Strange matter won the Nobel Prize in Physics this year. The honour will be shared by a trio of British scientists working on it, Professors David Thouless, Duncan Haldane, and Michael Kosterlitz whose research in the area of quark matter has now created inroads to world of superconductors and quantum computing.
Like Daily Mail reports, “The citation read out at the awards ceremony in Stockholm said the prize was for “theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.”
And where is this strange matter found?
Not on earth, not really. It’s not exactly possible to have stable strange matter on earth.
Er… Why award a Nobel to something that doesn’t even exist, you ask? Okay, I’ll straight away get to the point: because this is the stuff of science fiction. Like major level intergalactic sci-fi.
If you remember reading Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and getting all excited about anti-matter, I feel you. The very idea of having the yang to matter’s ying, got me all intrigued about the fundamental sciences of existence. Everything is matter, and then, there can be anti-matter.
But what matters about matter?
The need of the hour is to re-educate ourselves about what physical matter is. Matter as we know it is no longer confined to just the nucleus, quarks and lucons are the fundamental physical building blocks at the core of the atom.
Basically, lucons help quarks combine into hadrons to shape matter, but matter in extreme degrees, farther than we can comprehend within the span of this amateur blog actually, don’t occur as solid/liquid/gaseous phases. In such circumstances, like imagining the Big Bang, the characteristics of the atom cannot fathom all of the phenomena, and therefore the need arises to treat quarks as the basic building blocks.
Strange matter is thus, such a type of exotic matter that has been theoretically postulated to exist at the core of neutron stars and maybe in undoable laboratory reactors.
That’s not it. The trio used a branch of mathematics called topology to study strange “phases” of matter such as superconductors, superfluids, and thin magnetic films. They further discovered that the breakdown of the quark matters are can be measured by integers. There are no decimal confusions there.
The scientists studied phases of matter using mathematical concepts at super cooled states in very thin matter, two-dimensional and Haldane even pushing it to just one, to understand the regularities of these materials.
The concerted advantage of this physical research will definitely be towards the development of quantum computing and creating surfaces that conduct electricity or fluids without almost any friction! I cannot imagine how much more can be done!
Daily Mail further reports, Professor Nigel Cooper, from Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory, said the prize was “richly deserved”.
He added: “Through the great breakthroughs they’ve made, Thouless, Haldane, and Kosterlitz took a visionary approach to understanding how topology plays a role in novel materials.”
Anyhow, while all this seems irrelevant general knowledge, the point of all this knowledge and research is basically that we have come this far in science. And we can go way ahead. Build next generation computers that will leave all current technology obsolete. They will not just be faster, more secure and be capacitative of analysing more data than it can do today, but also be cooler.
Like literally no more singing skin and overheated thigh muscles. Actually, super insulating everything: allowing heat or electricity to flow over surfaces without friction while preventing the inner matter from heating.
The Nobel Prize is recognition for a research that began back in the 1970s, and when we recognise the relevance of such quirky quarks in our regular lives, it opens up a world of new awareness for us. The Nobel Prize was won for the immensity of contributions their studies on topographical phasing have proved to be.
Dip your toe, just a lil bit. Of course, the people who have been following the development of quantum physics know better. Really, this point in the blog I am celebrating in whatever petty way how much we and our knowledge systems have evolved!