Tuesday, January 09, 2018

An Indian interview with Nathan Seiberg

While the U.S.-based Quanta Magazine dedicated its pages to a crackpot's diatribe about a fictitious research on a non-existent alternative theory of quantum gravity (another crackpot, Pentcho Valev, contributed the only comment so far), the media in India still keep some quality and attractiveness for intelligent readers.

The Wire India has interviewed Princeton's string theorist Nati Seiberg who is just visiting India:
Interview: ‘There’s No Conflict Between Lack of Evidence of String Theory and Work Being Done on It’
They cover lots of questions and the interview is rather interesting.

Spoilers: beware.

The interview took place at Bengaluru. They explain Seiberg is an important theoretical physicist – e.g. a 2016 Dirac medal laureate. Sandhya Ramesh asks him to define string theory – Seiberg says it's a theory meant to be a TOE that keeps on transforming, it will probably be transforming, and the progress is very exciting.

Seiberg is asked the question from the title: How should you reconcile the absence of an experimental proof with the work on string theory? There is nothing to reconcile, the latter doesn't need the former. There are numerous reasons why people keep on researching string theory, e.g. its consequences for adjacent fields.

He is also asked how he imagines higher-dimensional objects. It's hard for him, too. When answering a question about the role of interdisciplinary research, Seiberg importantly says that there is no "string theory approach to climate science" but sometimes the collaboration on the borders of disciplines is fruitful. SUSY could have been found, it wasn't found, and it may be useful to build bigger colliders. Seiberg knows nothing about politics of begging for the big funds.

Seiberg is asked about alternative contenders running against string/M-theory and his answer is that he doesn't know of any.

Suddenly the journalist asks about the recent results on gauge theories and global symmetries and their implications on the paradigms in condensed matter physics. So unsurprisingly, Seiberg is surprised because the question betrays someone's IQ that is some 40 IQ points above the average journalist. The roles get reversed, Seiberg asks: Where did you get this question? The answer is that the journalist got it from his editor. Seiberg is impressed, and so am I. Maybe the editor just read The Reference Frame recently to improve the questions his colleagues ask. ;-)

Yesterday, Seiberg gave a talk in India that was about related questions but he didn't recommend the "public" to attend the talk because it would be a somewhat technical, although not too technical, talk. OK, he said some basic things about symmetries of faces, supersymmetry, and supersymmetry's diverse implications aside from the discovery of superpartner particles (that hasn't materialized yet).

He praises Indian string theorists – I agree with those sentiments. Seiberg rejects recommendations to give advises what people should work on and to deal with the public more often – because "he's not good at it". He addresses another great question, one about naturalness, and says that the strongest "around the corner" edition of naturalness has been disproved by the LHC null results and the assumptions that went into it have to be reassessed.

Also, Seiberg doesn't know where the work will be done. LIGO is interesting. When asked about the number of string theorists, he says that it's small enough for everyone to know everybody else and it's wonderful. He was offered the meme that India has a good weather and it's a reason to visit the country but he visits India because of the colleagues.

No comments:

Post a Comment