A big chunk of yesterday (recall, I’m visiting at the Aspen Center for Physics) was spent chatting with old friends in the field I have not seen in a while, including going for a walk or two in the local surrounds with colleagues, discussing some of the physics issues of the day.
One of the things that comes up a lot with everyone I spoke to (and met at lunch, and in corridors and so forth) was Strings 2007, the big annual meeting that was held in Madrid last month (blog post here). It comes up in the form of people asking each other things like: “were you at Strings?”, “what did you think of Strings?”, “what were your favourite talks?”, “is there any interesting gossip about…?” (where the latter is not necessarily directly about physics).
So it occurred to me that some of those conversations and responses might be useful to workers in the field. Of course, you can just sit and work your way through the entire collection of online talks, a good thing to do. But it’s interesting to hear from others what talks they liked, and why, just as we do (and maybe have done) over tea and coffee in lounges all over the world after someone returns from a meeting. Often, this is where we hear of some excellent work by the less famous speakers (or even by someone who did not talk at all), etc.
So I’ll kick off. Although I was not there, and have yet to start a serious assault on working through many of the talks (I have seen one or two so far – I very much enjoyed Witten’s talk on three dimensional gravity, for example), I’ve heard from many that the talk by Seiberg on the little hierarchy problem was very interesting, their solution suggesting the existence of a scale of new physics at energies just around the experimental corner. (Jacques Distler blogged about some of these talks and papers over on Musings, by the way. See here, here and here.) An example of a very interesting talk that you might not have heard about was the one by Kovtun, constructing 3+1 dimensional holographic duals of 2+1 dimensional systems that have relevance to quantum critical transport in condensed matter systems. I find this material potentially very exciting and might well be the beginning of more excellent examples of the use one can put string theory to as a powerful tool in diverse areas of physics as the field matures. These talks can all be found here.
So what talks (and other things) did you find interesting, and perhaps tell us why as well. Of course, everyone’s tastes and research interests are different. This is not intended to be a popularity contest where we are ranking the talks using a single (and probably irrelevant) critierion. We’re just sharing our thoughts and impressions over the many miles that separate us.
I’d certainly like to hear from many people (use your name, or remain anonymous if you prefer), and I suspect that a lot of people will find the discussion interesting and useful in navigating the resource of talks. If you’ve heard opinion from people who are not regular (shock, horror!) readers or contributors to blogs, thats ok. Just tell them to stop by and tell us, or relay that opinion yourself.
Ok. I’ll stop here and leave it to you. Thanks in advance for taking the time to contribute.
Some Related Asymptotia Posts (not exhaustive):