Recap: 2006 IPPP Annual Theory Meeting


It’s about time that I posted a personal recap of the Annual Theory Meeting (“Christmas Meeting”) at Durham earlier this week.

The Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology, Durham University

These meetings are meant to be relaxed gatherings of members of the UK theoretical physics community, predominantly high energy and cosmology. The programme was as follows:

  • Rachel Bean (Cornell): Cosmology after 3 years of the WMAP satellite
  • Patrick Brady (Madison): Detecting gravitational waves
  • Sean Carroll (Caltech): Dark Energy

  • Ken Intriligator (UCSD): Dynamical SUSY breaking and metastable vacua
  • David Berenstein (UCSB): Emergent Geometry: towards a proof of the AdS/CFT correspondence
  • Martin Luescher (CERN): Lattice QCD beyond the valence approximation
  • Albert de Roeck (CERN): What to expect from the LHC

  • Phil Burrows (Oxford): Accelerator Physics and the ILC
  • Steve King (Southampton): Neutrino Physics
  • Patricia Ball (Durham): Effects in B Physics

The lectures were, as a whole, quite good. I sat through most of them with a friend from Cambridge. As a more advanced gradaute student, she played the part of Virgil as I attended my first conference. (While I’m certainly not comparing my experience with Dante’s, it did seem as cold as his inferno.) Some of talks were beyond me, but my friend suggested that speakers should be sure to make the first 10 minutes of an hour long talk accessible to a general audience.

More importantly, she passed on the useful bit of advice that conferences are not really for lectures, but rather for networking. This mindset definitely livened up my experience, as a dinner conversation with cosmologists from Portsmouth spilled into the Grey College pub, topics included:

  • A proposed “buff in the buff” diet where one can lose weight by eating ice cubes, featuring a nice order of magnitude estimation (1 dietary calorie = 1000 SI calories = raises 1000 grams of water by 1 degree celsius)
  • A discussion of Part III exams… including the statement that, “Part III is where information is transferred from a professor’s notes to into a student’s notes without passing through the brains of either.”
  • Thoughts about how the ancient Egyptians might have measured the distance to the sun, motivated by the statement that the height of one of the pyramids is one billionth of the distance to the sun (accurate, apparently, “up to the comma”)
  • How non-gaussianity of the CMB can rule out models of inflation

I was also able to speak briefly to Sean Carroll, whose GR book has served me well. I thanked him and introduced myself as the undergrad who once e-mailed him asking for grad school advice. I also had a chance to have breakfast with Patrick Brady, who answered a few basic questions regarding LIGO and LISA.

One graduate student remembered me as “the American” who showed up to the YETI06 meeting earlier in the year when I was visiting grad schools. Another person I bumped into was a friend who is now a fellow at Trinity, whom I first met when he was a final year graduate student at the aforementioned YETI meeting. Small world, eh?

To further that sentiment, I also bumped into a few Americans on the train up to Durham. One of whom, I found out, is a graduate student at Stanford. He filled me in with the latest news regarding the Stanford Band. They were heading up to Glasgow, but I hopped out at the Durham station reminiscing with some of the Band’s more notorious acts.

On the train coming back to Cambridge (a trip fraught with a few delays and cancelled trains) we shared some sincere Merry Christmases with new friends whom I may meet again at future conferences!

(One more anecdote: On the way up I sat near a Trinity graduate student in history who was giving a presentation at a simultaneous history conference. We bumped into each other again the first evening at Pizza Express, and then once again at the train from Peterborough back to Cambridge. It was only at this last bit that we actually struck up a conversation and found out we were at the same college! Anyway, Merry Christmas and good luck finishing your thesis to Aisha!)

A second anecdote: Albert de Roeck’s talk included a cute ‘possible paper’ and abstract:

Evidence for squark & gluino production in pp collisions at \sqrt{s} = 14 TeV

6 December 2008
CMS Collaboration

It reminded me of a similar ‘paper from the future’ that Michael Peskin wrote for a Physics Today essay contest regarding the ILC.

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