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I would like to know about the larger picture, current state and future prospects of the sequence of papers that were written by Sheldon Katz and Cumrun Vafa on F-theory. (Freddy Cachazo was also a co-author in many of these papers)

I guess the same is also known as "geometric engineering". (Kindly explain if that is not the same)

There have been recent works on F-theory by Cumrum Vafa, Jonathan Heckman and others.

I would like to know of how this recent work fits in with the earlier work by Katz and Vafa and where do people see this pursuit to be going and what does the community think of its future prospects.

Are these Katz-Vafa works a prospective field for beginning grad students?

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I find these questions about the "current state" of old papers confusing because such questions about "current state" seem to assume that the validity of papers is changing like the weather. Well, it's not. The current state of the Katz-Vafa papers is that they are correct and important papers on F-theory that are almost 15 years old. It's very likely that they will always be correct and important papers from the late mid 1990s.

On the other hand, the recent (five years or so) F-theoretical bottom-up phenomenology by Vafa, Heckman, and others (let me mention Marsano, Saulina, Schafer-Nameki, Dolan, Wecht, Cecotti, Cheng, Seo, Kane) is still a relatively new research direction that continues to be very active. It sometimes uses older papers such as the Katz-Vafa ones but it is surely not "just about them". The newer work is focusing much more on the physics of singular cycles and phenomenological applications, among other things.

The particular questions raised by the papers in the mid 1990s have been largely answered so there's not too much room for completely new fundamental research; however, that doesn't mean that you can't discover something completely new over there. The F-theory bottom-up phenomenology remains full of open questions and it's surely an excellent area of research if someone can get familiar with everything he needs. This F-theory phenomenology has become one of the 5-6 major "scenarios" how string theory could be realized in the real world.

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I guess the person asking this question meant whether a current graduate student should begin on F-theory from these Katz-Vafa papers. (Like if one were a student of Katz?) Can you anyway write some more about the "F-theory bottom up phenomenology" and all that you had in mind when you said, "if someone can get familiar with everything he needs". May be you can give a learning road map. It would be of great help. –  user6818 Mar 27 '11 at 18:46
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Dear Anirbit, I don't actually know the answer. My guess is that one doesn't need Katz-Vafa papers to join at least a "big part" of the current research of F-theory. At the same moment, I am convinced that a vast majority of the real F-theory researchers know those papers. I don't know when they learned it, and whether there's a uniform answer to this question at all. ... One should know what he wants to achieve, and study whatever he needs to get there. –  Luboš Motl Mar 28 '11 at 19:12

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