Lattice 2006, the big yearly conference on lattice gauge theory, is going on the week in Tucson. The program is here, and both plenary and parallel session talks are being posted. Georg von Hippel is blogging from the conference, his blog entries so far are here, here and here. One of the main topics is dynamical fermions, with a nice talk by Steven Sharpe. He discusses staggered fermions, which unfortunately come quadrupled with respect to what one wants, providing four “tastes” of fermions instead of a single one. The question then is whether one can get away with just taking the fourth root of the fermion determinant, which then makes the theory non-local. He concludes that this is not “Good” (i.e. having properties one would like even for non-zero lattice spacing), but it is not “Bad” (wrong continuum limit), it is just “Ugly” (for non-zero lattice spacing there are unphysical contributions, but these can be dealt with and made to go away as the lattice spacing goes to zero).
At the YITP in Stony Brook, a month-long workshop funded by Jim Simons on the String Landscape and the Swampland has begun this week. A schedule with links to audio of the talks is here. Today Cumrun Vafa is giving a talk on the beach about the Landscape and the Swampland.
The XXXIII International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP), the big summer conference on high energy physics at which many HEP experimental groups announce their results, started yesterday in Moscow. Fermilab has a special web-page for abstracts from its experimental groups.
There’s a review of Not Even Wrong by John Horgan in the August issue of the British magazine Prospect, entitled Stringing Us Along. Yesterday a short interview and discussion involving me and Daniel Waldram, a string theorist from Imperial College, was recorded by the BBC. I hear it was broadcast today on their “Today” radio program. Not sure how it came out after editing, and I can’t really bear to listen to recordings of myself, but the discussion was perfectly polite, with no one calling anyone else names.
The August issue of Scientific American has an article about Alain Connes and his non-commutative geometry interpretation of the standard model. He continues to work on this topic, from what I hear most recently thinking about different versions of this idea that incorporate right-handed neutrinos. For some of his latest still quite speculative ideas about quantum field theory, see his recent lectures on Noncommutative Geometry and Physics, as well as other papers available at his web-site. In his version of the standard model the Higgs field has an unusual origin and one naturally gets a relation between the Higgs coupling and gauge couplings, but this is at some very high energy scale where the idea is that the use of non-commutative geometry will replace standard GUT ideas. To extract a prediction of the Higgs mass from this one has to make various assumptions, including a desert hypothesis (no new physics from 1 Tev up to the unification scale), so it’s still unclear to me how solid a prediction this really is. For an example of a recent paper about this issue, see one by Knecht and Schucker.