Starting tomorrow there’s a workshop in London entitled M-theory in the City, in some sense celebrating the 11th birthday of M-theory. There will be a reception on Thursday evening, and the organizers of the workshop are noting that:
Recently there have been a variety of publications presenting a sceptical view of string and M-theory. These have been reported extensively in both the national press and various popular science journals.
and encouraging journalists interested in this topic to attend the reception and use:
the opportunity to discuss with the participants and question where string theory is heading and address the recent criticisms string theory has faced.
Various and assorted quantum gravity news:
The latest Physics Today has an article by Lee Smolin entitled Quantum Gravity Faces Reality (available only to APS members). People concerned about open access to the scientific literature should note that sometimes professional societies like the APS are among the worst offenders. It appears that Physics Today is one of relatively few scientific publications that universities and other institutions are not even allowed to buy electronic access to. I’ve been told that this restriction of electronic access to subscribers is an intentional tactic of the APS to keep up its circulation figures and thus advertising rates.
The latest Nature Physics has a report from Ashtekar about recent developments in loop quantum gravity.
There’s a new paper on the arXiv by Baratin and Freidel that looks quite interesting. It’s too bad that Christine Dantas has given up her blog that provided an excellent location for discussion of this kind of quantum gravity research. I hope someone else will pick up where she left off. Blogger Sabine Hossenfelder has a recent arXiv preprint on Phenomenological Quantum Gravity.
I heard from my sister-in-law that NPR yesterday ran a segment on string theory, but it was mostly about soccer. I found this hard to believe, but she was right, the story is on-line here. NPR’s Richard Harris covered a soccer game in Santa Barbara between visiting string theorists and laser physicists. The string theorists were trailing much of the game, but finally won on a penalty kick they got due to a misunderstanding by the laser physicists. The story does have some remarkable quotes from string theorists about the prospects for the theory. Steve Giddings “is actually feeling somewhat more optimistic about the fate of string theory these days”, arguing that maybe the LHC will start producing strings (the article does note that “even most string theorists say this is a real long shot”). David Gross says that the reason to do string theory is that “…there’s nothing else. There’s no other game in town.” He acknowledges that string theorists don’t even know what the theory is, and are out on a limb and trusting in faith:
Even those of us who work in the field aren’t really sure what string theory is or what it’s going to be, Gross says. So when you’re in this kind of speculative, exploratory science, it’s important to have faith because you’re out on a big limb. So I think it’s really a question of whether we believe this is the right direction; and that I do believe rather firmly.
Update: Lee Smolin has put up a letter on his web-site in response to queries and criticisms he has received in response to his recent book.