Australian Institute of Physics
South Australian Branch
RECENT PROGRESS TOWARDS A THEORY OF
Dr. Peter Bouwknegt, University of Adelaide
Tuesday 17th February 1998 at 7:30 pm.
KERR GRANT Lecture Theatre, Physics Building,
The University of Adelaide.
For decades one of the most challenging problems in theoretical
physics has been to find a consistent framework for the unification of
the four fundamental forces of nature: electromagnetism, the weak and
strong nuclear force, and gravity. In particular, unifying gravity
and quantum theory has proven to be a notoriously difficult problem to
Spectacular advances towards such a "Theory of Everything" have been
made over the past few years, rooted in the revolutionary "String
Theory" approach which was developed in the late 1980s.
In particular, duality symmetries relating the (usually complicated)
strongly coupled regime in one theory to the (much better understood)
weakly coupled regime in another theory have been established. As a
consequence it was shown that all known supersymmetric String Theories
are actually different manifestations of an underlying master theory,
popularly called "M-theory". This understanding has allowed us to
address important questions in quantum gravity, including
non-perturbative issues such as the physics of black holes.
In this talk I will give a (non-technical) introduction to the main
ideas behind String Theory, including the recent exciting developments
mentioned above, and why they have changed our ideas about spacetime
and other fundamental notions of physics.
After graduating from the Universities of Utrecht (M.Sc, 1985) and
Amsterdam (PhD, 1988), Peter Bouwknegt has held postdoctoral positions
at M.I.T. (Cambridge, U.S.A.), C.E.R.N. (Geneva, Switzerland) and
U.S.C. (Los Angeles, U.S.A.) and is presently affiliated with the
Department of Physics and Mathematical Physics at the University of
Adelaide where he holds an ARC QEII Fellowship. His main research
these days focuses on exploring mathematical structures common to such
diverse areas as String Theory and Integrable Models in Statistical