Southern California Strings Seminar

Southern California String SeminarOn Friday and Saturday of next week (September 29th and 30th), the next Southern California Strings Seminar will be happening! It’s a regional meeting for people doing research in string theory and related topics, and as I’ve said before, I’d especially like to see more young people come out and take part. We make a special effort to ask the speakers to spend a little time at the beginning of their talk setting the scene (speaking about motivations, what has gone before, etc) so that the series can be of great value to people who are trying to learn what’s going on in a particular topic at research level (this can be students, postdocs, or faculty, in fact).

If you’re doing this kind of physics research anywhere in the Southern California region, and want to take part, please come. See the website for details, and try to let the hosts -this time it is USC- know that you’re coming so that we can arrange lunches, etc. (We’ll be asking for a contribution of about $5-$10 to help with lunches, cookies, coffee, and other goodies that will be on tap during the day.)

From the main page of the website, I wrote:

ken intriligator at scssJoin us as we (members of several of the local groups with interest in string theory and related topics) sit together to discuss new ideas and developments (both general and technical) in the field. The presentations will be accompanied by plenty of discussion and in the first part of each talk the speaker will take special care to set the scene and context of the work in a pedagogical manner so as to encourage participation by younger members of the field.

Also, here’s what I mention about the inaugural one, which was in May 2005, hosted by the USC group:

The inaugural event was 20th-21st May 2005, and was hosted at the University of Southern California. It was great fun, and we all learned a lot! We had about 40 participants, from USC, UCLA, UCI, Harvey Mudd College, UCSD, and Caltech, with speakers from some of these places and also from Chicago, Michigan and Stanford.

jerome gauntlett at scssI did a quick visual report on the last one (hosted by UCLA) over on Cosmic Variance, and the links to that is here, and the announcement (rather like this one) that was made last year is here.

This semester, we are going to be a bit more ambitious and try to do two of them (which I think is closer to the ideal number per season) and so we will have another one at UCLA on December 1st and 2nd. More details later. Please get in touch if you’d like to help organise one at one of the regional groups’ headquarters.


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10 Responses to Southern California Strings Seminar

  1. Pingback: Some Upcoming Events | Cosmic Variance

  2. Dave says:

    Hi Cliff,

    Good to know there’s going to be a String Theory Seminar. Any predictions as to what we may expect in string theory in the coming months?


  3. Clifford says:

    Hi. Well, in general, I’ve never known of anyone being able to predict the outcome of research. But I’d keep an eye on some of the facinating physics coming our of applying gauge/gravity dualities to undertanding the strong interactions, including the applciations to RHIC physics. You may not have heard much about it (I dod not know if you are in the field or not): This is such an interesting area of research that somehow does not get covered in the press, which unfortunately seems to spend its time rushing after trying to find ways to maintain the silly “storm in a teacup” represented by Peter Woit’s and Lee Smolin’s books. David Mateos will be reviewing it at the SCSS.

    But there are lots of things going on in several areas that are exciting-looking. This includes the more formal side (Kapustin will be telling us about the Langlands program in string theory, for example), the research on black holes (talks by Matt Headrick and Nick Warner), and more. We hope to hear more on what is going on in Phenomenology and particle physics sides of things in the next SCSS in December at UCLA.

    There may be all sorts of interesting things in people’s notebooks about to come out. I can’t tell, of course, only having access to mine. From mine will come what looks to be a new kind of string theory, which I’m rather pleased with. Sadly, I’ve been so busy that it is taking me several weeks to write the short paper about it.



  4. amanda says:

    Any chance of a storm in a teacup part II?

    I can see why you would think that the Woit/Smolin approach is not helpful. But on the other hand, I fear that your [and other’s] reaction to this will be a tendency to underestimate the importance of legitimate research into the Landscape [and things like that]. I don’t think that it is correct to portray landscape research as “just another topic in string theory”. For example, although I think Susskind’s whole attitude to these things [we understand everything, and either overtly or covertly everyone agrees with LS] is deeply deplorable, I have to predict that his work and that of his cronies will ultimately prove to be a lot more interesting and important than most of what is going on now.

    What I’m trying to say is that while I can understand people being sick of hearing about the anthropic principle and so on, that should not be the basis for letting people think that this topic is [necessarily] flaky or not very important. It *is* very important, and there will be consequences for the whole subject if things go badly on that front. Peter Woit thinks that the iceberg has hit and the ship is on its way down. You and I think that he is completely wrong, but I don’t believe that the best way to convince the passengers is to draw attention to how well the orchestra is playing.

  5. Clifford says:

    I meant to write part II a while ago, but frankly got a bit bored and saddened with the shallowness and silliness of it all, and some, shall I say ….selectivity…. in the terms and parameters of the discussion… I will try one more time, but I am unlikely to succeed….

    In the meantime, you are welcome to share with us your approach. I’ll be listening.

    Cheers, (and thanks!)


  6. amanda says:

    “I will try one more time, but I am unlikely to succeed….”

    Come on, you can do it! 🙂

    “My” approach is just a re-hash of what I hear from other people! And that’s why it’s important for people like you to tell us what you think about these things. One very disturbing aspect of the arguments about the landscape, the anthropic principle, etc, is the “everyone knows…..” argument. Susskind says that everyone knows that eternal inflation is [a] compatible with string theory and [b] can populate the landscape. Lee Smolin says that everyone knows that anthropic reasoning isn’t science. Peter Woit says that everyone knows that landscape studies are all nonsense. Then people like me start to wonder whether their failure to “know” any of these things is an indication of hopeless ignorance. What we need is somebody to explain to us, in detail, that all of these things are open to debate. For example, how solid is Susskind’s argument that our Universe could be a baby of some pre-existing universe? I mean, how do we know that a new-born baby universe will really look like our early universe? This is just an example — I’m sure you can think of other examples, in this area, of confidently made claims based on very little. Tell us how little we “know” !!

  7. Clifford says:

    Well, I am not going to touch all of that… I’ve spent way too much time on it already in earlier blog debates that just keep getting forgottten again and again…..

    About what we know: (And then I must get back to work): The central dishonesty about this current overblown nonsense is precisely the certainty issue. All of the issues are the subject of on-going research, but Peter Woit -while complaining about how string theory has been over-stated and over-hyped on the one hand- keeps claiming that he knows that string theory is wrong. This utter over-statement and over-hype is itself is bizarre, and ironic, in my opinion. Also bizarre and sad is how much of the string theory research activity is totally ignored in these discussiuons, as though we are all sitting there working on the Anthropic principle and nothing else. This is a deliberately misleading characterisation of the program of research. I could go on… but the point is that I have said these things again and again….. but it just gets ignored, because it is so much easier to play to the “controversy” story… and the simplistic picture about string theory being the bad guy…. the overbearing establishment evil empire….. that is the only story the press wants to run with for now.

    The story being told has little to do with the physics. That’s my point. I’m very tired.



  8. amanda says:

    “I’m very tired.”

    It’s sad that you feel that way. Sad, but understandable.

    I’m currently reading A. Vilenkin’s book. He, too, is quite sure of everything. Well, I guess you are right: it would be a lot less exciting to write a book saying that, look, we have some interesting ideas, but unfortunately our understanding of some of the critical mechanisms [eternal inflation, etc etc etc] is so primitive that at the moment we can’t really judge how likely they are…..

  9. Clifford says:

    Yes…. there’s the PR exericise, and pandering to what the press will find palatable, and the finding the soundbites that the general public will grab at… and then there’s the actual research. If only we’d all work together to trying to make the two resemble each other more, instead of replacing old hype with more hype. Sigh.


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