Two of the year’s largest particle theory conferences are taking place around now, with Lattice 2004 attracting 280 physicists to Batavia, Illinois this past week and Strings 2004 drawing almost 500 to Paris starting tomorrow. Normally I feel kind of sorry for string theorists since their field is in such bad shape, but this week I’m jealous since I would have loved to have an excuse to go to Paris this summer (I’m not jealous of the lattice gauge theorists who are getting to spend the week in Batavia).
Maybe I’m wrong about this, but the Paris string theory conference seems to me to be the largest gathering of particle theorists that I can remember ever having taken place. In recent years these things have been huge, with attendance around 400-450, but this one should be even larger. It is so over-subscribed that they haven’t been taking on-line registrations for weeks.
Both conferences should have transparencies from the talks available soon on-line and the list of titles and speakers in Paris is now available. Some of the ones that look like they might be interesting are Robbert Dijkgraaf speaking about “Topological M-theory”, Nikita Nekrasov on “Chasing M/F theory” and maybe Greg Moore, whose title is the mystifying “Anomalies, Gauss laws, and Page Charges in M-theory”. One big theme of the conference looks like it will be N=4 super Yang-Mills theory. This is an interesting and well-defined quantum field theory, and one can study it whille claiming to be a string theorist because of the AdS/CFT conjecture and Witten’s recent work reformulating it in terms of topological strings in twistor space.
Next Saturday in Paris there will be a whole day of talks devoted to the unrelenting hyping of string theory to the general public, something which is a standard feature of the “Strings XXXX” conferences, but not the “Lattice XXXX” ones. Somehow I suspect the speakers will neglect to emphasize the utter lack of any progress towards making any contact with reality during the past twenty years. In case the Paris conference is not enough, there are quite a few satellite conferences, including a pre-conference workshop at the IHES and post-conference workshops at CERN and Durham.
Update: It looks like Jacques Distler will be reporting direct from the conference.
Further Update: It seems that they have a WiFi connection at the Paris conference site. From my web server logs, it appears that one thing attendees at the conference are doing during the more boring talks is reading “Not Even Wrong” on the web. Hi Guys!