Is AdS/CFT Theory a Viable Option for Post-Graduate Research in HEP?

In summary, the prospects for a successful career in research in high energy physics seem more reasonable than just studying string theory or QCD lattice lattices, but it is important to choose the right research field. AdS/CFT is a very promising tool for understanding how quantum gravity works, but it is not yet directly relevant to fundamental real-world physics.
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CharlieCW
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Lately AdS/CFT seems to have been a very promising tool to simplify calculations in HEP (ex. quark-gluon plasma) and offer some insights into quantum gravity. I was considering doing a Master or PhD thesis in this field, but I'm wondering if the prospects are more reasonable than just string theory or it would be better to go towards something more concrete like QCD lattice or SM precison tests. I've read mixed reviews about it being a very hot topic of research (especially in the US) while others say it barely makes testable predictions and it is better regarded as a mathematical theory.

In particular, my goal is to find a good post-doc after graduate studies, or at least find a job in the private sector but still be involved in research in HEP. Moreover, I'm both interested in the mathematical beauty of physics theories as well as their experimental confirmation.
 
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AdS/CFT is (in my opinion) the apex of - mathematical physics? physical mathematics? - at this point. But it is not yet directly relevant to fundamental real-world physics. AdS is a background geometry in which quantum gravity can be studied in more depth than ever before, owing to the CFT duality; but AdS is not the geometry of the real world. We should expect that eventually, an equally substantial interpretation of the holographic principle for flat space and de Sitter space will be found, and that aspects of AdS study will help us find the version of holography that is more relevant to reality.
 
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CharlieCW said:
Lately AdS/CFT seems to have been a very promising tool to simplify calculations in HEP (ex. quark-gluon plasma) and offer some insights into quantum gravity. I was considering doing a Master or PhD thesis in this field, but I'm wondering if the prospects are more reasonable than just string theory or it would be better to go towards something more concrete like QCD lattice or SM precison tests. I've read mixed reviews about it being a very hot topic of research (especially in the US) while others say it barely makes testable predictions and it is better regarded as a mathematical theory.

In particular, my goal is to find a good post-doc after graduate studies, or at least find a job in the private sector but still be involved in research in HEP. Moreover, I'm both interested in the mathematical beauty of physics theories as well as their experimental confirmation.

I'm no expert, but if I have to bet on the future, I'd say within some decades we'll regard holography as a duality that gave us insight into the structure of spacetime. I'm sceptical about all these "confirmations of holography", see also e.g. http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2013/09/whatever-happened-to-adscft-and-quark.html . I'd study string theory and holography if you're interested in the question what spacetime really is, and are interested in the whole "spacetime emergence from quantum entanglement of yet unknown spacetime atoms"-line of research. Likewise, I think string theory will be regarded as an intermediate step and calculational tool in this question,
 
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It is common to say that AdS/CFT is not directly relevant for realistic model building on the gravity side, if/since the observable universe is not asymptotically AdS.

However, one of the better developed corners of string phenomenology are intersecting D-brane models, where the obervable universe is modeled on the 3+1-dimensional intersections of D6-brane worldvolumes inside a 10-dimensional bulk spacetime. For purposes of particle physics this is typically discussed in perturbative string theory where these D-branes are sitting in the ambient bulk spacetime without backreaction, but by the standard lore of black branes in string theory these D6-branes become, non-perturbatively, black branes with a near horizon geometry of the form AdS x compact.

Hence intersecting D-brane models predict Randall-Sundrum-like cosmologies where the observable universe is confined to the asymptotic boundary inside an ambient AdS bulk spacetimes visible only to gravity (see also the references here).

This is just the general setup of AdS/CFT duality, just subject to two qualification:
  1. it is not the bulk but the boundary which serves as a potentially realistic model;
  2. this is not one of the cases where the boundary field theory is conformal.
Due to the second point, AdS/CFT still does not apply directly without modification, but it should be much, much closer than in speculations about deSitter/CFT duality with the realistic spacetime on the bulk side (the latter speculation seems to be far-fetched, and increasingly so).
 
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1. What is AdS/CFT theory?

AdS/CFT theory, also known as the Anti-de Sitter/Conformal Field Theory correspondence, is a theoretical framework in physics that describes the relationship between two seemingly different theories - a theory of gravity in a space called Anti-de Sitter space (AdS) and a quantum field theory on the boundary of that space. It is a powerful tool for studying strongly interacting systems, such as those found in condensed matter physics and high-energy particle physics.

2. What are the prospects for AdS/CFT theory?

The prospects for AdS/CFT theory are vast and exciting. It has already led to breakthroughs in understanding the behavior of strongly coupled quantum systems. It has the potential to provide new insights into the nature of spacetime and the fundamental laws of physics. Additionally, it has applications in other fields such as condensed matter physics, where it can help us understand the properties of materials and superconductors.

3. What are the challenges facing AdS/CFT theory?

Despite its many successes, AdS/CFT theory still faces several challenges. One of the main challenges is the lack of a complete mathematical proof of the correspondence, which would provide a deeper understanding of why it works. Another challenge is the difficulty of applying the theory to real-world systems, as it often requires simplifying assumptions and can be computationally intensive.

4. How is AdS/CFT theory being used in current research?

AdS/CFT theory is being used in a wide range of current research, from studying the behavior of black holes to understanding the properties of quantum matter. In particle physics, it is being used to investigate the strong nuclear force and the properties of quark-gluon plasma. In condensed matter physics, it is being used to study superconductors and topological phases of matter. It is also being applied in string theory and cosmology, among other areas.

5. What are the potential practical applications of AdS/CFT theory?

While AdS/CFT theory is primarily a theoretical framework, it has the potential for practical applications in various fields. For example, it can aid in the development of new materials with desired properties, such as superconductors that could revolutionize energy storage and transmission. It can also have implications for quantum computing and information theory, as well as potential applications in engineering and technology.

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