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PhysicsWorld Archive

The strong-correlations puzzle

  1. Jorge Quintanilla
  2. Chris Hooley
June 2009
Article Type

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Quantum matter is everywhere, from the interiors of neutron stars to the electrons in everyday metals. Like ordinary, classical matter, it is made up of many interacting particles. In classical matter, however, it is possible to think of each particle as an individual entity, whereas in quantum matter Heisenberg's uncertainty principle prevents us from telling individual particles apart: their behaviour can only be described collectively. In spite of this, many types of quantum matter are well understood from a theoretical point of view. For example, the “electron liquid” that is responsible for the flow of electricity through ordinary metals, the magnetic properties of many insulating materials and the normal and superfluid phases of helium at very low temperatures have all succumbed to the probing of theorists.