The first string theory's formula, the Veneziano amplitude, was introduced to physics in 1968, i.e. half a century ago.
In that year of 1968, Czechoslovakia tried its "socialism with a human face", and the experiment was terminated by the Warsaw Pact tanks in August (next month, we will "celebrate" that). Meanwhile, the youth in the West tried a seemingly similar revolution. Only in recent years, I was forced to realize that what started in the West was really going in the opposite direction than the 1968 Prague Spring.
At any rate, the annual conference, Strings 2018, didn't forget about the Veneziano far-reaching playing with the Euler Beta function. Veneziano was present. The 2-hour-long panel discussion at the end of the conference is arguably the most layman-friendly video produced by the conference. One frustrating fact is that the video only has 1500 views as of this moment. No journalists were interested in the conference.
Some 500 string theorists (perhaps 1/2 of the world's currently employed professional string theorists) gathered in the tropical Okinawa, Japan. I feel absolutely confident that among gatherings of 500-1,000 people, the annual string conferences have by far the highest average IQ of the participants. No Bilderberg, Davos, freemason meetings, and even the parties of the old Nobel prize winners could compete. If the U.S. invaded and bombed Okinawa again, like in April 1945, and all the people who are there would be killed, the set of the world's people with the IQ above 160 would be detectably decimated.
You may watch the panel discussion which recalls some topics and/or controversies. You may also try to read Tetragraviton's earlier sketch of the conference.
Although David Gross pretends that he doesn't love Donald Trump too much, it's still true that the great minds think alike. Before 1:54:40, he lists the next four places to host the annual conferences as Brussels, Capetown, Vacuum, and Vienna, where Vacuum represents a pause in 2021. It would be a shame to have a hole.
Who can fill the hole? Gross shows the organizers and in the late 20th century, the U.S. were much more important, relatively speaking. After 2000, the conferences spread out of the U.S. OK, he gradually converges to the – not quite a priori obvious – punch line: Make America great again. A larger number of conferences should be held in the U.S. again. Gross also tells Cambridge, MA and Palo Alto, CA to feel no pressure. ;-)
America is still the world's most attractive place for investment. It's the most likely country to create places with a huge concentration of high brainpower – like in the Silicon Valley. In Europe and other places, we often place limits and we moderate things. We like to vote for the The Party of Moderate Progress Within the Bounds of the Law founded by Jaroslav Hašek, the author of the Good soldier Švejk. But in America, there are no limits. Or you can take it to the limit. Or you can get to the Moon – in fact, literally.
This is how many of us have understood America's WOW factor. Maybe in the computer technologies, it's still true. But I think that since 2000 or so, America started to lose this WOW factor. In fact, I think that the U.S. became the main source of the political correctness and related toxic diseases that are gradually poisoning and devouring the Western civilization.
Some of the "outsourcing" of the string conferences was purely due to the political correctness – those second-class, third-class, and other places that aren't quite as good as America shouldn't think that they're worse than America. Well, almost all of them still are. But such games can never remain just games. I think that some of the outsourcing is real. America has lost much of its motivation to lead the world.
Donald Trump obviously isn't the man who should be expected to revitalize the string theory research. But helpfully enough, David Gross accepted the role of the Donald in string theory. Well, he's had this role for some 33 years, I think. You know, folks in America should realize that they should still be the bosses of the world because things won't work too well without them.
Already since the early 21st century, I grew very disillusioned with America. I noticed that some of the garbage that almost defines the European Union exists in the U.S. as well – and in some cases, America harbors more hardcore versions of the low-quality humans and their pathetic excuses to keep the world as a network of muddy sycophants connected to a stagnant bureaucratic structure.
For example, when I translated Brian Greene's first bestseller to Czech, it was a great success in Czechia and the feedback was almost entirely enthusiastic. In some sense, I brought a piece of America to Czechia. There was one exception who wrote some tirade against string theory, against Brian Greene, against myself, and several other related entities. I hadn't been quite familiar with that unpleasant man before – but the exposure has taught me a very speedy lesson. This "Prof" Jiří Chýla – at that time, the boss of Particle Physics at the Czech Academy of Sciences who found his job appropriate for spending days and trying to harm a Rutgers grad student and his book with a 30-page-long rant (which he didn't, thank God) – was the best example of the communist era crap – the frogs sitting on all the springs – that keeps the Czech institutions uncompetitive in theoretical physics.
He is a symbol of the culture of old men who haven't produced any ideas that anyone in the world would give a damn about – at least no such idea since a 30-citation paper they wrote as postdocs 40 years ago, but that one wasn't important, either. But they want to mask this uselessness and pretend that they're doing pretty much the same thing as the best people in the world so they are hiring younger people who just lick their aßes, much like Mr Chýla licks the aßes of the jerks in the European Union all the time (who pay him the money because it's so wonderful to steal lots of money from the European taxpayers and pour it on useless parasites such as Mr Chýla).
Shortly after 2000, I was learning about some younger people – people of my generation – who found Mr Chýla's behavior and character OK and I just lost my emotional attachment to them, too. I just can't understand how someone may be so incredibly morally fudged up. Everyone who defends the likes of Mr Chýla is just scum.
For years, I had thought that the influence of fudged up individuals of Mr Chýla's type on the institutions is an artifact of my nation's not being so good as other nations. Our DNA is perhaps not so good and the communism has screwed our social structure and morality, too. But I no longer think that there's something very special about Czechia here. It was an unreasonable and unfair "masochist racism". I think that many people in the West are pretty much analogously unconstructive towards proper science as Mr Chýla – and they and their pathetic excuses for their own inadequacy got comparably influential in the U.S. and Western Europe. All this filth just like to spread ludicrous propaganda that they're on par with the actual physicists – much like communism was producing propaganda that we were better off than the capitalist world – even though they must know that all these things are ludicrous lies. They're forming alternative structures that try to conquer the environment.
In the panel discussion, lots of questions were asked. My understanding is that all the questions were posed by actual registered participants of the conference. Nevertheless, the "plurality" (Gross' word) was about the falsifiability, gloom, and all this garbage. (Other repeated questions dealt with the existence of de Sitter solutions and other "more normal" or "professional" topics that have existed at previous conferences, too.) Most of the authors of such questions were probably some young participants. But where is the mankind going? It's not trivial to fly to Okinawa (even the U.S. troops in April 1945 would agree) and it's not trivial to do the other things needed to host a participant. Does it make any sense to fly to these islands if you have such serious doubts about the very justification of the field?
I don't really believe that the Millennial generation will advance any things that are actually hard enough, like string theory. Shiraz Minwalla said that the field was healthy, diverse, and people allow the evidence to take them wherever it goes. They shouldn't listen to anybody else, that's how things should be. It sounds nice. I think that there's still some individual stubbornness in Shiraz's attitude and I think that a big part of my generation is close to it.
But the individual stubbornness is exactly what the Millennials are completely lacking – so Shiraz's bullish description talks about something that will go extinct with the older currently alive generations. I've met some great exceptions but their percentage – even among the folks who should be intellectual elites of the Millennials in one way or another – is just insanely tiny. Almost all the Millennials want to be obedient, behave as members of a herd of stupid sheep, and say how smart and original they are by being stupid sheep in the herd. They want to join a club of one million holders of the Bitcoin who just buy the Bitcoin for their parents' money (and they think that being in a bunch of millions of people who do an exercise turns you into an "elite" of a new kind, wow) and say that this is how they change the world. Or they want to parrot pathetic lies about multiculturalism, environmentalism, and several other prominent delusions for the stupid masses.
This attitude isn't compatible with serious research in cutting-edge theoretical physics. It's incompatible with lots of other things that are needed for some true progress of the mankind, science, and technology.
Another topic: Don Garbutt recorded a nice track called "String Theory" with a 2012 animation showing the scales from the Planck scale to the observable Universe. There are lots of funny things of many sizes – e.g. Italy and Pluto are neighbors somewhere in the middle.