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Issue #1283 - Monday, December 9, 2002 - Editor: Jerry
(link may no longer working)
Adrian Humphreys  
National Post

Saturday, November 30, 2002

WATERLOO - A wooden ladder climbs the east wall of the office of Fotini Markopoulou-Kalamara, leading to the inner workings of an immense but broken clock, the visual highlight of the old post office building in downtown Waterloo.

The ladder ends at a tiny door into the ceiling of what is now the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Despite working beside the inviting curio for more than a year, Dr. Markopoulou-Kalamara, 31, has never ventured to peek upstairs.

"When I was a kid, I really liked clocks. Clock repair was one of the things I considered going into when I was growing up. But now, the broken clock is right up there above my head and I have absolutely no interest in it," she says.

For a young woman acclaimed for her bold inquisitiveness, it seems an odd response. And while those with broken clocks may lament her decision to instead delve into theoretical physics, members of the academic community -- those who think weighty thoughts about some of the most challenging issues in science -- are beginning to value her change of heart.

Dr. Markopoulou-Kalamara recently shared first prize in the US$15,000 Young Researchers competition at the Ultimate Reality Symposium in Princeton, N.J., an event honouring one of America's greatest living physicists, John Archibald Wheeler.

Kenneth Ford, retired director of the American Institute of Physics, calls her a "brilliant young researcher" and the current Scientific American issue features an article hailing her as one of the world's most promising young physicists.

Dr. Markopoulou-Kalamara takes the praise in stride.

"It's hilarious, isn't it? They pay me to do this," she says, breaking into a laugh.

From her office in an innovative, privately funded institute, she is now tackling quantum gravity, one of the biggest question marks in science. It is nothing short of searching for a unified theory wrapping together Albert Einstein's theory of relativity with quantum theory.

In essence, picking up where Einstein left off.

For this kind of stuff, there seem few better places than the two-year-old Perimeter Institute, founded through a $100-million donation by Mike Lazaridis, president of Waterloo, Ont.-based Research In Motion.

Officially, Perimeter is a community of scientists dedicated to the bold investigation of theoretical physics. A better description might be a playpen for young geniuses.

The old post office, with its cut- stone exterior, hardwood floors and clock tower, is a large, historic and romantic piece of property.

One floor below Dr. Markop-oulou-Kalamara's office is the institute's recreation area, complete with pool table, sound system, a long bar, coffee machines, and refrigerators of beer, pop and juice. Overstuffed sofas and chairs are arranged around wooden chess sets. In a corner are shelves, filled with more board games.

Only two things set it apart from any refined bar or coffee house.

First are the walls. On almost every vertical surface, there are blackboards covered by scrawls in white chalk: complex formulae, numbers, frantically drawn diagrams and graphs. The boards seem strategically placed, perhaps in case genius strikes when shooting pool or if an argument breaks out on the validity of string theory while making espresso.

Second is the reading material. No Vanity Fair or Esquire. Here are stacks of Physics Today, Physics World and Classical and Quantum Gravity.

Dr. Markopoulou-Kalamara selected Perimeter for a five-year research term -- following a global trot of academic institutions after completing high school in her native Greece -- largely because of the people and the welcoming environment, she says.

The atmosphere, along with the stability from the hefty donations, are crucial to the institute's success, says Howard Burton, its executive director.

"We are a well-endowed institution that has a lot of very strong people who are well-motivated. That's the good news. The bad news is we're in Canada," says Dr. Burton.

"We're in a place that, by and large, does not have a prominent role in the global theoretical physics community. We're not even in a major urban centre. We're not even in Toronto. We're in a place without beautiful geography, without a tropical climate. Physical theorists aren't stupid people, they tend to put their institutes in that sort of place."

Perimeter, however, does provide scientists financial security, technical support and a creative environment, freeing them to think big thoughts and, one hopes, come up with big answers.

The keyword is big. Bigger than big. The biggest. Dr. Markopoulou-Kalamara's quest is to construct a sensible, testable, theoretical model of the universe.

It is in the notion of testing that her boldness shows.

"Some say that there will be no way of testing within our lifetime. I think these people are wrong.

"Something like two years before they had direct evidence for atoms, they were writing that we would never know, that we would never be able to test atomic theories. And now look, most of the technology around us is based in some way on the knowledge that atoms exist."

Despite her passion, her interest in theoretical physics developed almost by chance.

"At age 16 or 17 I started getting science magazines and, even more hilariously, computer magazines, even though I didn't have a computer. I went through my nerd phase," she says.

She moved from Athens for a science degree at the University of London, but had no firm idea of what she wanted to study. A high school teacher, noting her proficiency, told her to write theoretical physics on the application.

"I didn't really know what it was when I enrolled but I figured I could always change it once I got there," she says.

While Dr. Markopoulou-Kalamara was completing her degree, a friend in graduate school invited her to a lecture on quantum gravity by physicist Chris Isham. Because the lecture was on her way home, she stuck her head in. And became hooked. She applied for graduate studies and persuaded Dr. Isham to be her thesis advisor.

From there, she studied at the Albert Einstein Institute in Berlin and at Pennsylvania State University under Lee Smolin.

Dr. Smolin, who has written highly respected books on quantum gravity and was touted by Discover magazine as "the new Einstein," is also now researching at Perimeter.

More than a dozen researchers from around the world have signed on and moved in to the institute. Daniel Gottesman, from the University of California at Berkeley, arrives in January. Lucien Hardy, from the Centre for Quantum Computation in Oxford, joined last month.

Dr. Markopoulou-Kalamara is excited by the community building up at Perimeter. And she is confident that all of the thinking and talking will bring substantial, testable results.

"It would be nice if, in five years, theoretical quantum physics has become real physics."

[email protected]  Copyright 2002 National Post

Copyright 2002 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest Global Communications Corp. All rights reserved.

GENE POOLE NDS   I was unaware that the institute which hosts Dr Kalamara is funded by a large donation from the owner of RIM:


I have been watching RIM with interest for
several years. RIM seems to be succeeding
by the method of combining a workable
business plan with excellent technology
employing mobile wireless, the 'Next
Big Thing'.

Moving forward in an economy plagued
by investor cynicism: (I wonder where the
author of the NYT article has been for the
past 10 years... or is he  being paid to be
a wet blanket?)


RIM was 'there' before other players
even got a whiff of the coffee: (Last week
the 'big three' announced joint effort to
market wireless internet connectivity)


The link below illustrates the future of
ubiquitous connectivity via  technology:

"... the death of distance... "


(I am sure that in only a short while,
Micro$oft will show up, claiming to
have 'innovated' mobile wireless
internet connectivity, and offering
too-expensive and proprietary
'new standards' using their
tablet PC.)

Anyway... I am 'connecting the dots'
to link the viability of RIM, Dr Kalamara,
and wireless ubiquitous internet access.

This has to do with the establishment of
means for worldwide interpersonal
connectivity, using affordable technologies
which can be supported even in low-tech
'3rd world' regions; but more importantly,
it is yet another step in the outpicturing of
our human nature, both physical and
spiritual. The human body is composed
of various  physical networks (neural,
circulatory, endocrine) and our interpersonal
life is informed by networks of relationships
with 'others'; we are seeing a surge of
effort to bring into practical form, enhancements
of our natural  form and functions.

In my imagination, I see that the RIM/Kalamara
collaboration may lead to radical new technology,
such as 'quantum gravity wave communication'
and 'subspace digital radio'. I can hardly wait!

<>   ________________________________________________________________________________________  


Nothing matters. Nothing.
It's like drawing on water with a finger.
It happened, yet nothing happened.   Much ado about nothing
That's us humans   Enlightenment, God, you, me ...
all writing on water   this too ...   ______________________________________________________________________________  

The unsung heroes of poetry 

Translators barely receive a mention, but they deserve a Nobel prize, says Daniel Weissbort   

Saturday November 23, 2002
The Guardian   

"translation, as a mediation between cultures that requires total
attention to primary utterances, and reciprocity rather than
subservience, is a model for the traffic between nations.",12084,844907,00 (link may no longer be working)


from The Other Syntax  

A Warriors Beloved...  

"The life of a warrior cannot possibly be cold and lonely and
without  feelings because it is based on his affection, his
devotion, his dedication  to his beloved. And who, you may ask, is
his beloved? This earth, this  world. For a warrior there can be no
greater love."   Tales Of Power
Carlos Castaneda  


Salon columnist Brother Void -- seeker, sufferer, sage -- each week
offers readers one of his "afflictions," bitter pills of dark truth
and painfully hard-won wisdom inspired by the works of Kafka,
Nietzsche and others.   "Make the right mistake." -- Yogi Berra   

There are times in life when you're lost and no job or career path
feels right. You're doing something, but you're doing it
halfheartedly. When you find yourself drifting and slacking like
this, remember: you don't have to know what you're doing, you just
have to do it as hard as you possibly can.   

It's only when you do something with all your heart that you find
out what it is you're really doing. When everything feels kind of
wrong, you have to choose one wrong thing and work really hard at
it. This will help you see your way clear to the next wrong thing,
and the next, until you reach some right thing -- if you ever do.
Obviously, working hard at the wrong thing may result in
irritability, depression, embezzlement or industrial sabotage. But
this is a small price to pay for finding your true life's work.   

I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm doing it as hard as I possibly


Hard path for Hollywood 'It' boy  

"If you're gonna dive in," he says, "dive into the deep end."   _______________________________________________________________________________________  


"You might have such concentration that you cannot hear a drum
beaten right beside your ear, but it will be useless if you do not
have this mind [the mind of bodhichitta, awakened compassion]. . .
. . Seeing visions of tutelary deities, achieving clairvoyance and
miraculous powers, or having mountain-range-firm concentration are
useless on their own; meditate on love and compassion!"  

-- quoted by Pabongka Rinpoche in _Liberation in the Palm of Your



Dear Community,   It recently came to my attention that Babatunde Olatunji ("Drums of
Passion"  and others played so often in HB first hours) needs
kidney dialysis. He is  living at Esalen. I thought some of you
might be interested in his letter  (below).   Love, Kylea  

Dear Friend,
Greetings from Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California  

To you I need no introduction. At present I am trying to raise
$30,000 (US)  to purchase a Dialysis machine at the cost of $25,000
and supplies and  medical accessories to operate the machine. With
this machine I will be able  to travel to many countries in the
world.   With your donation of $25 or more you will receive, by return mail,
a small  CD of my performance with Radio City Music Hall 66 piece
orchestra in a  composition based on African Folk songs and dances,
and "BunBamba  Celebration" with my 14-piece band in the 70's. The
Radio City Symphony  performance was my biggest introduction to
show business in 1958. These  recordings are no available in
stores.   Please send your donation to:

Michael B. Olatunji
c/o Esalen Institute
55000 Highway One
Big Sur, CA 93920   Thank you,
M. B. Olatunji

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Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

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