The 23rd Jerusalem Winter School in Theoretical Physics started yesterday. The topic is “String Theory: Symmetries and Dynamics”, and it is organized by David Gross and Eliezer Rabinovici.
Some of the talks are already available on-line, with the quality of the video and audio very good, although you need the latest version of Apple’s Quicktime player. In his opening talk, Gross mentioned the recent New Scientist article quoting him as admitting string theory was in trouble, saying that the article misrepresented what he said. At the recent Solvay conference he had said something like “In string theory we don’t know what we are talking about”, and the New Scientist reporter interpreted that as meaning there was trouble, an interpretation Gross disagreed with. He was annoyed by the New Scientist editorial about the sorry state of string theory, and says he has been offered the opportunity to write a rebuttal and may do so. Gross went on to claim that really string theory is a vital subject and that it is in a wonderful period. He didn’t mention the Landscape.
Update: Another recent particle theory conference was the Christmas Meeting at Durham. There’s a report from the conference by blogger Paul Cook. Evidently Herman Verlinde is taking bets that string theory is the correct unified theory. Those who want to make some easy money might want to contact him. Then again, it’s unclear when you would get paid.
Update: The lectures by my Princeton classmate Igor Klebanov on using string theory to study strongly coupled gauge theories are particularly clear and interesting. Near the beginning he mentions this blog quoting it as saying “String theory is not good for anything.” I’d like to emphasize that that is not something I wrote or something that I think, I assume he is referring to one of my commenters.