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FFP 11

10 Juillet 2010, 08:31am

Publié par Fabien Besnard

I've attented a conference in Paris last week, which was called "Frontiers of Fundamental Physics". This was a transdisciplinary conference, with speakers talking about subjects ranging from entanglement and quantum computing, astrophysics and cosmology, particle physics, to epistemololgy and history of physics. I gave a talk on the last subject (roughly) in a parallel session, you can see my slides here, and here the paper on which it is based (still a draft, but hopefully not too far from a publishable version).


Among the plenary speakers, Roger Penrose was announced, but he eventually had to cancel due to his losing his passport ! Of course this was quite a disappointment, but the quality of the other speakers was such that this feeling could be overcome. In particular, there was a wonderful talk by Paul Steinhardt, titled "inflationary cosmology on trial", where the Princeton Albert Einstein Professor first made  the case for inflation, while standing at the right of the stage, and then walked to the left of the stage to answer himself and advocate against inflation ! All the way he managed to remained perfectly clear to my ears, which is quite an achievement, given that I am a complete non-expert to this field. I learned as much about inflation as about the way of giving good talks. Remarkably, he did not advertize much for his own pet theory. On the contrary, there was some sort of sadness coming out of the talks of particle physicists and string theorists. We heard the usual claims about string theory being "the only theory of quantum gravity" (Costas Bachas), or the "only game in town" on the unification side (John Ellis). This message seemed to be carried like an old reflex, without any enthusiasm, by people who have been waiting for too long without seeing any thing really new and interesting happening in their field. However, the talk of Pierre Fayet about supersymmetry standed out thanks to its remarkable honesty. In fact, Pierre Fayet was so honest about the various problems plaguing SUSY theories that I ended up being even more sceptical than I was before his talk ! Answering some question in the audience, John Ellis made the interesting comment that if SUSY is not seen at the LHC, he will certainly lose interest in the theory. I should also mention the interesting conclusion on Ellis' last slide. In the early eighties, Margaret Thatcher visited CERN where Ellis worked. She asked him what he was doing, and Ellis answered (this is my reconstruction of his words, since I did not take notes) "I am looking for things that experimenters could find, and I hope they won't". "Wouldn't it be better if they find the things you predicted ?", Mrs Thatcher asked, to which Ellis replied : "No, since in that case I won't learn anything new".


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