This week at Caltech there’s a workshop celebrating the 35th anniversary of N=4 Super Yang-Mills theory. George Musser of Scientific American is covering the workshop here. He reports that N=4 Super Yang-Mills is being describe as the “Darth Vader theory”, I guess by Nima Arkani-Hamed. The conjectural 6d (2,0) superconformal theory gets called “the Emperor Palpatine of theories”.
Perhaps slides from the talks will be posted at some point. Witten will close the workshop tomorrow with a talk not about Darth Vader or the Emperor Palpatine, but about “Superstring perturbation theory revisited”.
Update: Clifford Johnson reports on the conference here.
Update: Someone at the conference confirms that the “Darth Vader” description came from Arkani-Hamed, who in his talk said something like:
“The relation between 4D N=4 SYM and the 6D (2, 0) theory is just like that between Darth Vader and the Emperor. You see Darth Vader and you think “Isn’t he just great? How can anyone be greater than that? No way’.Then you meet the Emperor”.
Update: A couple reports from the conference banquet. During his presentation Dan Freedman unveiled his new textbook on Supergravity (see here) and offered to sell copies to those attending the conference at 20% off. Stephen Hawking was there. He’s in Pasadena for his yearly visit and to appear in an episode of “The Big Bang Theory”. The show’s writers and producers are very excited about the “Darth Vader/Emperor Palatine” thing and planning on working it into the show’s script. Afterwards Hawking invited many people to join him and some of the cast of the show on a trip out to his favorite club in San Bernadino.
Update: Given that the previous update was written on April 1, readers might want to have some suspicions about whether it is completely accurate.
Update: Some slides from the talks are now available here.