Mike Merrifield, Omar Almaini and Meghan Gray react to the much-anticipated black hole photo from the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration.

# Joe Polchinski Memorial Lecture: A Brief History of Branes

**Paul Townsend (University of Cambridge, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, UK)**

Abstract of the memorial lecture “A Brief History of Branes”: Joe Polchinski made many groundbreaking discoveries in theoretical physics. This talk will focus on his contributions to the circle of ideas that led to M-theory in the late 1990s, especially his work of the 1980s on supermembranes (’86) and D-branes and T-duality (’89). This will be part of a survey of the changing role of branes in physics, with personal commentary on various related topics (such as M-branes, U-dualities, black branes) in supergravity and string theory.

Polchinski was a professor at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His great contributions to theoretical physics, including the discovery of D-branes –– a type of membrane in string theory –– have led to advances in the understanding of string theory and quantum gravity. In 2008, he shared ICTP’s Dirac Medal with Juan Maldacena and Cumrun Vafa for their fundamental contributions to superstring theory. The three scientists’ profound achievements have helped to address outstanding questions like confinement of quarks and QCD mass spectrum from a new perspective and have found applications in practical calculations. In addition to the Dirac Medal, Polchinski was awarded the American Physical Society’s 2007 Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics, the Milner Foundation’s Physics Frontiers Prize in 2013 and 2014, as well as the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. His work touched the lives of many ICTP scientists, from the hundreds who attended his lectures to those who worked directly with him.

# Black Hole Entropy is Thermodynamic Entropy

**Carina E. A. Prunkl, Christopher G. Timpson**

The comparison of geometrical properties of black holes with classical thermodynamic variables reveals surprising parallels between the laws of black hole mechanics and the laws of thermodynamics. Since Hawking’s discovery that black holes when coupled to quantum matter fields emit radiation at a temperature proportional to their surface gravity, the idea that black holes are genuine thermodynamic objects with a well-defined thermodynamic entropy has become more and more popular. Surprisingly, arguments that justify this assumption are both sparse and rarely convincing. Most of them rely on an information-theoretic interpretation of entropy, which in itself is a highly debated topic in the philosophy of physics. We discuss some of the pertinent arguments that aim at establishing the identity of black hole surface area (times a constant) and thermodynamic entropy and show why these arguments are not satisfactory. We then present a simple model of a Black Hole Carnot cycle to establish that black hole entropy is genuine thermodynamic entropy which does not require an information-theoretic interpretation.

Read more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1903.06276.pdf

# Juan Maldacena In Conversation at ICTP

Distinguished physicist Juan Maldacena delivered the 2019 Salam Distinguished Lecture Series, and while he was here he sat down with ICTP scientist Atish Dabholkar to discuss everything from black holes to starting out in physics.