Author Archives: Gil Kalai

From Oberwolfach: The Topological Tverberg Conjecture is False

The topological Tverberg conjecture (discussed in this post), a holy grail of topological combinatorics, was refuted! The three-page paper “Counterexamples to the topological Tverberg conjecture” by Florian Frick gives a brilliant proof that the conjecture is false.

The proof is based on two major ingredients. The first is a recent major theory by Issak Mabillard and Uli Wagner which extends fundamental theorems from classical obstruction theory for embeddability to an obstruction theory for r-fold intersection of disjoint faces in maps from simplicial complexes to Euclidean spaces. An extended abstract of this work is Eliminating Tverberg points, I. An analogue of the Whitney trick. The second is a result  by Murad Özaydin’s from his 1987 paper Equivariant maps for the symmetric group, which showed that for the non prime-power case the topological obstruction vanishes.

It was commonly believed that the topological Tverberg conjecture is correct. However, one of the motivations of Mabillard and Wagner for studying elimination of higher order intersection was that this may lead to counterexamples via Özaydin result. Isaak and Uli came close but there was a crucial assumption of large codimension in their theory, which seemed to avoid applying the new theory to this case.  It turned out that a simple combinatorial argument allows to overcome the codimension problem!

Florian’s  combinatorial argument which allows to use Özaydin’s result in Mabillard-Wagner’s theory  is a beautiful example of a powerful combinatorial method with other applications by Pavle Blagojević, Florian Frick and Günter Ziegler.


Both Uli and Florian talked about it here at Oberwolfach on Tuesday. I hope to share some more news items from Oberwolfach and from last week’s Midrasha in future posts.

Midrasha Mathematicae #18: In And Around Combinatorics



Tahl Nowik

photo (4) 17.8.14 midrasha poster 2015 poster

michal-mid mid-irit mid-david nati-mid mid-peter nica-mid   alex-mid2 midjoel mid-sam tami-mid zohar-mid tahl-mid

Update 3 (January 30): The midrasha ended today. Update 2 (January 28): additional videos are linked; Update 1 (January 23): Today we end the first week of the school. David Streurer and Peter Keevash completed their series of lectures and Alex Postnikov started his series.


Today is the third day of our winter school. In this page I will gradually give links to to various lectures and background materials. I am going to update the page through the two weeks of the Midrasha. Here is the web page of the midrasha, and here is the program. I will also present the posters for those who want me to: simply take a picture (or more than one) of the poster and send me. And also – links to additional materials, pictures, or anything else: just email me, or add a comment to this post.

Lecture series and lectures

Irit Dinur: Direct products of games and graphs

mid-irit Continue reading

Quantum computing: achievable reality or unrealistic dream

QC-michel-view QC-gilview

Michel Dyakonov’s View on QC                                     My view (based on Michel’s drawing*)



Alexander Vlasov’s view (based on Michel and Konstantin’s drawing)

It has been a while since I devoted a post to quantum computation. Meanwhile, we had a cozy, almost private, easy-going, and very interesting discussion thread on my previous, March 2014 post (that featured my Simons Institute videotaped lectures (I,II).)

What can we learn from a failure of quantum computers?

Last week we had a workshop on “Quantum computing: achievable reality or unrealistic dream.” This was a joint venture of the  American Physics Society and the Racah Institute of Physics here at HUJI, organized by Professor Miron Ya. Amusia, and it featured me and Nadav Katz as the main speakers. Here are the slides of my lecture: What can we learn from a failure of quantum computers.


Noise Sensitivity and BosonSampling

Earlier, I gave a lecture in our CS colloquium about a recent work with Guy Kindler on noise sensitivity of BosonSampling. We show that for a constant level of noise, noisy BosonSampling can be approximated by bounded-depth computation, and that the correlation between the noisy outcome and the noiseless outcome tends to zero if the noise level is ω(1/n) where n is the number of bosons.  Here is the paper Gaussian noise sensitivity and BosonSampling, the videotaped lecture  Complexity and sensitivity of noisy BosonSampling, and the slides of the lecture.

Contagious error sources would need time travel to prevent quantum computation

On the positive side, Greg Kuperberg and I wrote a paper  Contagious error sources would need time travel to prevent quantum computation  showing that for a large class of correlated noise, (teleportation-based) quantum fault-tolerance works! Greg and I have had a decade-long email discussion (over 2000 emails) regarding quantum computers, and this work grew from our 2009 discussion (about my “smoothed Lindblad evolution” model), and heavily relies on  ideas of Manny Knill.

Nadav Katz: Quantum information science – the state of the art

Some years ago, two brilliant experimentalists, Hagai Eisenberg and Nadav Katz,  joined  the already strong, mainly theoretical, quantum information group here at HUJI.  Nadav Katz gave the second lecture in the workshop, and here are the slides of Nadav’s  lecture: Quantum information science – the state of the art.


Experimental progress toward stable encoded qubits

Also very much on the positive side, Nadav mentioned a remarkable recent progress by the Martini’s group showing certain encoded states based on 9 physical qubits which are order-of-magnitude (factor 8.4, to be precise,) more stable than the “raw” qubits used for creating them !!

Here is a link to the paper:  State preservation by repetitive error detection in a superconducting quantum circuit, by J. Kelly, R. Barends, A. G. Fowler, A. Megrant, E. Jeffrey, T. C. White, D. Sank, J. Y. Mutus, B. Campbell, Yu Chen, Z. Chen, B. Chiaro, A. Dunsworth, I.-C. Hoi, C. Neill, P. J. J. O’Malley, C. Quintana, P. Roushan, A. Vainsencher, J. Wenner, A. N. Cleland, and John M. Martinis.

Update:  Further comments on a Shtetl-optimized post (especially a comment by Graeme Smith,) help to place the new achievement of the Martinis group within the seven smilestones toward quantum computers from a 2012 Science paper by Schoelkopf and Devoret, originated by David DiVincenzo’s 2000 paper “The physical implementation of quantum computation“. (You can watch these milestone here also .)

The new achievement of having a very robust realization of certain encoded states can be seen as achieving the 3.5 milestone.   The difference between the 3.5th milestone and the 4th milestone plays a central role in the seventh post of my 2012-debate with Aram Harrow in connection with a conjecture I made in the first post (“Conjecture 1″). Aram made the point that classical error-correction can lead to very stable encoded qubits in certain states (which is essentially the 3.5 milestone). I gave a formal description of the conjecture, which essentially asserts that the 4th milestone, namely insisting that encoded qubits allows arbitrary superpositions, cannot be reached.  As I said many times (see, for example, the discussion in my 2012 Simons Institute videotaped lecture 2), a convincing demonstration of the 4th milestone, namely  implementation of quantum error-correction with encoded qubits which are substantially more stable than the raw qubits (and allow arbitrary superposition for the encoded qubit) will disprove my conjectures. Such stable encoded qubits are  expected from implementations of distance-5 surface code. So we are 0.5 milestones away :)

I will be impressed to see even a realization of distance-3 (or distance-5) surface code that will give good quality encoded qubits, even if the encoded qubits will have a quality which is somewhat worse than that of the raw qubits used for the encoding. These experiments, including those that were already carried out, also give various other opportunities to test my conjectures.

Peter Shor’s challenge #1 and my predictions from the failure of quantum computation

My lecture on predictions from the failure of QC is based on two lengthy recent comments (first, second) regarding predictions from the failure of quantum computers. On April 2014, Peter Shor challenged me with the following: Continue reading

A Historical Picture Taken by Nimrod Megiddo

Last week I took a bus from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and I saw (from behind) a person that I immediately recognized. It was Nimrod Megiddo, from IBM Almaden, one of the very first  to relate game theory with complexity theory, one of the pioneers of computational geometry, and one of the leaders in optimization and linear programming, the guy who (with Ehud Kalai) was the first to  invited me to an international conference, and a fresh Laureate of the John von Neumann theory Prize.  I did not see Nimrod more than a year after our last coincidental  meeting at the Berkeley Simons Institute, I called over to him and he was happy to see me as I was happy to see him, and we found a place together at the back of the bus and caught up on things.

Nimrod showed me on the bus a picture he found in his house, taken by him at the  1974  game theory workshop in Bad Salzuflen, Germany. With Nimrod’s kind permission I present the picture here: (The copyright © belongs to Nimrod Megiddo who took the picture).


Here are some of the people left to right, (on some I already told you in other posts):

David Schmeidler (only beard visible)
Guillermo Owen
Lloyd Shapley
Sergiu Hart
Yair Tauman (only back shown)
Robert Aumann
Werner Güth (behind Aumann)
Reinhard Selten
Ehud Kalai (just to the right of Selten looking at the camera)
Gerhard Schwedihauer
Elon Kohlberg (only back shown, looking to the left)
William Lucas (in the back, looking at the wall)
Robert Weber (only hair and jacket visible)
Bezalel Peleg (looking to the right)
Joel Moulen (looking to the left)
Thomas Marschak (sunglasses and beard)
Michael Maschler
Joachim Rosenmüller (with glasses behind Maschler)
Kenjiro Nakamura

Happy new 2015!

Scott Triumphs* at the Shtetl

Scott Aaronson wrote a new post on the Shtetl Optimized** reflecting on the previous thread  (that I referred to in my post on Amy’s triumph), and on reactions to this thread. The highlight is a list of nine of Scott’s core beliefs. This is a remarkable document and I urge everybody to read it. Yes, Scott’s core beliefs come across as feminist! Let me quote one of them.

7. I believe that no one should be ashamed of inborn sexual desires: not straight men, not straight women, not gays, not lesbians, not even pedophiles (though in the last case, there might really be no moral solution other than a lifetime of unfulfilled longing).  Indeed, I’ve always felt a special kinship with gays and lesbians, precisely because the sense of having to hide from the world, of being hissed at for a sexual makeup that you never chose, is one that I can relate to on a visceral level.  This is one reason why I’ve staunchly supported gay marriage since adolescence, when it was still radical.  It’s also why the tragedy of Alan Turing, of his court-ordered chemical castration and subsequent suicide, was one of the formative influences of my life.

!! (***)

In the sacred tradition of arguing with Scott I raised some issues with #5 and 4# on Scott’s blog. Two of Scott’s points are on the subject of (young) people’s suffering by feeling unwanted, sexually invisible, or ashamed to express their desires.

I was pleased to see that those feminist matters that Scott and I disagree about, like the nature of prostitution, the role of feminist views in men’s (or nerdy men’s) suffering, and also Scott’s take on poverty, did not make it to Scott’s core beliefs.

Happy new year, everybody!

* The word triumph is used here (again) in a soft (non-macho) way characteristic to the successes of feminism. Voting rights for women did not exclude voting rights for men, and Scott’s triumph does not mean a defeat for  any others; on the contrary.

** “Shtetl-optimized” is the name of Scott Aaronson’s blog.

*** In my opinion, when a person has an uncontrollable urge or strong temptation or desire to commit a crime towards another individual (or even to inflict much damage on another person when it is not criminal, or to commit other crimes), shame and guilt feelings can be instrumental in controlling such urges.

Amy Triumphs* at the Shtetl

It was not until the 144th comment by a participants named Amy on Scott’s Aaronson recent Shtetl-optimized** post devoted to a certain case of sexual harassment at M. I. T. that the discussion turned into something quite special. Amy’s great comment respectfully disagreeing with the original post and most of the 100+ earlier comments gave a wide while personal feminist perspective on women in STEM (STEM stands for science, technology,  engineering, mathematics). This followed by a moving comment  #171 by Scott describing a decade of suffering from his early teens. Scott, while largely sympathetic with the feminist cause, sees certain aspects of modern feminism as  major contributors to his ordeal.

Then came a few hundred comments by quite a few participants on a large number of issues including romantic/sexual relations in universities, rape, prostitution, poverty, gaps between individuals’ morality and actions, and much more. Many of the comments argued with Amy and a few even attacked her.  Some comments supported Amy and some proposed their own views. Many of the comments were good and thoughtful and many gave interesting food for thought. Some people described interesting personal matters. As both Scott and Amy left school early to study in the university, I also contributed my own personal story about it (and Scott even criticized my teenage approach to life! :) ). Amy, over 80+ thoughtful comments, responded in detail, and her (moderate) feminist attitude (as well as Amy herself) stood out as realistic, humane, and terribly smart.

* The word triumph is used here in a soft (non-macho) way characteristic to the successes of feminism. Voting rights for women did not exclude voting rights for men, and Amy’s triumph does not mean a defeat for  any others; on the contrary.

** “Shtetl-optimized” is the name of Scott Aaronson’s blog.



Ilya Rips and me during Ilyafest last week (picture Itai Benjamini)

Ilya Rips Birthday Conference

Last week we had here a celebration for Ilya Rips’ birthday. Ilya is an extraordinary mathematician with immense influence on algebra and topology. There were several startling ongoing mathematical projects that he is involved with that were discussed. One is a very ambitious project with Alexei Kanel-Belov is to get a “small cancellation theory” for rings and this has already fantastic consequences. Another is a work with Yoav Segev and Katrin Tent, on sharply 2- transitive groups, that answered a major old question with connections to groups, rings, and geometry. Happy birthday, Ilya!

2.10.14 Geometric & Combinatorial poster

Achimedes on infinity

Reviel Netz (רויאל נץ) gave a seminar lecture in the department about infinity in Archimedes’ mathematical thoughts that developed into an interesting conversation. The lecture took place a day after Netz’s second poetry book (in Hebrew) appeared.


The combinatorics school (midrasha) is coming.

17.8.14 midrasha poster 2015

Two weeks with extensive illuminating lecture series. Do not miss!

At Combsem

On our Monday combinatorics seminar, we had, since my last report,  three excellent lectures. And next  Monday we are having Avi Wigderson.

Dec 1

Speaker: Sonia Balagopalan, HU

Title: A 16-vertex triangulation of the 4-dimensional real projective space 

Continue reading