I'm just returning home from the annual Supersymmetry Conference in Hamburg, home of the DESY accelerator in addition to international terrorism. The unstated conference theme was the relative likelihood of supersymmetry vs. something even more exotic like extra dimensions as a way of understanding the electroweak symmetry breaking energy, the energy where the mass of the quarks, leptons, and electroweak gauge bosons is generated.
The informal discussions were easily as valuable as the talks themselves. A boat ride on the harbor was an excellent setting for discussing with Ed Witten the relative merits of string-derived models compared to more conventional field theoretical models in which unification of forces occurs at high energy (especially since one can easily tire of big boats when jet-lagged).
A coffee break following Ed's talk offered an opportunity to discuss with an Irishman, an Israeli, and some fellow Americans how one might simply formulate a Grand Unified Theory that naturally breaks supersymmetry in an experimentally acceptable way. Other topics were better left unspokena Spaniard explaining to an Israeli the Middle East situation was uncomfortably tense. Supersymmetry breaking definitely appears a far safer and more tractable problem. My talk was a challenge to the conventional SUSY expectation that the Higgs boson will be light and that unification of couplings is excluded in all but supersymmetric theories; unification of couplings can happen in our extra dimensional theories as well.
I ended the trip by visiting a friend in Bavaria and briefly checking out the rock-climbing in the Frankenjura. Spent one day at Truenitz and one day at Burglesau and Katzenbuckel, all of which were excellent. Enjoyed the region itself as well.