CERN Courier interviews Juan Maldacena, Carl P. Feinberg Professor in the School of Natural Sciences, about his 1997 conjecture of a deep relationship between gravity and quantum field theory that continues to offer insights into black holes and the search for quantum gravity.
CC: Are you surprised by its lasting impact?
JM: Yes. At the time, I thought that it was going to be interesting for people thinking about quantum gravity and black holes. But the applications that people found to other areas of physics continue to surprise me. It is important for understanding quantum aspects of black holes. It was also useful for understanding very strongly coupled quantum theories. Most of our intuition for quantum field theory is for weakly coupled theories, but interesting new phenomena can arise at strong coupling. These examples of strongly coupled theories can be viewed as useful calculable toy models. The art lies in extracting the right lessons from them. Some of the lessons include possible bounds on transport, a bound on chaos, etc. These applications involved a great deal of ingenuity since one has to extract the right lessons from the examples we have in order to apply them to real-world systems.
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