Friday, April 22, 2011

The Far-Reaching Theory of Superconductivity

The celebration of the 100th anniversary of the discovery of superconductivity still continues. If you've read the Adrian Cho's piece in Science (Science April 8, 2011, p.190), you'll discover how superconductivity has influenced ideas in a wide-ranging field in physics. This is widely acknowledged by non other than Franck Wilczek in his contribution to the 50th anniversary of the BCS theory. He reinforced it here in this video on how our knowledge of superconductivity has a far-reaching impact.

It's a rich mix that the theory of superconductivity has given us," he says, referring to concepts such as pairing and symmetry breaking as applied to topology. "All those ideas really have their deep roots in work on superconductivity and they've become dominant tools for fundamental physics.

The point that is being stressed here, and which I've repeatedly mentioned, is that it is no longer a valid point to labelled areas of study such as condensed matter physics as being "applied physics". The knowledge gained, especially on the theoretical aspect of it, is as "fundamental" as anything. It is plainly apparent here in the case of superconductivity, but it can easily be said about the physics of graphene, topological insulator, BEC-BCS crossover, etc. It is in this field where various aspects of quantum field theory comes to life with utmost clarity. It is not pure fallacy that Carver Mead would say that "... Nowhere in natural phenomena do the basic laws of physics manifest themselves with more crystalline clarity...." regarding superconductivity.

So if anyone claims that anything other than high energy/particle/astrophysics/string/etc. is merely "applied", show him/her this.


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