Math and Physics, Summer 2011

This week in Philadelphia the String-Math 2011 conference is going on, planned as the first of a series, with String-Math 2012 next summer in Bonn. Slides of the talks are appearing here. There’s also supposed to be video, but the saved video seems to require some sort of UPenn login, and I’ve not been able to get the streaming video to work. The public talk by Cumrun Vafa puts out the classic message that strings have come to the rescue of physics, unifying QM and gravity, and that:

Smooth geometry of strings seems to explain all known interactions (at least in principle)

The techinical talks cover a lot of ground, much of it having little to do with string theory. Michael Douglas’s talk surveys problems related to finding non-perturbative formulations of quantum field theory that one might hope to say something precise about, but it contains a lot more questions than answers. I’m most curious about David Ben-Zvi’s talk tomorrow, so hope that slides or video of that will be available.

The circle of ideas relating gauge theories, geometric Langlands, TQFTs and representation theory will be getting even more attention than the mathematics of string theory this summer. In a couple weeks will begin a two-part program at Luminy and then Cargese on Double Affine Hecke Algebras, the Langlands Program, Affine Flag Varieties, Conformal Field Theory, Super Yang-Mills Theory. I don’t know who the author is, but some person or group has written up for the occasion a wonderful summary of the current activity in these and related fields of mathematics, see here. Next month, the KITP will be hosting a program on Nonperturbative Effects and Dualities in QFT and Integrable Systems that will cover some of the same topics.

In some other unrelated news, if you understand French, you can listen to an interesting set of interviews with Pierre Cartier here. Finally, it was announced recently that my colleague Richard Hamilton is sharing this years $1 million Shaw Prize for Mathematics with Demetrios Christodoulou. Congratulations Richard!

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10 Responses to Math and Physics, Summer 2011

  1. Pingback: Smooth geometry vs (nonsmooth calculus and combinatorics) | chorasimilarity

  2. Igor Khavkine says:

    Hmm, Michael Douglas’s talk is interesting. However, from his remarks about cluster expansions, I wonder if he is overlooking potential interaction with the work on position-space renormalization that has been continuously improved since the contributions of Epstein and Glaser in the ’70s.

  3. Daniel L. Burnstein says:

    Just a note to let you know that the video works fine from my computer.


  4. Peter Woit says:

    Thanks DLB,

    I’m also now able to access the archived video as well as the stream (using VLC for the latter).

  5. Thanks for the link to Cartier’s interview. The first part is missing on the link you provided, but it can be found here.

  6. Sorry about the preceding link : it says it is the first part of Cartier’s interview but it has nothing to do with it ! I’ll see what I can do with the people at France Culture.

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  8. Peter Woit says:


    Well, at least that’s the first string theory hype press release I’ve seen in a while that doesn’t claim discovery of a way to test string theory…

  9. Tim van Beek says:

    A nice talk by Michael Douglas. I think it is understandable that it is biased somewhat towards the work that he himself is involved in. I’d liked to hear a little bit more about axiomatic quantum field theory, and also about the work on making Feynman integrals rigorous. BTW, people in AQFT usually work with the Haag-Kastler axioms, not the Osterwalder-Schrader axioms as Douglas implied. Also, the axioms have been fully generalized to Lorentzian manifolds quite some time ago, see for example this paper on the arXiv.