Random Planar Curves and Conformal Field Theory

19 October 2007
Professor John Cardy
Random planar curves arise in a natural way in statistical mechanics, for example as the boundaries of clusters in critical percolation or the Ising model. There has been a great deal of mathematical activity in recent years in understanding the measure on these curves in the scaling limit, under the name of Schramm-Loewner Evolution (SLE) and its extensions. On the other hand, the scaling limit of these lattice models is also believed to be described, in a certain sense, by conformal field theory (CFT). In this talk, after an introduction to these two sets of ideas, I will give a theoretical physicist's viewpoint on possible direct connections between them. John Cardy studied Mathematics at Cambridge. After some time at CERN, Geneva he joined the physics faculty at Santa Barbara. He moved to Oxford in 1993 where he is a Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College and a Professor of Physics. From 2002-2003 and 2004-2005 he was a member of the IAS, Princeton. Among other work on the applications of quantum field theory, in the 1980s he helped develop the methods of conformal field theory. Professor Cardy is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a recipient of the 2000 Paul Dirac Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics, and of the 2004 Lars Onsager Prize of the American Physical Society "for his profound and original applications of conformal invariance to the bulk and boundary properties of two-dimensional statistical systems."