The news from Dublin is that Witten will be in town soon to give the Hamilton Lecture, with the Irish Times reporting that
Witten’s Hamilton Lecture will abandon string theory, however, in favour of knots, with a talk entitled: The Quantum Theory of Knots.
He may be there the previous day, when they hold the annual Hamilton Walk, commemorating Hamilton’s discovery of quaternions and inscription of the quaternion relations on a bridge.
In other mathematical physics coverage by the Irish Times, one of their columnists describes the interaction of the Irish revolutionary leader de Valera with Schrodinger and Dirac, speculating (humorously) that the three of them might have come up with an Irish “unified field theory.”
From a meeting today in Madrid, here’s an overview of theoretical particle physics in Spain. There’s the same pattern reported as has been going on in the US for a while: “moving from more formal and mathematical developments to phenomenology and also astroparticle/cosmology”, as well as trying to get theorists more involved in LHC physics. Another similar pattern to the US, the threat of “decreasing funding support for basic science in difficult economic times.”
The question of what future facilities for particle physics should be is not just a European one, but I fear that in practice a higher energy machine is not likely to be built anywhere except at CERN. This week at CERN there was an ICFA Seminar on Future Perspectives in HEP, which gives a good overview of the state of the field and prospects for the future. The question of what to build next to get information at the energy frontier is very unsettled, pretty much completely up in the air waiting to find out if there’s a Higgs particle or not. The SUSY and extra dimensional models used as partial selling points for the LHC are dying and won’t be convincing arguments for what the next generation should do.