Quantum Gravity: The Sound of Symmetry

International Conference at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam

August 23, 2022

The search for a theory that reconciles quantum field theory and general relativity is still one of the central research topics in theoretical physics. Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hermann Nicolai, Director Emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI), is one of the world's leading scientists in this field. He has initiated many important developments and has contributed significantly to the fact that the AEI today is one of the leading international research centers.

On the occasion of Hermann Nicolai's 70th birthday, leading experts will meet at the AEI in Potsdam from September 13 to 16, 2022, to discuss the current state of research.

The conference will focus in particular on topics related to symmetries in supergravity and quantum gravity, for example:

  • New particles in colliders and the universe
  • Symmetries in supergravity and cosmology
  • Representation theory of Kac-Moody algebras
  • Properties of the supermembrane
  • Structure of supersymmetric field theories
  • Properties of black holes
  • Applications of machine learning in theoretical physics
  • Causal dynamical triangulations
  • Compactifications of string theory


Despite in-depth research and significant progress in recent decades, it is not yet clear what a consistent theory of quantum gravity will look like and what its main features will be. Given these uncertainties, it makes the most strategic sense to pursue both diverse and interdisciplinary approaches. In the Department of Quantum Gravity and Unified Theories at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, all currently important approaches are investigated. These include, above all, supergravity and (super)string theory and their modern further developments, as well as alternative quantization models.

Hermann Nicolai was Director of the Department of Quantum Gravity and Unified Theories at AEI from 1997 to 2020. He continues to be a scientifically active member of the Institute as Director Emeritus. In 1999, Nicolai made history in Potsdam when, under the leadership of the AEI, the internationally important "Strings" conference was held in Germany for the first time. Among the most prominent participants was the British scientist Stephen Hawking.

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