionally bold statement of vision and faith in a field that has, over and over
again, unlocked fundamental discoveries that enabled us to see the world anew, and brought
literally every modern technology in their wake.
Perimeter is designed as an institute to attract new talent, and provide an inspiring environment
and culture which will encourage its scientists to pursue radically new approaches to the most
basic questions. We didn’t get to the moon, after all, by waiting for it to happen.
Over the past year, we have worked intensively to prepare and present our application for
renewed funding to the Governments of Ontario and Canada. We were delighted that both levels
of government demonstrated their confidence in our strategy and our track record of success by
renewing their investments. We offer our profound appreciation to the leaders who made these
farsighted decisions in challenging economic times.
Perimeter is in the end all about people and recruitment is one of the most important parts of
my own job. It was a thrill to announce the appointment of Xiao-Gang Wen as the inaugural
BMO Financial Group Isaac Newton Chair in Theoretical Physics. Xiao-Gang is one those rare
talents whose insights open up whole new fields. He did just that when he discovered topological
order, a novel concept which has already led to a deeper understanding of phenomena which
were thought to be well understood, such as superconductivity, and which holds the promise of
an entirely new paradigm for describing and predicting the behavior of quantum materials. His
work is bold, interdisciplinary, and far-reaching: precisely the kind of research to which Perimeter
aspires. Xiao-Gang will join us from MIT next fall: he is already closely involved in building our
research effort at Perimeter.