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condensed matter physics

Orange hills (polaritons) against a black background. Below each hill, an arrow points to an angular position on a circle.

The Near-Magical Mystery of Quasiparticles

March 24, 2021

The zoo of spontaneously emerging particlelike entities known as quasiparticles has grown quickly and become more and more exotic. Here are a few of the most curious and potentially useful examples.

Graphic of swirling vortex-like patterns called skyrmions.
condensed matter physics

A New Twist Reveals Superconductivity’s Secrets

March 16, 2021

An unexpected superconductor was beginning to look like a fluke, but a new theory and a second discovery have revealed that emergent quasiparticles may be behind the effect.

A pair of diamonds press from opposite directions against a black metal gasket containing a hydrogen-carbon-sulfur compound.
Abstractions blog

Room-Temperature Superconductivity Achieved for the First Time

October 14, 2020

Physicists have reached a long-sought goal. The catch is that their room-temperature superconductor requires crushing pressures to keep from falling apart.

Illustration of gold unicorn
optical physics

Alchemy Arrives in a Burst of Light

September 30, 2020

Researchers have shown how to effectively transform one material into another using a finely shaped laser pulse.

water molecules, droplets and a wave
Abstractions blog

How Mathematical ‘Hocus-Pocus’ Saved Particle Physics

September 17, 2020

Renormalization has become perhaps the single most important advance in theoretical physics in 50 years.

materials science

The Shape-Shifting Squeeze Coolers

August 24, 2020

Push or crush a new class of materials, and they’ll undergo record-breaking temperature changes.

A glass object being shaped by a blowtorch.]
Abstractions blog

Why Is Glass Rigid? Signs of Its Secret Structure Emerge.

July 7, 2020

At the molecular level, glass looks like a liquid. But an artificial neural network has picked up on hidden structure in its molecules that may explain why glass is rigid like a solid.

Gif of a grid of arrows whose directions flip up and down.
Abstractions blog

The Cartoon Picture of Magnets That Has Transformed Science

June 24, 2020

One hundred years after it was proposed, the Ising model is used to understand everything from magnets to brains.

A quantum knot.
Abstractions blog

‘Milestone’ Evidence for Anyons, a Third Kingdom of Particles

May 12, 2020

Anyons don’t fit into either of the two known particle kingdoms. To find them, physicists had to erase the third dimension.