Canada's Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics was intended to become a world leader in the field. Eric Hand finds out if it has lived up to its ambitions.
Working at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics comes with certain perquisites. Whenever recruits arrive at the Toronto airport, for example, they are met by a limousine and driven west along Canada's Route 401 into the rich farmlands of Ontario. Eighty-five kilometres later, the limousine works its way through the streets of the town of Waterloo, and lets them out in front of a sleek building of black, green and glass squares that stands next to a pond in Waterloo Park. Stepping inside, the recruits find wall-to-wall blackboards, working fireplaces, a sauna, multiple dispensers of free coffee and the Black Hole Bistro, which serves free lunches on Wednesdays. And if they say yes to the recruiting pitch, they get a free BlackBerry smart phone — plus the power, even as a postdoc, to invite collaborators for visits of up to 18 weeks in the year.
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