12th Pacific Coast Gravity Meeting - Karel Kuchar fest

Richard Price, University of Utah

Near the end of March, at the University of Utah, there were two relativity meetings that were loosely associated, at least in timing, and which made for an interesting juxtaposition. On Thursday, March 21 was``KKfest," a one day conference honoring the 60th birthday of Karel Kuchar. It was followed by the two days of the twelfth Pacific Coast Gravity Meeting. The latter is a meeting centered on young people; all talks are contributed, and each speaker, first year student or Nobel laureate, gets 15 minutes. The KKfest, by contrast, consisted of six invited talks, by``the establishment." A banquet on Friday evening honored Karel Kuchar, but was attended by almost all the PCGM12 participants. Almost 100 people attended! And the crossover was not limited to the banquet. Almost all participants in each conference attended the other conference. It gave the venerable sages of the KKfest a chance to be energized by the enthusiasm of those starting out in the field; at the KKfest the young people of PCGM12 got a first hand contact with some of the history of the ideas in our field.

The speakers during the day of KKfest were Jiri Bicák, Bryce DeWitt, Petr Hájícek, Jim Hartle, Claudio Teitelboim, and Jim York. All their talks gave a historical perspective on modern issues, and on the influence on Karel Kuchar's contributions. Talks in the KKfest covered some exact solutions and black hole thermodynamics, but the main focus, of course, was quantum gravity. Here reviews were given and recent ideas were reported in the canonical approach, the covariant approach, and generalized quantum mechanics.

The Pacific Coast Gravity meeting had 54 talks (!) by presenters from 22 institutions. (The Pacific coast was analytically extended to include, for example, Ireland.) The breadth of the topics showed the recent breadth of our field. There were, on the one hand, talks on knot polynomials (Jorge Pullin) and intermediate topologies (Don Marolf). On the other there were reports on the low frequency satellite tracking gravitational wave experiment (John Armstrong), and on light baffles for the LIGO beam tube (Kip Thorne).

As in the past, Doug Eardley donated a prize to be awarded for the best graduate student presentation. When given no choice but to point to a single name, an impartial international jury pointed to the name Shawn Kolitch of UC Santa Barbara.

Any short list of the most interesting presentations at PCGM would be incomplete, but would include a reversal of a recent result, and a verification of a longstanding one. Gary Horowitz (UCSB) reported computations of black hole entropy from string theory. Previously such calculations had been claimed to imply that extreme black holes had zero entropy. The correction of a technical error in those calculations has led to new results which show that entropy for extreme holes is related to horizon area exactly the same as for moderate holes. Paul Anderson (Wake Forest) reported on a careful study of a gravitational geon. His results completely confirmed the claims in the classical paper by Brill and Hartle. Another talk that stimulated much buzzing in the hallways was the claim by Thomas Thiemann (Harvard) that a finite theory results if a real connection is used for the Ashtekar variables.

At the Friday evening banquet the key speaker was John A. Wheeler who applauded Karel Kuchar's contributions, character and culture and read some of the words of Vaclav Havel about the nature of our pursuit of answers. A gentle roast followed and was enjoyed by all, or perhaps by all but one.

Jorge Pullin
Sun Sep 1 16:45:26 EDT 1996