At the big annual APS meeting, now going on in Jacksonville, of the 9 plenary talks, one is about particle theory. The talk is entitled “String Theory, Branes and if You Wish, the Anthropic Principle” and it was given by Shamit Kachru of the Stanford group. Here’s the abstract, which besides the usual claims that string theory is “our most promising framework for a unified theory of the fundamental interactions” and that “the underlying theory is unique”, also makes the claim to have “testable ideas about inflation and particle physics”. No clue what these ideas are, so I don’t know if they include the testable prediction the landscape makes about the proton lifetime. Also unclear why the Anthropic Principle is being demoted to “if You Wish”. Lots of experimental talks on particle physics at the conference, here’s a Fermilab press release on CDF and D0 results discussed at the meeting. Lawrence Krauss was speaking on “Selling Physics to Unwilling Buyers”, I wonder what that was about. More about the meeting at the Physics Meetings blog.
David Ben-Zvi has put up on his web-site his lecture notes from last week’s series of lectures in Oxford on geometric Langlands. As usual, a very readable survey of the subject, emphasizing links to representation theory.
For another source of material about representation theory and the (non-geometric) Langlands program, see the web-site hosted by the Clay Mathematics Institute devoted to the collected works of James Arthur.
There’s yet another round of discussion on bloggingheads.tv between science writers John Horgan and George Johnson. This week the LHC and the state of particle physics are some of the topics they consider.
From Fermilab, various new sources for discussion of the future of experimental particle physics include:
A web-site for the steering group tasked with developing a roadmap for future use of US accelerators. This week’s meeting includes a presentation on reconfiguring the Fermilab accelerator complex to produce larger numbers (factor of 3 more) protons, for use by neutrino experiments and others.
Last week there was a workshop devoted to considering what effect early data from the LHC would have on plans for the ILC (via Tommaso Dorigo).
Finally, Steven Miller, author of “String Kings”, has a new blog he is working on, devoted to essays on mathematical physics, theoretical biology and the history of science.
Update: Two more.
Seed magazine has a series of “cribsheets” about science. For physics, they cover nuclear power, the elements, and now string theory. The lack of predictivity of the theory is given a positive spin as being due to the “rich diversity” of string theory. At Cosmic Variance, Sean Carroll approvingly refers to this as “it only refers glancingly to the anthropic principle, which is a much more accurate view of the state of discussion about string theory than one would get by reading blogs.”
Nature has an article about the state of the LHC and the possibility that the Tevatron might be the first to see the Higgs. LHC project manager says that they were already running about 5 weeks behind schedule before the problem with the quadrupoles appeared, but says “In my view the magnet problem has been blown out of proportion… It is a very small part of a bigger picture.” If the schedule slips much more, there might not be time for an engineering run in 2007, and the first science run might be delayed until later in 2008.
Update: Thanks to commenter F. for pointing to the slides from Kachru’s talk. It’s a clear presentation of the moduli stabilization problem and the techniques that he and others used to solve it, while at the same time making the landscape problem much worse. The “testable” ideas mentioned in his abstract are the usual sort of thing behind claims like this: not actual tests of string theory, but effects in certain very specific models among the infinite variety of ones you can get out of string theory. Kachru doesn’t much address the issue of whether the landscape framework is testable science in the conventional sense, other than to describe people’s attempts to use eternal inflation to explain how the vacuum gets selected and try and get physics out of this as “notoriously confusing.” He also describes counting of vacua as favoring high-scale supersymmetry breaking, so maybe there is a prediction: no supersymmetry at the LHC.
Update: For the latest from FNAL on the LHC magnet problems, see here.