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Some possible interview questions for Michael Duff:

  • You had co-discovered, already in the 1980s, the core ingredients of super Membrane-theory. When this theory came to fame in 1995, it was under the abbreviated title “M-theory”. Similarly, already in 1988 the regularized quantization of the super Membrane led to the matrix model, which more than 10 years later was re-discovered as D0-brane machanics and then hailed as a possible definition of M-theory.

    How do you reflect on this curious asynchronicity in how M-theory was conceived?

  • In 1996 you wrote a review with the noteworthy title “M-Theory (the Theory Formerly Known as Strings)”. The concluding section of this article consisted of a single sentence. It said:

    “The overriding problem in superunification in the coming years will be to take the Mystery out of M-theory, while keeping the Magic and the Membranes.”

    What do you think is the status of this “overriding problem” today?

  • In the late 90s you wrote, in Scientific American and in your book on M-theory:

    “Future historians may judge the late 20th century as a time when theorists were like children playing on the seashore, diverting themselves with the smoother pebbles or prettier shells of superstrings while the great ocean of M-theory lay undiscovered before them.”

    How do you look at this prediction 20 years into the 21st century?

  • In your interview by Farmelo last year you said (at 7:04):

    “The problem we face is that we have a patchwork understanding of M-theory, like a quilt. We understand this corner and that corner, but what’s lacking is the overarching big picture. So directly or indirectly, my research hopes to explain what M-theory really is. We don’t know what it is.”

    Do you have a hunch what form the answer might eventually take?

  • In that same interview with Farmelo, you next said

    “In a certain sense, and this is not a popular statement, I think it’s premature to be asking: “What are the empirical consequences”, because it’s not yet in a mature enough state, where we can sensibly make falsifiable prediction.”

    A similar point was made in public recently by Tom Banks, in a critique of the 15 year old discussion of the landscape of KKLT-type de Sitter vacua.

    Do you think it possible that the actual formulation of M-theory will show that much of the putative landscape of de Sitter string vacua is not actually there?

Last revised on January 19, 2020 at 12:03:20. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.