This week I’m in Seattle, among other things attending a Summer Institute in Algebraic Geometry sponsored by the AMS. This is the latest in a series of large summer conferences on algebraic geometry that have taken place about every ten years. The last one was in Santa Cruz in the mid 90s, the one before that at Bowdoin in the mid 80s. This one is being billed as “the largest algebraic geometry meeting in the history of the world”, with about 320 mathematicians here this week, and a total of around 600 planning on showing up for at least part of the three weeks during which the conference is taking place. The full schedule of talks is on-line, and copies of speaker’s notes and transparencies should soon be appearing there.
The main topic of the first week is billed as “interactions with physics”, but there’s actually not a whole lot of that going on here. The organizers originally hoped that Robbert Dijkgraaf would be lecturing this week, but that didn’t work out. Kentaro Hori of Toronto is giving a series of three talks on mirror symmetry, and some of his lecture notes are already on-line. Rahul Pandharipande started off the conference with the first in what looks like it will be a very interesting series of lectures on Gromov-Witten invariants. This has now become a huge subfield of algebraic geometry, with many ramifications, some of which have been inspired by physics, and there continues to be active interaction between math and physics around this subject. Many of the talks in the afternoon parallel sessions are also related to this topic.
An unrelated note: Lee Smolin has a rather philosophical, but interesting, new preprint out entitled The case for background independence