(Anyone remember Mike Oldfield? I recall a lovely piece of music of his with the same title as this post and it has now been playing distantly in my head as I type…very pleasant.)
Well, I’m sitting at an outside table across from the main square with the cathedral and having a simple lunch. It is hot, and so I have a glass of cold pale beer in front of me, and everyone around me is speaking Spanish. This feels like it could be that I am back in Madrid, but in fact I am in Morelia, Mexico. (I can tell because, among other things, I’ve never been offered a shoe shine quite so many times in the space of 15 minutes…) It is quite a lovely place, as far as I’ve seen so far (I’ve not explored much yet). I’m resting after a very early morning travel schedule which saw a slight panic (er…long story) at LAX to catch my flight which left just before 1:00am. The seats were fixed to the bolt upright position the whole flight and so the two and a half hours I’d planned to snooze were not so comfortable. Well, a snooze in my hotel (earplugs essential here, as the room above me has World cup fans and there are morning games on the TV), a little walk, and this lunch have put everything right, I think. Or perhaps the two tasty beers have deluded me.
I’ve been actually having Spanish conversations. With no mime involved. These are not huge linguistic masterpieces, you understand – mostly food ordering and other similar transactions – but that I am having them at all is a pleasing sign to me. I thought that maybe I’d have lost the little confidence I’d gained from hanging out in Spain in February. (I try to speak Spanish in LA but most times the people I try this will simply reply in English and so I get no real practice.)
I’m here to give some lectures at a school on Quantum Gravity. Since string theory is (among other things and at the very least) a theory of Quantum Gravity it makes sense to have someone come along and explain aspects of what it is about, and that’s my role. I wish I had more than three lectures to do it in, but I believe I can go some way to the goal in the time given. Part of my aims are to also give them enough of a sense of what is going on that my colleague Per Krauss can confidently tell them about how aspects of string theory are being applied to understand aspects of strongly coupled field theories… with observational consequences I’ve explained to you in several previous posts. So this is influencing a bit the path I have chosen in the story I will try to relate starting tomorrow.
Other approaches to Quantum Gravity will be lectured about by others, and so I expect that this will be quite a good school from which to launch into the issue of what people are up to in this whole business. Look out for notes and/or lectures online that may well appear later from the organizers.
When not lecturing or scribbling notes for lectures I will look around the city a bit, but mostly sit around and work on things to do with the Project. There, while things go slowly (as expected) the results are very pleasing and, I think, worthwhile. I will post more on all that later, I expect.