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January 27 2013

String Theory Helps to Explain Quantum Phases of Matter


Several years ago I found myself where I would never have expected: at a conference of string theorists. My own field is condensed matter: the study of materials such as metals and superconductors, which we cool in the laboratory to temperatures near absolute zero. That is about as far as you can possibly get from string theory without leaving physics altogether. String theorists seek to describe the universe at energies far in excess of anything experienced in a lab or indeed anywhere else in the known universe.

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