Last night there was a panel discussion on “The Next Superstring Revolution” at Strings 2005 in Toronto. I’m curious about what took place there, so wondering if anyone who attended can tell us what happened, or at least whether it was recorded in some form that will later be made public. Come on, I can tell that there’s at least a dozen of you reading this from the lecture hall, surely one of you can tell us what happened last night!
Jacques Distler explictly refuses to discuss the panel discussion although he seems to have attended it. I gather this is because the discussion was rather negative about the prospects of string theory. Florian Gmeiner, a graduate student, submitted a comment that “I feel quite depressed after having listened to it”, earning a slap-down from Jacques that he should “get on with the business of doing physics” and ignore “silly exercises” like discussions of what is happening to string theory. So I guess his advice to any graduate students who notice the colossal failure of string theory is to not pay attention to it, but to push on, writing papers about the subject anyway, even if the whole project no longer makes any sense and has stopped being a science.
In any case, that’s what Jacques himself is doing.
Update: Makoto Sakurai has a new weblog, is blogging from the conference and tells a bit about the panel discussion, which does sound like it included some unusual skepticism.
Update:It looks like Ashoke Sen’s slides from the panel discussion are on-line.
Update:Jacques Distler is still slapping down poor graduate students who have the temerity to ask whether string theory has any future, since they are considering devoting their lives to it. He abuses some student who says he wants to make “an informed decision about risks of studying string theory” by accusing him of being “a reader of Peter Woit’s blog”. Funny, I was sure that one of the several RSS clients continually checking my weblog from Austin belonged to Jacques, but I guess not. This is the first time I can think of that he has actually used my name, even if as an insult.
He also appears to have become completely delusional: “Lots of interesting things going on in the field. I don’t get the sense that people feel ‘stuck,’ or are thrashing about for stuff to do.” Saying things like this to impressionable graduate students is really educational malpractice.
Update:Lubos Motl has some comments about the issues surrounding this panel discussion, about this weblog, and advice for students thinking about studying string theory. As usual, I strongly agree with him about some things, strongly disagree about others….