Strings 2009 is about three weeks away, and it will bring 450 or so string theorists to Rome. The topics of the talks at the Strings 200x conferences give a good idea of what the hot topics in the field are, and this year’s talk titles are now available. What’s big this year are scattering amplitudes, as well as the usual AdS5/CFT4 topics, supplemented by the more recently popular AdS4/CFT3. As far as phenomenology goes, the hot topic is definitely local F-theory models, with three separate talks on the subject.

One topic that is not hot is anything mathematical, with no research talks by mathematicians or Witten, and little about mathematically significant topics such as mirror symmetry. What also seems to no longer be hot is either string cosmology or the landscape. No cosmology, multiverse or Boltzmann Brains are to be found among the research talks, although Brian Greene will give a public lecture about the issue of possible multiple universes.

So what about Horava gravity theory? TBC ? when confirmed?

Hi Peter – Three talks that stand out to me as mathematically significant are those by Gaiotto, Nekrasov and Ooguri (not to say others aren’t, these are closer to things I’ve been exposed to..). The math of N=2 d=4 gauge theories continues to be very inspiring, with new relations to representation theory, algebraic geometry, Hall algebras, Donaldson-Thomas invariants etc emerging recently, and these three speakers are very much in the forefront of the subject and influencing many mathematicians from what I can tell.

I thought the talks by Antoniadis and Narain on their work on topological amplitures would be primarily of mathematical interest as well.

Hi David and MathPhys,

I was of course exaggerating the point with both “No Landscape” and “No Math”. Just as some of the talks surely contain material of use to landscapeologists, the ones you mention will contain material of real interest to mathematicans. But, still, just as none of the talks are primarily about the concerns of landscapeologists, I don’t see any of the talks as having primarily mathematical interest, and suspect that relatively few mathematicians will be able to get something out of them. Looking through the 400+ long participant list I only saw a couple people I recognize as working in math departments.

In any case, I tend to believe in the existence of a large area of overlap between math and physics, making putting things in one or the other category often impossible. My perception though is that, while string theorists have in some past periods been interested in reaching out to and interacting with mathematicians, that is less true recently.

David’s comment about the mathematical significance of recent work on N=2 d=4 gauge theories is a good case in point. I’m sure he’s right, but also suspect that he’s one of a very small number of mathematicians able to appreciate these connections. I hope he’ll continue to do a great job of explaining this to me and others.

wow, No Chinese either.