Various Events and Other News

Upcoming events in and around New York, including several I’m planning to attend:

The New York Academy of Sciences is having an evening of lectures this Wednesday, hosted by Frank Wilczek, on the topic of Expanding Frontiers of Physics and Cosmology. Speakers will be Max Tegmark and Nima Arkani-Hamed.

The YITP at Stony Brook is having a symposium to celebrate its 40th anniversary, and many former students, faculty and postdocs will be in attendance. I plan to definitely spend Thursday out there, maybe also Saturday.

One reason I likely won’t be out at Stony Brook on Friday is that I’d like to attend at least some talks at another event that will be downtown at the new location of the New York Academy of Sciences. It’s the 9th Northeast String Cosmology Meeting, co-sponsored by Columbia’s ISCAP. Edward Witten will be among the four people speaking.

There will be an event entitled When the Scientist Becomes the Story at NYU next week, on May 8th, featuring a discussion about John Nash and Francis Crick with their biographers.

Much farther in the future will be next year’s program on representation theory, algebraic geometry and physics at the mathematics division of the IAS in Princeton. This will include a conference November 26-30 with a title reflecting my favorite topic “Gauge Theory and Representation Theory”. Presumably much of the focus will be on the Geometric Langlands program.

Closer in time, but farther in distance, I’ll be speaking at a science festival called FEST in Trieste on May 18th. In June my book is supposed to be coming out in an Italian edition. I have to be in London the evening of May 23rd, then will head back to New York the next day. Currently trying to come up with a plan for how to spend the time in between, with the leading possibility a train trip through the Alps to Geneva, then a stop in Paris on the way to London.

In other news:

Lee Smolin has put up on his web-site a response to the review of his book and mine by Joe Polchinski.

On the Fields Medalist blogging front, there’s a report from Terry Tao about a symposium at UCLA where he and three other Fields medalists gave talks. He gives a detailed description of the talks, including one by Richard Borcherds on QFT that sounds somewhat mystifying to me. Alain Connes at his blog gives his take on some of the talks delivered at the recent conference in his honor.

I’ve recently for no particular reason run into various interesting domain-names that some mathematicians and physicists are using for one purpose or another:,, and

A couple links mentioned by commenters here that deserve more visibility:

Neutrino Unbound is a site devoted to all things neutrino.

An interesting document concerning a bet made several years ago about whether supersymmetry will be found at currently (or soon-to-be) accessible energies is available here. Maybe someone can think of a way to get more particle theorists on the record about this…

Update: For upcoming events really far afield from here, I should mention that the new Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Beijing is starting to get organized. Jonathan Shock reports that there will be an opening ceremony at the end of May, a two month program on Quantum Phases of Matter starting in June, and a program on String Theory and Cosmology in the fall.

Update: I’ve just heard that Discover Magazine has chosen the finalists in its “String Theory in Two Minutes or Less” contest. No, I didn’t enter. Here they are.

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57 Responses to Various Events and Other News

  1. V says:

    King Ray,
    Sorry, the Standard Model by itself cannot explain the charges, although it’s true that they are constrained by anomaly cancellation. To explain the charge quantization, you have to go to a Grand Unified Theory such as SU(5).

  2. Peter Orland says:

    I think it’s interesting that V. says aesthetic judgements are stupid. The justification of string theory by those leading the field was largely aesthetic, way back in the eighties. Now that so many people are totally committed to the strings, this justification seems to have been dropped.

  3. King Ray says:

    V, anomaly cancellation gives two different solutions, one the true solution and the other a bizarre solution. The bizarre solution is not consistent with the global group S(U(3)xU(2)), leaving a unique solution if you assume that amomalies cancel within each family, and that the global group is S(U(3)xU(2)).

  4. V says:

    The justification for string theory has always been it’s potential for unification of quantum mechanics and the standard model with gravity, rather than aesthetics. There are some hardcore hurdles that string theory has been able to hurdle. Like it or not, it is in fact the only known possible candidate for unification at the present time.

    King Ray,
    It sounds to me like what you’re doing might be equivalent putting the standard model reps into representations of SU(5). Perhaps you’ve discovered grand unification without realizing it?

  5. King Ray says:

    V, S(U(3)xU(2)) indeed embeds into SU(5) in block diagonal form. However, S(U(3)xU(2)) does not have the extra gauge bosons (from the off block diagonal entries) that SU(5) does that lead to proton decay. It was because S(U(3)xU(2)) embedded into SU(5) so well that made SU(5) look so attractive initially. S(U(3)xU(2)) is a U(3)xU(2) theory with the U(3) and U(2) determinants related.

    The charge quantization and ratio prediction comes from intra family anomaly cancellation and taking the global structure of the SM to be S(U(3)xU(2)), which identifies six elements of SU(3)xSU(2)xU(1).

    There are 13 possible choices for the global gauge group of the standard model, and of them only S(U(3)xU(2)) is consistent with the quarks and leptons that we have observed in nature.

    It is well accepted that the global group of the SM is S(U(3)xU(2)) and not SU(3)xSU(2)xU(1). See O’Raifeartaigh’s book, for example.

  6. Peter Orland says:


    Yes, we all know that that was the reason people were attracted to
    string theory. But it isn’t clear that it is the only way to have quantized
    gravity. Between the energies we study experimentally and the Planck mass, there are many possibilities. Quantum gravity can be said to
    be a theoretical success over this entire (enormous!) range. What string theory does beyond this range is provide a cut-off at the Planck mass.

    Now there are other ways to cut off gravity at 10^{-33}cm. A very
    crude example is some sort of Regge calculus. So I don’t find the
    unification of gravity with quantum mechanics to be a very
    convincing argument for string theory. Any judgement as to
    how one wants to cut off the theory at the Planck mass is
    going to be an aesthetic one.

    I am not against studying quantum gravity using string theory (I have even written a few string papers). I have no opinion as to the best way to cut off gravity in the ultraviolet. But it’s one thing to study something, quite another to think there is no alternative.

  7. V says:

    If there is another (serious) way to study quantum gravity, then it would be great and I’m sure people will pay attention. One thing that should be kept in mind regarding the debate about string theory, is that one of the driving forces in it’s development over the last several years is a lack of experimental data. Because of this, there has been no other way to study these problems. I wonder what the development of theory over the last 15 years would have been like if the SSC had been constructed? Perhaps it would

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