Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Physical reality of string theory demonstrated

07.07.2009
String theory has come under fire in recent years. Promises have been made that have not been lived up to. Leiden theoretical physicists have now for the first time used string theory to describe a physical phenomenon. Their discovery has been reported this week in 'Science'.
The black hole that explains how quantum particles behave collectively in individual forms of quantum material such as those found in quark-gluon plasmas and high Tc super conductors (Nature 448, 1000, copyright Nature). Euphoria

‘This is superb. I have never experienced such euphoria.' Jan Zaanen makes no attempt to hide his enthusiasm. Together with Mihailo Cubrovic and Koenraad Schalm, he has successfully managed to shed light on a previously unexplained natural phenomeon using the mathematics of string theory.
Jan Zaanen: ‘The maths was a perfect match; it was superb.'
Hot issue

Electrons can form a special kind of state, a so-called quantum critical state, that plays a role in high-temperature super-conductivity. Super-conductivity at high temperatures has long been a 'hot issue' in physics. In super-conductivity, discovered by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes in Leiden, electrons can zoom through a material without meeting any resistance. In the first instance, this only seemed possible at very low temperatures close to absolute zero, but more and more examples are coming up where it also occurs at higher temperatures. So far, nobody has managed to explain high temperature super-conductivity. Zaanen: ‘It has always been assumed that once you understand this quantum-critical state, you can also understand high temperature super-conductivity. But, although the experiments produced a lot of information, we hadn't the faintest idea of how to describe this phenomenon.' String theory now offers a solution.

Holographic ‘AdS/CFT’ correspondence that relates a gravity-determined world in a higher dimension to quantum-critical worlds formed, for example, by electrons in a lower dimensional world on the 'outside' of the first world. (Science 322, 1639, copyright Science).

Theory of everything
This is the first time that a calculation based on string theory has been published in Science, even though the theory is widely known. 'There have always been a lot of expectations surrounding string theory,' Zaanen explains, having himself studied the theory to satisfy his own curiosity. 'String theory is often seen as a child of Einstein that aims to devise a revolutionary and comprehensive theory, a kind of 'theory of everything'. Ten years ago, researchers even said: 'Give us two weeks and we'll be able to tell you where the big bang came from. The problem of string theory was that, in spite of its excellent maths, it was never able to make a concrete link with the physical reality - the world around us.'
Quantum soup

But now, Zaanen, together with his colleagues Cubrovic and Schalm, are trying to change this situation, by applying string theory to a phenomenon that physicists, including Zaanen, have for the past fifteen years been unable to explain: the quantum-critical state of electrons. This special state occurs in a material just before it becomes super-conductive at high temperature. Zaanen describes the quantum-critical state as a 'quantum soup', whereby the electrons form a collective independent of distances, where the electrons exhibit the same behaviour at small quantum mechanical scale or at macroscopic human scale.

Koenraad Schalm

Bridge
Because of Zaanen's interest in string theory, he and string theoreticist Koenraad Schalm soon became acquainted after Schalm's arrival in Leiden. Zaanen had an unsolved problem and Schalm was an expert in the field of string theory. Their common interest brought them together, and they decided to work jointly on the research. They used the aspect of string theory known as AdS/CFT correspondence. This allows situations in a large relativistic world to be translated into a description at minuscule quantum physics level. This correspondence bridges the gap between these two different worlds. By applying the correspondence to the situation where a black hole vibrates when an electron falls into it, they arrived at the description of electrons that move in and out of a quantum-critical state.
Puzzle
After days and nights of hard grind, it was a puzzle that fitted. 'We hadn't expected it to work so well,' says a delighted Zaanen. 'The maths was a perfect fit; it was superb. When we saw the calculations, at first we could hardly believe it, but it was right.' Gateway to more

Although the mystery of high temperature super-conductivity isn't fully resolved, the findings do show that major problems in physics can be addressed using string theory. And this is just the start, Zaanen believes. ‘AdS/CFT correspondence now explains things that colleagues who have been beavering away for ages were unable to resolve, in spite of their enormous efforts. There are a lot of things that can be done with it. We don't fully understand it yet, but I see it as a gateway to much more.' The fact that Science was keen to publish this discovery early confirms this.

Fundamentals of Science is one of the 11 research profile areas of Leiden University

Hilje Papma | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.research.leiden.edu/news/string-theory.html
http://www.leidenuniv.nl

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials
17.01.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes

nachricht Black hole spin cranks-up radio volume
15.01.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk

17.01.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials

17.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Fraunhofer HHI receives AIS Technology Innovation Award 2018 for 3D Human Body Reconstruction

17.01.2018 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>