Written by: Stephen Hsu

Primary Source: Information Processing, 07/22/2018.


The 36th Annual International Symposium on Lattice Field Theory begins tomorrow, hosted by MSU. My opening remarks are below. No peeking if you are an attendee!

LATTICE 2018 Opening Remarks 7/23/2018

Good morning. I’d like to extend my warmest welcome to all of you on behalf of Michigan State University. We are very pleased and honored to be the hosts for The 36th Annual International Symposium on Lattice Field Theory.

It is my opinion that even within Physics, and even within Theoretical Physics, Lattice Field Theory is underappreciated. The idea that we can constructively realize quantum field theories in silico, that we can perform precision calculations in the deepest models of fundamental physics, is really incredible. It has taken many decades to get to this point: to master strongly coupled quantum fluctuations, spacetime trajectories of quantum fields like quarks and gluons, advanced algorithms and hardware designs, matching to effective field theories, and many other conceptually beautiful but ultimately concrete things.

Along with some recent AI advances like AlphaGo, the precise ab initio calculation of physical quantities in lattice QCD must be considered among the most impressive computations performed by the human species. If some Alien visitors were evaluating the accomplishments of our civilization, I would want them to take into account the work of people here today.

I first became aware of lattice gauge theory from John Preskill’s lecture notes for Physics 234, a year-long Caltech course on advanced topics in QCD. I never imagined, back in the 1980s, the successes that all of you have achieved today. The important message to young people is that one should not be dissuaded from attempting difficult projects.

At MSU we made the decision a few years ago to invest in lattice physics. We went from no lattice researchers, to one of the larger groups in the US. One of the drivers for this decision was the hope that lattice simulations would one day connect QCD to the experimental results coming from FRIB — the MSU / DOE Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. Today we can compute, from first principles, the properties of light hadrons. In the coming decades, I believe we will compute real time scattering amplitudes and nuclear forces from QCD itself.

DOE and MSU are investing, all told, roughly a billion dollars in FRIB. While it is the Experimentalists who build and run the machine, and deserve the main credit, we as Theorists have the responsibility to ensure that the results of the experiment inform our deeper understanding of nuclear physics and QCD. Physicists are not stamp collectors — we do not measure things just to measure them. We measure things which are important and have deep implications.

To reach the long awaited goal of connecting nuclear physics directly to QCD, we depend on the lattice community, on all of you. May the next 30 years see as much progress as the last.

Thank you very much.

Action photos!

LATTICE Conference attendees

LATTICE conference attendees

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Stephen Hsu
Stephen Hsu is vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at Michigan State University. He also serves as scientific adviser to BGI (formerly Beijing Genomics Institute) and as a member of its Cognitive Genomics Lab. Hsu’s primary work has been in applications of quantum field theory, particularly to problems in quantum chromodynamics, dark energy, black holes, entropy bounds, and particle physics beyond the standard model. He has also made contributions to genomics and bioinformatics, the theory of modern finance, and in encryption and information security. Founder of two Silicon Valley companies—SafeWeb, a pioneer in SSL VPN (Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Networks) appliances, which was acquired by Symantec in 2003, and Robot Genius Inc., which developed anti-malware technologies—Hsu has given invited research seminars and colloquia at leading research universities and laboratories around the world.