Strings 2014 and a Return

20140623-114053-42053836.jpgToday is day one of Strings 2014, this year’s version of the official annual conference about the latest research in string theory. There’s a feeling that there is a buzz of excitement in the air, in part because (I’m guessing): (1) Well, it is the annual conference, you’re going to find out more about what’s been going on in the various corners of the field, and (2) everywhere you look there walks a giant of the field, and (3) more generally, people just like you who “get you”, and whose papers you’ve read that you’ve spent a good portion of your life thinking about, so it would be odd if you were not excited, and (4) it is in Princeton, which is sort of equal to Mount Olympus in our field, where a lot of the giants live, if you’ll permit me to mix metaphors a bit, and (5) apparently this is the largest Strings meeting since Paris in 2004. (I’ve heard that it is maybe 600 people registered, making it the biggest Strings ever?… Not sure.)

I could go on guessing about the buzz felt by others, but instead I’ll mention the main reasons I am excited. It is simply because I had my first postdoc at Princeton, at the Institute for Advanced Study, and began to really find my voice here as a physicist (thanks to the patient guidance of Ed Witten, and others); it was also my first time in the USA, and so I began to properly discover the country using here as a base, and so there are a huge number of happy personal memories for me around every corner, some to do with physics, and many others beyond physics. Since I left 20 years ago, I’ve only returned a couple of times for professional visits (I visited for the fall of 1999, and for a week in 2001 to give lectures at a school on strings), and so naturally there is a lot of curiosity for me about all the changes, and all the memories to be explored. I hope I have time to explore a bit.

Additionally, I’ve not actually been to a strings conference for a long time. Not since Paris in 2004, in fact, so of course it is going to be great to enjoy the company of this assembly of my colleagues from all over the world. I’ve had a number of ideas in recent months (see some recent posts) that I hope to chat to people about, and of course expect to learn a lot about what others are up to, and how I might help make a difference in those lines of research too.


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