The universe is a string-net liquid – fundamentals – 15 March 2007 – New Scientist

Posted on March 17, 2007 

The universe is a string-net liquid


In 1998, just after he won a share of the Nobel prize for physics, Robert Laughlin of Stanford University in California was asked how his discovery of \”particles\” with fractional charge, now called quasi-particles, would affect the lives of ordinary people. \”It probably won\’t,\” he said, \”unless people are concerned about how the universe works.\”

Well, people were. Xiao-Gang Wen at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Michael Levin at Harvard University ran with Laughlin\’s ideas and have come up with a prediction for a new state of matter, and even a tantalising picture of the nature of space-time itself. Levin presented their work at the Topological Quantum Computing conference at the University of California, Los Angeles, early this month.

\”Wen and Levin\’s theory is really beautiful stuff,\” says Michael Freedman, 1986 winner of the Fields medal, the highest prize in mathematics, and a quantum computing specialist at Microsoft Station Q at the University of California, Santa Barbara. \”I admire their approach, which is to be suspicious of anything – electrons, photons, Maxwell\’s equations – that everyone else accepts as fundamental.\”


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