Director's Letter - Winter 2015

Lars Bildsten, KITP Director.

2014 was quite the year for KITP. We ran programs across all of theoretical physics for nearly a thousand international physicists, received international recognition of our researchers’ (both permanent faculty and postdocs) science impact, and delivered an expanded outreach program ably led by Deputy Director Greg Huber. Our scientific programs bring together physics leaders for extended periods of intense interaction, driving new collaborations and, sometimes, founding new fields of research. This is our hallmark, and I constantly thank the able KITP staff who make it all happen seamlessly for our visitors.

One of my major goals is to further enhance the scientific experience of our visitors by housing them in one comfortable location, designed with our unique clientele in mind: physicists who just need to keep interacting! This Residence project was started in Winter 2012 with the support of KITP Director David Gross and the UC Santa Barbara administration. On July 4, 2012, only three days after becoming Director, I met with Charlie Munger to discuss the project. That initial interaction led to a wonderful collaboration that is active even now while under construction. Charlie cares deeply about the success of our project and its enhancing influence on our mission. I can’t imagine a better partner to work with. Thank you, Charlie!

An integral part of KITP’s research is carried out by young scientists (we call them associate specialists or postdocs) who have just finished their PhD and come to the KITP to dive deep into their research. They come here to avail themselves of the broad range of physics we offer, and we encourage and support them to cross the traditional boundaries.

This year, three of our former postdocs, Sean Hartnoll (now faculty at Stanford University), Shinsei Ryu (now faculty at University of Illinois), and Tadashi Takayanagi (now faculty at Kyoto University), were among the recipients of the 2015 New Horizons Prize awarded by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. All three received the award for work begun at the KITP. This work created a new field, which connects the physics of black holes to the behavior of ordinary condensed matter systems. Hartnoll showed that the properties of an exotic state known as a quantum critical point could be related to those of a black hole. Ryu and Takayanagi discovered holographic entanglement entropy, which relates the quantum entanglement of matter to properties of the black hole horizon, and which may be a key to the origin of spacetime. This continues a long KITP tradition of interdisciplinary work in high energy physics and condensed matter physics.

I encourage all of you to engage with the KITP, either by attending our Public Lectures, joining the Friends of the KITP, or making an impactful philanthropic gift. Our needs remain substantial, as evidenced by the overwhelming desire of physicists from around the world to visit and participate in our programs, as well as the young postdocs who choose to kick-start their professional career with us here at the Institute.


~ Lars Bildsten, KITP Director
KITP Newsletter, Winter 2015