Physics as a whole is far from being in a crisis — just the part of it which calls itsself “fundamental”

Particle physics and cosmology is in a deep crisis, in the language of science historian Kuhn one might say that the state of “normal science” is over and those fields have entered a stage in which many paradigms fight against each other to explain the observations the previous paradigm can’t explain .

But this is not at all true for physics as a whole. In fact, a much larger (in terms of people working on it) subfield of it is currently in its greatest blossom : condensed matter physics and the closely related field of quantum information/computation. Many of the models particle physicists come up with to explain CP violation and dark matter are actually realized in exotic materials: from excitations with fractional charge, bound states of electrons in superconductors to “particles” with anyonic statistics, i.e. neither Fermions nor Bosons but something inbetween —all of these things can be found in materials you can touch! Even the elusive (many might call it “unuseful”) string theory finds its use in the solid state: due to the gauge-gravity duality, some materials that include emergent phenomena similar to those found in the standard model of particle physics can be described equivalently in the language of gravity and string theory.

So even though all of these developments might have not brought us closer to a GUT , they may have use in explaining complex, strongly correlated materials which might even have a technological use for mankind. Many high energy physicists are realizing that now — from string theorists like Witten to particle physicists at CERN many of them now try to apply their methods to the field of condensed matter physics, where they can be used to predict actual near-term experiments.

Physics does not just consist of the standard model — it may be its most fundamental foundations, but many many emergent, unexpected things happen if one zooms out and looks at many particles interacting with each other, just as described by P. W. Anderson in his famous article “More is different”.

If you are interested in how many particles are more than just single particles added together, you can find out more on the blog Many Body Physics.

Trying to make sense of quantum physics with the help of green tea.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.