Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Talks on Planck 2006, Paris

Apparently, the world did not end yesterday. Too bad, I was really looking forward to it. Now I will have to pay all the past due bills that accumulated in my mailbox while I was away.

As I mentioned earlier, I was in Paris last week, on the Planck 2006. The conference was fairly well organized, everything went without major disasters. The only annoyance were the security scans at the entrance every morning, where some uniformed guys repeatedly looked through the trash in my backpack.

Here are some comments about my personal favourite talks:

Most interesting theory talk:

Keith Dienes
Temperature, Duality, And the Hagedorn Transition

Is based on the papers hep-th/0312216, hep-th/0312217, and hep-th/0507201 with Mike Lennek from the University of Arizona. The idea is roughly to find a formulation of thermodynamics that is compatible with string-theoretical expectations by construction. Remember how a finite temperature description is achieved in QFT. One goes from zero, T=0, temperature to a finite temperature, T>0, by compactifying a timelike coordinate on radius 1/T.
Now, to get stringy thermodynamics, assume that T-duality (symmetry under replacing the radius R with a dual radius ~ 1/R) holds for the compactified time-like coordinate. This consequently results in a duality under the replacement T -> Td2/T, where Td is some dual temperature.

However, standard thermodynamics unfortunately does not respect this duality. Instead, it is necessary to introduce a 'covariant' exterior derivative to generate thermodynamical quantities that respect the symmetry. Here, the covariant derivative just defined such that it respects the symmetry.

I will write more about this topic at some point because I really like it. Once the string-compatible thermodynamics is formulated, it provides a useful effective description of stringy effects at high temperatures. This in turn can be quite useful for cosmological implications.

I still wonder why this nice work has gotten so little attention.

Most interesting phenomenology talk:

Ann. E. Nelson
Mass Varying Neutrinos and Neutrino Oscillation Tests

Is based on the very readable paper Dark Energy from Mass Varying Neutrinos (astro-ph/0309800). The possibility that neutrino masses vary with the medium they propagate in has recently received increased attention. Though I don't particularly like this model, it is an interesting proposal.

The concept of the mass-varying neutrinos assumes a relation between neutrinos and the dark energy of the universe through a scalar field, the so-called acceleron. This implies then that the neutrino oscillation parameters in vacuum and a medium could be very different (this is not the standard MSW-effect).

Nelson discussed the implications of these models for neutrino phenomenology, for example in the sun, for cosmology, and astrophysics. Maybe most importantly, it could also explain the LSND data. However, she also pointed out that tests of mass-varying effects are very difficult, since the different experiments obtain data under different conditions, and little or no direct information is available on oscillation parameters in vacuum or air.

I should add that I personally don't like to fix problems by introducing additional, fairly unmotivated, scalar fields. Also, the precise predictions of the mass-varying neutrinos seems to be rather model dependent. For my taste, there are too many ambiguities in the

However, in principle, the idea to connect the dark energy to the smallness of neutrino masses is nice, and it is a reasonable phenomenological model which is experimentally testable.

Most entertaining talk:

John March-Russell

Spoke about the always fascinating topic of TBA. Based on the paper Signals of Inflation in a Friendly String Landscape (astro-ph/0604254), it was a talk delivered with humor and an non-negligible amount of self-confidence.

Nevertheless, it left me with the impression that the consequence of the anthropic principle is that we now look for probability distributions of parameters that favor correlations we observe. Should it happen that a distribution has a high probability for correlations we don't observe, well, then we better look for another distribution. But in any case, there is no need to worry, coz the universe can always be just unlikely.

It seems to me that we have replaced looking for theories with looking for probability distributions. Given some distribution, hopefully motivated in one way or the other, a vacuum energy of value of so-and-so is with probability x correlated to a curvature of this-and-that value. But what do we learn from that?

Most deafening talk:

H. Nielsen
Fine Structure Constant relation and multi Point principle

Despite the enormous volume the talk was delivered in, I have not the slightest idea what it actually was about. I only vaguely recall that the speaker repeatedly mentioned some cheat, where he put factors 3 or 1/2 when necessary.

The lesson I learned from this talk is that with some accent, cheat sounds suspiciously like shit.


  1. Dear Bee,

    thank you for sharing your physics impressions from Paris! The Dienes-Lennek stuff sounds interestig, indeed - I vaguely remember similar things back from my condensed matter days. I hope I'll find some time to have a look into it.

    Best, Stefan

  2. Regarding the end of the world: it seems the world ended at least for Since Tuesday the server is constantly down, and I can't access
    any files. So I guess I will take a break until the problem is fixed. Sorry
    about that. B.

    PS: ARGH! This is about the 20st try to write this comment.

  3. Dear Bee,

    the Dienes-Lennek work did not get too much attention because most experts think that it is not quite right. See e.g.

    google search

  4. Lumo said...
    the Dienes-Lennek work did not get too much attention because most experts think that it is not quite right.

    Dear Lubos,

    are you 'most experts' or are WE feeling lucky today? Well, I don't know what to make out of their augmentations about the Hagedorn-transition, that's why I wrote about the first two papers instead - even though the talk was about the last.

    I also have some problems with the first papers (e.g. I don't think an entropy should be able to become negative), but the idea Dienes+Lennek pursue in their work in itself makes sense to me.

    Do you see anything wrong with the concept of formulating a thermodynamics that respects thermo-duality, and trying to extract further insights from that?

    Best, B.

  5. PS:

    Aehem, typo: the 'augmentation' should have been an 'argumentation'. Sorry, I am still trying to teach the MS-explorer not to spell-check every possible text that I type.

  6. Hi Bee,

    thanks so much for this post! Its great to get an impression of what Planck-like theorists are doing these days. Concerning the Dienes talk: it is interesting to see someone making a connection between string theory and thermodynamics. Does the failure of T-duality have any implications for the R-dualities that string theorists seem to love? And regarding Ann Nelson's talk - this is a strange idea for sure, but it appears to be testable at miniBoone in a limited way - how amazing that would be!


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