Last week the Perimeter Institute ran a Workshop on Cosmological Frontiers in Fundamental Physics and someone wrote in to point out to me that the talks are now available on-line. Much of the workshop was about mainstream cosmology, especially the more speculative ideas about inflation and what signals might be found in the CMB.
The particle physics component was heavily weighted towards Landscapeology (talks by Denef, Kachru, Kleban), with a workshop-ending talk entitled “50 Years since the LHC” by Nima Arkani-Hamed. Arkani-Hamed’s talk was supposed to be a prediction of what things would look like 50 years after the LHC, and he ended it with the prediction that “the LHC will put the last nail in the coffin of mono-vac theories” and that “the Landscape will be with us to stay”. Along the way he went over various possibilities for what the LHC might see and their implications for whether the cosmological constant and the weak scale are anthropically determined. He said that he believed the cosmological constant was anthropically determined, and half the time he thought the weak scale was too, the other half of the time he thought it wasn’t. He argued for giving up on coming up with new mechanisms for electroweak symmetry breaking since “working on the (N+2)nd variant on the (N+1)st model of EWSB is not worth it”, saying that instead people should participate in the LHC Olympics and work on the “inverse problem” of figuring out from LHC data the 105 parameters of the MSSM or some other model of beyond standard model physics.
Near the beginning of his talk he gave a graph representing (as a function of time) the average string theorist’s view of the probability that string theory could be used to calculate standard model parameters. This started out near 1 in 1985, dropping to a small number in 1995 after the duality revolution showed that strongly coupled strings didn’t get rid of the wide range of possible backgrounds, and further dropping to “a number close to the fine tuning of the cosmological constant” in 2000 after the advent of the Landscape and the non-zero cosmological constant. The same graph also included a plot for the views of “clueless popularizers and science journalists”, which had only recently started to head down slightly from 1. He claimed that such people are ten years behind the times and that it is “not going to be pretty” when they catch up with the current views of string theorists and realize the theory can’t predict anything.
While at Perimeter, (according to Lubos Motl) Arkani-Hamed was talking to LQGer Laurent Freidel about Doubly-Special-Relativity in three dimensions. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch what Lubos has to say if and when some of his senior colleagues start working on LQG, something that seems entirely possible since string theory is now moribund, whereas LQG is in a much livelier state.
Landscapeology still seems to be making headway at taking over particle theory and ensuring that it becomes a pseudo-science. If you’ve got $250 and can get to an access grid facility, next week you can participate by video conferencing in a workshop at Ohio State on Strings and the Real World, which will have one day out of three devoted to the Landscape. I would have thought the title of the workshop would get into trouble with false advertising laws, since one thing that is clear is that absolutely none of the talks will be even slightly relevant to the real world.
For a horrific vision of where particle theory is headed, check out the website of the String Vacuum Project. The idea seems to be to get particle theorists spending their time developing software to do numerical computations searching amongst the infinite variety of the Landscape to find something or other. The section of the web-site on the connection of any of this to real particle phenomenology remains to be written.