Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Physical reality of string theory demonstrated

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

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.
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:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions
19.03.2018 | Vienna University of Technology

nachricht 'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region
16.03.2018 | American Institute of Physics

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: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions

19.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists have a new way to gauge the growth of nanowires

19.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>