Not Even Wrong

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What is a Spinor?

Recently Jean-Pierre Bourguignon recently gave the Inaugural Atiyah Lecture, with the title What is a Spinor? The title was a reference to a 2013 talk by Atiyah at the IHES with the same title. Bourguignon’s lecture is not yet online, but I realized there are lectures explaining what a spinor is that I can highly recommend: my own, in this semester’s...

Wilczek on the Problems of Fundamental Physics

Sean Carroll has a new interview up with Frank Wilczek in which they discuss, among other things, the problematic current state of fundamental physics. On the topic of string theory, here’s the discussion: 0:58:34.8 SC: Well, some of this worry has come out of string theory, many of our colleagues for the last several decades have pointed to string...

Is the Standard Model Just an Effective Field Theory?

An article by Steven Weinberg entitled On the Development of Effective Field Theory appeared on the arXiv last night. It’s based on a talk he gave in September, surveys the history of effective field theories and argues for what I’d call the “SM is just a low energy approximation” point of view on fundamental physics. I’ve always found this point of...

Various Links

Our semester at Columbia started earlier than usual this year, with first classes this week, my first class yesterday. This semester I’m teaching the second half of a year-long course on the mathematics of quantum mechanics. There’s a Youtube channel with the lectures for the first half of the course, and now also for the second half. The course...

Martin Veltman 1931-2021

I heard today of the recent death of Martin Veltman, a theorist largely responsible (with his student Gerard ‘t Hooft) for showing the renormalizability of non-abelian gauge theories, a breakthrough crucial to the Standard Model that won both of the them the 1999 Nobel Prize. For the story of this work, the best source is likely Veltman’s Nobel lecture....

DAU. String Theory

I first wrote here in 2015 about DAU, the unusual film project based to some extent on the life of Landau. Parts of the film first were shown in Paris early in 2019, and this past year started appearing on the DAU website. I’d been looking forward to seeing Gross, Yau, Rovelli and others in the film, so paid to watch one of the first parts, DAU....

20 Years Later

Almost exactly twenty years ago I started writing a short article about the problems with string theory. I had been thinking about doing this for quite a while, and the timing of entering the twenty-first century seemed appropriate for evaluating something that had long been advertised as “a piece of 21st-century physics that had fallen by accident...

Various and Sundry

A few recent items of interest: Martin Greiter has put together a written version of Sidney Coleman’s mid-1990s lecture Quantum Mechanics in Your Face, based on a recording of one version of the lecture and copies of Coleman’s slides. It’s often claimed that leading physicists of Coleman’s generation were educated in and stuck throughout their careers...

Contemplating the End of Physics

In a remarkable article entitled Contemplating the End of Physics posted today at Quanta magazine, Robbert Dijkgraaf (the director of the IAS) more or less announces the arrival of the scenario that John Horgan predicted for physics back in 1996. Horgan argued that physics was reaching the end of its ability to progress by finding new fundamental laws....

Various Links, String Theory now Untethered

I’ve been spending most of my time recently trying to get unconfused about Euclidean spinor fields, will likely write something here about that in the not too distant future. Some other things that may be of interest: I did an interview a couple days ago with Fraser Cain, who runs the Universe Today website. He had some excellent and well-informed...

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