This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – brightrecruits.com can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today

Blog

‘Master of the path integral’ speaks in London

lindau3.jpg
Edward Witten at the Institute of Physics

By Hamish Johnston

On Friday I took the train up to London to learn about “the theory that nobody wanted”.

That’s how Cambridge University’s Michael Green described string theory in his introduction to a lecture of the subject by Edward Witten.

And how did he describe Witten?

“Master of the path integral”.

Witten was in town to accept the 2010 Isaac Newton Medal from the Institute of Physics – and to give the 2010 Newton Lecture.

Witten is Charles Simonyi Professor of Mathematical Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey and a pioneer in what must be the most controversial theory of modern physics.

Instead of plunging the audience into all 10 – or is that 11? – dimensions of the theory, Witten took a very gentle and historical approach to its development.

I entered the lecture hall knowing very little about string theory, so do I feel enlightened?

Well I suppose I have a better understanding of how and why the theory emerged and the various twists and turns it has taken. But I was continually frustrated by a lack of connection to measurements that can be made in the lab or with a telescope. I suppose this could be just a cultural issue – my background is in experimental condensed-matter physics.

The dearth of experimental evidence could soon be over with the emergence of “precision cosmology” – the latest example being the Planck mission’s unprecedented measurements of the cosmic microwave background, which could help to refine string theory.

Witten’s lecture was filmed and this, along with an interview, will soon be released by the IOP. Stay tuned for more.

This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

One comment to ‘Master of the path integral’ speaks in London

  1. Eric Swanson

    Uh, no Hamish, its not you. String theory is notorious for its disdain of reality. Amusingly enough, Witten once proclaimed that it had to be right because it solved the ‘black hole information problem’. What’s that? Yeah. Never mind.

Leave a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Guidelines

  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="http://www.google.com">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="http://iop.org/">IOP</blockquote>
IOP
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="http://www.worldwildlife.org/who/index.html">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text
WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux