We just got back from a conference at Penn State on Classical and Quantum Gravity. The conference was being held in honor of the 60th birthday of Abhay Ashtekar, one of the founders of loop quantum gravity and the Director of the Institute for Gravitational Physics and Geometry at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Ashtekar was one of Dr. Alexander’s first mentors at Penn State.
At the conference we heard a wide variety of exciting talks ranging on topics from classical general relativity, to schemes for quantizing gravity, to black hole horizons, to numerical treatments of classical GR, to quantum field theory in curved-spacetimes.
While we can’t claim to have understood all the talks, it was very exciting to be in the same room with many of the ‘big names’ in the field, such as Sir Roger Penrose, Abhay Ashtekar, Robert Wald, John Collins, and James Hartle. We ate lunch with Deepak Vaid, Andy Randono, and Ted Jacobson and discussed composite fermions, black holes, and the experience of being a theoretical physicist. Thursday night we attended a public lecture by Sir Roger Penrose called “Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy: How Big is Infinity.” He presented a broad look at fundamental questions related to quantum mechanics, string theory, and inflation while maintaining a great deal of lay-person accessibility.