This may be old news, but I just recently noticed that talks given at the IAS in Princeton last fall to celebrate its 80th anniversary are now available on-line here. They include talks by Voevodsky on the foundations of mathematics, Zaldarriaga on cosmology, Wilczek on supersymmetry and quantum computing, and Arkani-Hamed on Fundamental Physics in the 21st Century.
According to Arkani-Hamed, the 21st century will be all AdS/CFT, all the time, using it to justify:
the slogan is that string theory/quantum gravity is particle physics…
There is a less interesting but amusing sociological fact associated with this, that since this realization there aren’t really different camps in theoretical physics any more. There aren’t string theorists and particle theorists, there’s one big structure “Good Ideas in Theoretical Physics”, OK. That structure has many different facets and you can work on different parts of it, but it’s all connected. You can really see it in the way the field developed since the late 90s, we’re much, much more one big happy family than was the case in the 1980s. I should say of course there are still people that do bad theoretical physics, but they’re not at the Institute. So all good ideas in theoretical physics are combined in one very big structure that no longer is there such a big difference between strings, QFT…
This puts into practice Nati Seiberg’s 2005 prediction:
“Most string theorists are very arrogant,” says Seiberg with a smile. “If there is something [beyond string theory], we will call it string theory.”
Both Wilczek and Arkani-Hamed advertise supersymmetry, with Arkani-Hamed making the peculiar claim that physicists need to throw space-time out the window, but for some reason, before doing so it is important that they add supersymmetry to it. Wilczek states definitively that if superpartners don’t show up at the LHC, as far as he is concerned the idea will be gone.
The minimal supersymmetric standard model is an important pillar of the “Good Ideas in Theoretical Physics” that those at the Institute cling to, despite efforts to use them to unify physics failing miserably over the last 25 years. If the LHC doesn’t see supersymmetry and Wilczek and others give up on the idea, it will be interesting to see if the IAS faculty revise their point of view and start to develop more of an interest in what they now claim is “bad theoretical physics”. I suppose though that when they do, they’ll call whatever they change over to “string theory”.
Update: By the way, for the latest on what initial results from the LHC are saying about extra dimensions and supersymmetry, see this talk given today at CERN by Alessandro Strumia.