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Quantum mechanics and relativity tell us that when we look at the very
small, the very fast, or the very massive - then space, time, and matter
behave in new and exotic ways. Each of these theories works well in its
own regime, but in extreme conditions where both theories reign they
conflict, and we still do not have a single theory that unites our basic
understanding of the laws of physics. We have made a lot of progress,
including string theory and the study of quantum black holes, but there
are still many puzzling questions. In this talk I will describe what we
have learned and some of the seemingly paradoxical puzzles, including
the latest - the black hole 'firewall.'
Joe Polchinski has been a Permanent Member of KITP and a professor
in the Department of Physics since 1992. He was educated at Caltech, UC
Berkeley, held postdoctoral positions at the Stanford Linear Accelerator
Center and Harvard, and was on the faculty at UT Austin before joining
UCSB. In 1998, he completed a two-volume graduate textbook on string
theory, which has become the standard text and reference in the field.
Among his many honors and fellowships, he is a member of the National
Academy of Sciences, a co-recipient of the Dannie Heineman Prize, the
Dirac Medal, and most recently, he was awarded the 2013 Physics Frontier
Prize from the Milner Foundation. His own quest for unification began
back in high school, when he learned how Maxwell "saw the light" and
unified electricity and magnetism, and has continued through his
discovery of D-branes, leading him to his current focus on uniting
quantum mechanics and gravity.
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