String Theory Helps to Explain Quantum Phases of Matter

Eye-opening surprises await you in this article.

Newly discovered states of matter embody what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” They defy explanation, but lately answers have come from a seemingly unrelated corner of physics: string theory

MAGNET is being levitated by an unseen superconductor in which countless trillions of electrons form a vast interconnected quantum state. Astoundingly, the quantum state of many modern materials is subtly related to the mathematics of black holes.

I had no idea that

In superconductors ... The electron pairs can all condense into the same state having the barest minimum amount of energy—a phenomenon known as Bose-Einstein condensation.

The main new idea needed to describe the quantum-critical point, and the superconductors and strange metals close to it, is ... entanglement...

... in the past decade physicists are beginning to appreciate that it accounts for the bizarre properties of strange metals. Close to the quantum-critical point, the electrons no longer behave independently or even in pairs but become entangled en masse. The same reasoning that EPR applied to two electrons now applies to all 1023 of them. Neighboring electrons are entangled with each other; this pair, in turn, is entangled with neighboring pairs, and so on, creating an enormous network of interconnections.

When electrons in crystals have only a limited degree of entanglement, they can still be thought of as particles (either the original electrons or pairs of them). When large numbers of electrons become strongly entangled with one another, however, they can no longer be viewed as particles, ... we describe these systems in terms of strings that propagate in an extra dimension of space.

... an analogy between the extra spatial dimension and the network of quantum entanglement .... Moving up and down the network is mathematically just like moving through space. The strings can wriggle and fuse together within the extra dimension, and their motion mirrors the evolving entanglement of particles. In short, the spooky connections that troubled Einstein make sense when you think of the degree of entanglement as distance through an extra spatial dimension.

For those of us accustomed to thinking about the dynamics of electrons in crystals, string theory has given a fresh new perspective on the dynamics of complex quantum states involving entanglement. For string theorists, it has piqued interest in the phases of quantum materials, phenomena far removed from the physics of the early universe or that occurring in high-energy particle accelerators.

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So, sort of like I might be a world away from where you made this post in space, but only seconds away in time, particles acting at a distance could be a universe away in space, but only 0.001 "arbitrary units" away in the 10th dimension.  Cool!



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