Thursday, June 14, 2018

An Indian interview with Juan Maldacena

If you have 16 spare minutes, you should listen to this fresh interview with Juan Maldacena (transcript).

The audio sucks but he says a couple of interesting things. In the 1990s, he and numerous classmates in Argentina were into string theory. They were also dreaming about not starving to death after their PhD, and they were sorry about the canceled collider in Texas.

You know, this is a setup that makes AdS/CFT-like breakthroughs much more likely. You start with some substantial pool of young people who are focusing on things that really matter, young people in a third world country or elsewhere, and approximately one of them makes breakthroughs similar to Maldacena's.

He got to Princeton, AdS/CFT was embraced easily, and so on. That part of the story is boring, of course. I was a bit surprised that Juan doesn't remember even the years when various events of the First Superstring Revolution of the mid 1980s took place. I am not really into social affairs but I wouldn't forget even the fact that e.g. John and Schwarz announced their anomaly cancellation results in Aspen, Colorado in Summer 1984 – in a theater play in which Schwarz starred as a mad man who had just found a theory of everything.

Maldacena also talks about the wormholes, relationships of string theory to condensed matter physics and quantum information theory, advantage and disadvantage of fashions, and related things. When asked about the doomed spacetime, he suggests that it doesn't have to be the right way of looking at things. Instead, the spacetime could very well be precisely fundamental in some description, too.

I completely sympathize with this viewpoint. After all, AdS/CFT and ER=EPR are supposed to be dualities – relationships between two equally legitimate descriptions – and one of them simply has an explicit and fundamental bulk spacetime (including the region in the neck of the wormhole) while in the other description, the spacetime is emergent. So there could be and maybe there should be an exact description in which the degrees of freedom are built from something localized in the spacetime.

A refreshing aspect of the Indian interview is that he isn't asked about the falsifiability, string wars, the mandatory ugliness of theories and the physicists, and all the would-be important things that monster minds such as Schmoitenfelders and similar hacks are filling the Western media with. India has been spared of this garbage – probably because its journalists aren't neo-Marxist scumbags like the bulk of the journalists in the West. From a domestic viewpoint, the Indians who are connected to the West and string theory are right-wing elites. That makes a difference.

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