Should this community of researchers self-organize to keep both abstract and mathematically rigorous modes of investigation, and also the speculative but direct connections to applications and interdisciplinary questions thriving? Should we just leave it to the "market" or try a form of self-regulation? Shall such a balance between pursuing mathematical rigor, studying simple toy models and engaging in interdisciplinary research benefit the field?
To what extent shall we push for connections with experiments? Is it risky? Should we rather engage when we have enough understanding or take risks anyway? If yes, what are the potential terrestrial and extraterrestrial experiments which could be promising? In reverse, can there be a time when we can actually learn something about quantum gravity from table-top experiments or collider experiments utilizing holographic duality?
How do we effectively convey the progress in our field to the general public without diluting complexities and also presenting diverse viewpoints? How much of an active role shall we researchers in the field play in public communication? Also how shall we convey our "failure" to connect to experiments and defend ourselves against criticism?
Is it more important to convey the scientific results to the public or more how the science is actually done? In the latter case, is it also important to engage with philosophical issues about what constitutes science or convey the message in another way?
How do we convince the general public and funding agencies that such research should be supported and also that it is useful? Especially why should a developing country with limited resources support such endeavors which can have any practical benefit only in the course of half a century or more? Are there other indirect benefits of supporting such research?
Why should a technical institution like IIT Madras support and encourage such research? Should there be a separate center for such theoretical research? What benefits can such institutions accrue by supporting fundamental research?
David Gross is the Chancellor’s Chair Professor of Theoretical Physics and former Director at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics of the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is a very influential and central figure in particle physics and string theory. He is known for his discovery of asymptotic freedom, a phenomenon where the strong nuclear force weakens at short distances, which has revolutionized our understanding of quantum field theories and has also established quantum chromodynamics as the fundamental theory of the strong nuclear force. Prof. Gross along with Frank Wilczek and David Politzer were awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery of asymptotic freedom. With collaborators, he also originated the “Heterotic String Theory” as a prime candidate for a unified theory of all the forces of nature. His other awards include the Sakurai Prize, MacArthur Prize, Dirac Medal, Oscar Klein Medal, Harvey Prize, the EPS Particle Physics Prize, the Grande Médaille d’Or,, and the Medal of Honor of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna. He holds honorary degrees from the US, Britain, France, Israel, Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, China, the Philippines and Cambodia. His membership includes the US National Academy of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Indian Academy of Science, the Chinese Academy of Science, the Russian Academy of Sciences and TWAS. In 2016, he began a four-year term in the Presidential Line of the American Physical Society, where he is currently Past President.
Sunil Mukhi is currently the dean of faculty at IISER Pune and has been instrumental in the shaping of IISER Pune as one of the leading research institutions in India today. He has made seminal contributions to string theory especially in the understanding of its many solitionic objects. He has won many awards and recognitions for his work including the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award in Physical Sciences in 1999 and the JC Bose Fellowship in 2008. He is a fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences and the World Academy of Sciences. Currently he is also the Chair of the Panel on Scientific Values of the Indian Academy of Sciences.
Arul Lakshminarayan is a senior Professor at the Department of Physics, IIT Madras. He has made many significant contributions in the fields of quantum information and computation. He has shown that quantum chaos engenders large entanglement between bipartions of a pure state but it destroys entanglement among sufficiently small subsystems. He has also contributed to the understanding of multipartite entanglement in quantum dynamical systems and many-body-localization. Furthermore, he is interested in the study of quantum algorithms and random matrices. He is also one of the most popular teachers in the Department.