Since you’ve read about the black hole image elsewhere, here are a few other items that might be of interest:
- I was sorry to hear today of the death on April 11 of Geoffrey Chew. Throughout the 1960s, Chew’s S-matrix/bootstrap philosophy was the dominant paradigm in high energy theory. It went into eclipse with the success of gauge theories in the early 1970s, but in recent years the (S-matrix) “amplitudes” program has to some degree revived it a bit, with hopes that it may be relevant to formulating quantum gravity.
- I thought the string wars were at times rather brutal, but it seems that they may have been a picnic compared to what astronomers get up to when there is a lot of money involved. See here for the bizarre story of what happened to Richard Easther when he started criticizing the plan for a New Zealand component of the Square Kilometer Array.
- For some recent and upcoming conference sites giving an idea of what is new in math and physics, Microsoft is hosting Physics Meets Machine Learning, the Eighth New England String Meeting had lots of interesting talks, hardly any strings to be seen, and MSRI last week hosted a “Hot Topics” workshop on Recent Progress in the Langlands Program.
For some news related to new books, there’s:
- Lee Smolin has a new book out, Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution, arguing that quantum mechanics is likely incomplete, since it continues to lack a successful “realist” version. He will be giving a public lecture about this at Perimeter tomorrow.
- John Baez advertises on Twitter a forthcoming volume about “New Spaces in Mathematics and Physics”. For some of the content, see here. Also, the original conference these articles are based on has videos here.
- I’m looking forward to seeing Graham Farmelo’s forthcoming The Universe Speaks in Numbers, about which I suspect there will be parts I’ll strongly agree with, others about which I’ll equally strongly disagree. The book evidently is based mainly on interviews, some of which Farmelo is putting up on his website. Jon Butterworth has a review this week in Nature, entitled A struggle for the soul of theoretical physics. He describes the Farmelo book as “a riposte” to critiques from a group I’m identified as being part of, but I have to keep pointing out that my point of view is not at all that the problem with string theory/supersymmetry has been “too much math”. I think progress in fundamental physics is going to require more mathematics, not less.
- There’s a new edition of the Kiritsis String theory in a Nutshell textbook available from Princeton. Looking at the introduction, I’m glad to see that Kiritsis points out the problem with the usual “string theory works, at the Planck scale” argument:
A big “hole” in string theory has been its perturbative (only) definition. With the advent of nonperturbative dualities, it was hoped that this shortcoming can be bypassed.Although the nonperturbative dualities have shed light in many obscure corners of string theory (obscured by strong-coupling physics), they never managed to bypass the Planck barrier. The Planck scale is always duality invariant, and any dual description is well defined for energies well below that Planck scale. We have no clue from string theory what happens near or above the Planck scale, as the relevant physics looks nonperturbative from any point of view.
I’ve added this to this FAQ entry.