Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Memoirs of an early string theorist

Pierre Ramond's memoirs
Ramond worked on String Theory over a period of five years during the First String Era (Zeroth Superstring Revolution), the most intellectually satisfying years of his scientific life. One of the early prospectors in the String Theory Mine, he was fortunate enough to contribute to the birth of this subject that retains, after these many years, its magical hold on our imaginations and expectations. That was Ramond's abstract.

My abstract

Ramond talks about his schools, early research, small head of Paul Dirac, his hero, Andre Neveu in pajamas at 8 pm, and the finding (from Nambu via Lou) that the dual models were models of strings. Scherk and Neveu did an important calculation that could only be done by French people. And after some time, Ramond started to produce results. The on-shell condition was derived from conformal invariance. Hippies were banned in Aspen. Ramond then derived the Dirac equation from superconformal invariance and discovered supersymmetry.

Don Weingarten who has earlier smoked cigars in the armchair of the president of Columbia University instantly knew that Ramond's finding was very important. An algebra professor Jacobson, on the other hand, has kindly kicked out Ramond from his office. ;-) Ramond preferred to visit Lillian and had no time to see Andre. After some hassle, Ramond switched to Yale. Neveu and Schwarz sent Ramond their paper that didn't sufficiently appreciate Ramond's key contributions: the antiperiodic people may sometimes act strangely. Recall that the Ramond sector is more "new" - with the spinors built-in - because the Neveu-Schwarz sector is analogous to the bosonic string.

Mandelstam was one of a small number of people who understood and cared about Ramond's work. Ramond with Kalb, his student, introduced the B-field. Because of the general lack of interest, Ramond left string theory in the 1970s. He was happy to see that exceptional groups, his new focus, appeared in the heterotic string in the 1980s.


John Schwarz has written similar memoirs. Who is missing here? Yes, Andre Neveu. Instead of memoirs, he solves bootstrap in the N=1 Liouville theory. In which sector? Of course, in the Neveu-Schwarz sector. ;-)

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