Strings 2010

Strings 2010, this year’s version of the big annual string theory conference, will be held next week in College Station, Texas. There’s a university press release about this here. Normally the conference is held in the summer at places like Rome, Madrid, Paris, Kyoto, etc. and attracts about 4-500 string theorists. This year’s time and location may keep attendance down (although College Station is a lot cheaper place to stay than Rome…).

Unlike most years, there have been no promotional public lectures arranged. It also appears that there is no summary talk scheduled. In recent years, these have often been given by David Gross (who won’t be talking this year) or by Robbert Dijkgraaf (who is busy with another project, video here, for which he might want to recruit help from fellow string theorist Lubos Motl). Many of the talk titles are now available. In the past, sometimes the hot topic was mathematical and mathematicians were in attendance, but this has no longer been true for a while now. This year the hot topic is condensed matter physics, with several talks scheduled on attempts to apply AdS/CFT techniques to superconductors.

It turns out I’m going to be relatively nearby, but a week later, giving a talk for the public the evening of March 24th at Collin College in Plano.

Starting up this week and continuing through May, the KITP is hosting a string phenomenology program entitled Strings at the LHC and in the Early Universe. The program blurb somehow neglects to mention that string theory doesn’t actually predict anything at all about LHC physics or cosmology. To get a good idea of the topics that researchers in this field are discussing, online talks are here, starting with two rather general discussion sessions, one led by Blumenhagen, the second by Ovrut. As far as connecting to real physics goes, the state of the art seems to be much like it was a quarter century ago, with people struggling to find ways to come up with string theory-motivated constructions that are not in obvious disagreement with experiment. To achieve this requires going to ever more complicated models, which often contain various particles not in the Standard Model. In terms of making LHC predictions, one has no idea if this is a good or bad thing.

Update: The Strings 2010 talks will be web-cast. There’s now a participant list. With 192 participants, this will be the smallest Strings XXXX conference in many years.

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5 Responses to Strings 2010

  1. Anonymous says:

    High Tc Superconductor is already a hot field for many many years, now with string theorists joining…

  2. Sam says:

    Looks like you’re coming to my neck of the woods – I live in Collin County and Plano is very convenient.

    From the press release

    the lecture is open to the public. I’m going to try to attend.

  3. George H. says:

    “Robbert Dijkgraaf (who is busy with another project, … for which he might want to recruit help from fellow string theorist Lubos Motl).”


    It would surely make Patrick Michaels happy.

  4. lun says:

    As a heavy ion physicist with an interest in AdS/CFT, the presentations I saw absolutely shocked me.

    The tone of the speakers, and I am talking about the leading lights of string theory, was essentially “we learned everything there is to learn about heavy ions, so we are not interested in it anymore, let us do condensed matter physics”.

    While AdS/CFT was, and still is, a promising field, its “objective” impact to understanding the system created at RHIC is zero: I mean, there are neat calculations of highly idealized models, but there is no evidence that these models actually apply to the real world. Worse than that, there was very little effort to _look_ for this evidence. For the string theorists to now behave as if the job is finished, and they can concentrate on something else, is simply preposterous. It would be bad enough to admit failure (its premature, this approach has potential!), but they behave as if it was an unqualified success (and surely enough, PR annoucements will continue to claim this). Heavy ion phenomenologists (not to speak of the experimentalists) have every right to be extremely annoyed at this attitude.

    No idea how the condensed matter community will receive this interest. The people I know working on high-Tc superconductivity and related problems (a sample of ~5) have either never heard of AdS/CFT, or are dismissive of it. From my admittedly naive outsider perspective, the models described in the talks are largely too “artificial” to teach us anything we do not know already (in comparison the heavy ion models are actually pretty simple and natural, something I have in the past found very attractive), so it looks very much a repeat of the heavy ion performance: A few technical calculations of models that “look like” the system they claim to rapresent, little phenomenological effort, and a lot of PR.

    Honestly, if this is the best the field can offer, we are in deep trouble.

  5. Shantanu says:

    Peter and others, see this talk by Stanley Deser on overview of quantum gravity
    Around 40th minute there is some discussion of string theory.

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