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Séminaire général du Département de physique

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Quantum Foam and Melting Crystal
Cumrun Vafa (Harvard University, Cambridge, USA)

23 juin 2005

The topology and geometry of spacetime is expected to undergo violent quantum fluctuations at a scale known as the Planck scale (10-33 cm). It is shown how this notion arises in the context of simple examples of string theory. Moreover the fluctuations turn out to map to a statistical mechanical problem of a melting crystal.

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Cumrun Vafa Cumrun Vafa (Harvard University, Cambridge, USA)
Cumrun Vafa’s research area is theoretical high energy physics with emphasis on such fundamental questions as the nature of quantum gravity and the relation between geometry and quantum field theories. String theory has emerged as a strong candidate for a unified description of gravity and other forces. The recent discovery of duality symmetries (generalizing electric/magnetic exchange symmetry in Maxwell theory) in string theory has led to a significant insight into non-perturbative dynamics of gravity and quantum field theories. Among these one can name the discovery of Strominger and Vafa that the Bekenstein-Hawking entropy of a black hole can be accounted for by solitonic states of string theory and also the relation between geometry and field theories that arise through string dualities, a topic known as “geometric engineering of quantum field theories.”
Vafa’s main interest now is to understand the underlying meaning of string dualities, as well as trying to apply string theory to some unsolved questions of particle physics such as the hierarchy problem and the cosmological constant problem.