This week the Newton Institute in Cambridge is running (with funding from the Templeton Foundation) a workshop on the topic of Noncommutative Geometry and Physics: Fundamental Structure of Space and Time. The program is here, some of the talks are online here, and Paul Cook is blogging here (with truly scary pictures of a Newton Institute restroom). Thursday evening they will be having a public panel discussion, entitled The Nature of Space and Time: An Evening of Speculation.
For someone interested not in quantum gravity but in particle physics, the most interesting of these talks is doubtless that of Alain Connes, entitled Noncommutative Geometry and the standard model with neutrino mixing. He has a new paper out, with the same title, with more details promised in a forthcoming paper with Chamseddine. I’ve been carrying the paper around for a while now, hoping to understand exactly what he’s doing, but it’s rather dense and some of the calculations are involved and don’t carry much of an explanation. I really wish I’d been at the talk to hear his exposition of what he’s up to here.
Among the other talks at the conference I would like to have heard would be that of Samson Shatashvili, who is doing some very interesting things with 2d gauge theories. He has a new paper out (with Gerasimov) which looks quite readable, entitled Higgs Bundles, Gauge Theories and Quantum Groups.
Another conference going on that is finishing up this week is the Erice “International School of Subnuclear Physics”, this year entitled The Logic of Nature, Complexity and New Physics, and dedicated to Richard Dalitz. Back during the sixties, seventies and eighties, the Erice School was an important yearly event, featuring the best theorists around giving expository lectures on the latest ideas, often including spectacularly beautiful lectures by Sidney Coleman. This year’s school just looks profoundly weird, with an interesting and reasonable set of lectures on the experimental side, but the theoretical side mostly devoted to “complexity and the Landscape”, featuring an opening lecture and mini-course about the Landscape by Susskind, a mini-course about the Landscape and its computational complexity (i.e. why it is hopeless to ever use it to predict anything) by Denef and Douglas, and more complexity from Zichichi, Beck, Gell-Mann and Tsallis. Many of the lectures are available here. Steve Hsu is blogging from the conference, and he reports that Susskind says the Landscape program is science since it now gives exactly one bit of information about the universe (the sign of the spatial curvature k), although he expects Andrei Linde to be able to make that bit disappear if he wants to.