Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rocks, Trees, Strings

I'm a little slow to catch this sooner, but Google news just dug up this new release from the Princeton press office, regarding a relatively new PRL from Igor Klebanov and collaborators (OK, a month ago, but this is Physics, folks, not political news). Believe it or not, "A Test of the AdS/CFT correspondence using high-spin operators" may well be about more quotidien objects than quarks, gluons, or strings. From the press release:
"These problems include describing the interactions among the quarks within everyday atomic nuclei," said Igor Klebanov, the Thomas D. Jones Professor of Mathematical Physics at Princeton and an author of a recent paper on the subject. "We have previously been able to study these interactions in detail only at the high-energy conditions within particle accelerators, but with these findings we may be able to describe what's happening inside the atoms that make up rocks and trees. We cannot do so yet, but it appears that the math of string theory could be what we need to bridge this gap."
I must admit that both this paper, and the Beisert et al work (in the Journal of Statistical Mechanics) on which it was based, are a bit beyond me due to the hard-core field theory, but times change: can anyone boil this down and explain the consequences for someone in the trenches? Here's one attempt, in the press release, explaining how these results bridge the weak coupling regime (the domain of perturbation theory) and strong coupling (the domain of string theory techniques):
"Beisert and his collaborators made an inspired guess based on sophisticated notions of gauge theory behavior," said Curtis Callan, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Physics at Princeton. "Their equation allowed Igor and his colleagues to work out the 'transition' between the two regimes. They demonstrated that it exactly matched string theory's predictions at the strong interaction limit. That was the hard part."

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