Thursday, February 05, 2009

Gijon summation

I'm back after around 6 hours in the car from the conference in Gijon. For me it was a good chance to meet up with friends from around the Spanish strings community and it's always good practice to give a talk to such an audience - I spoke too quickly again, my perennial problem in a half hour seminar. Most of the talks were simply too technically oriented in realms that I have no active experience in to be of much use to me, but I did leave feeling quite happy, in a strange way.

Going to the strings conference in Beijing three years ago I left feeling rather depressed that I wasn't able to follow all of the talks. I felt this a great failing on my part and that I had an insurmountable quantity of material to learn. Three years on and I have learned a lot, but I've also realised that I'm simply never going to be able to follow all specialised research talks, and that's just fine.

Not understanding them isn't a fault, but simply an indication that it's not an area that you've worked in, or spent weeks reading about. Though the work is clearly important I have little direct interest (at the moment) in knowing about tensor hierarchies in 4d supergravity. Such seemingly abstract subjects (from my stance) are clearly vital for the building of the subject that I work in, but if I spent my time learning all about this, I would never have a chance to get any of my research done - my priorities lie elsewhere.

It's taken quite a long time to get to the point where I'm happy to expand my area of expertise without feeling constantly embarrassed by the fact that there's so much more still to learn in other areas (this feeling hasn't vanished completely, mind). This fact may sound trivial, but I've met a lot of young researchers leaving conferences feeling considerably more stupid than when they arrived. Step by step you get there, but you don't have to understand every aspect of string theory and supergravity at once.

The most interesting talks from my perspective were those by Jose Barbon, on non-relativistic AdS/CFT and by Jan de Boer on Brownian motion in AdS/CFT, both of which I do intend learning as much as I can about in the near future.

Anyway, re. the city of Gijon itself, I'll post some photos when I've had some sleep, digested the cabrales and caught up with some pressing work. Next stop is Madrid for a three day meeting on AdS/CFT and it's applications to finite temperature and condensed matter systems - this should be a fantastic meeting with a lot of very good people going.

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