It has taken me a while to pin down why I find the meeting considerably more interesting than conferences I usually go to. One reason is certainly the variety of topics. Most conferences these days feature a monoculture of specialists in one particular area. And while that is very efficient for exchanging recent results, it also becomes repetitive rather easily. Here, we have a mix of "fundamental" fields, covering cosmology, quantum mechanics, quantum information and quantum gravity. There are also some philosophers here, and one experimentalist. (I think it's by accident rather than design he's the only one.)
But what really stands that the topics discussed are bold. There's Olaf Dreyer speculating on the origin of space and time from matter, Paul Davies on the relevance of increasing complexity in the evolution of the universe and the role of the observer, Anthony Agiurre about false vacuum bubbles, Eduardo Guendelman on the possibiliy to create universes, Fotini Markopoulou on the emergence of space from a non-geometric phase in the early universe, and Louis Crane on black holes as power sources. Depending on your taste, you might call them courageous or nuts. Laura Mersini-Houghton who talked about the possibility of finding evidence for the multiverse through entanglement on super-horizon scales is one of the more conservative here. There is also lot of talk about the arrow of time, alien civilisations, and the Future of Sex.
I also met another blogger many of you will know, Scott Aaronson, who turned out to be younger and more, oohm, entertaining than I thought
Then there are the usual suspects, Garrett Lisi, Julian Barbour, Max Tegmark etc. You find the full list of participants here.
[Julian Barbour and Olaf Dreyer]
I further meet Zeeya Merali who wrote the article for New Scientist on Garrett's "Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything." Zeeya turned out to be a very charming young women with a PhD in physics who finds writing about science a great way to follow her fascination with physics. Over dinner, we had an interesting discussion about science journalism and science blogging.
The multiverse is a recurring issue that people seem to be very divided on, both with respect to existence and interpretation. Interestingly, on the list with questions that were thought to become/remain relevant within the next ten years "Understanding String Theory" ended up having one of the lowest scores. I'm not sure though this reflects more than the interests of the participants.
Yesterday we had a group discussion on what is "fundamental," I will tell you about that some other time.
You find a lot more details on the conference and the talks on the FQXi blog.