Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Solid State Higgs At The 2013 APS March Meeting

I mentioned the other day of the leg up that condensed matter physicists had on the high energy physicists in the hunt for Majorana fermions. The score so far is 3-0 in favor of condensed matter physicists.

It turns out that one can also argue that condensed matter physicists also beat their high energy physics counterpart in discovering the "Higgs"!

In 1981, Peter Littlewood and Chandra Varma, two solid-state theorists at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey, realized that a mysterious effect seen in a niobium selenide superconductor could be explained by the jiggling of the invisible field that causes electrons in the material to pair up and move as one without resistance. Mathematically, the disturbance in the field looked very like one that is associated with the Higgs particle found by particle physicists.

This shouldn't really be a surprised, because as I've mentioned somewhere in this blog, and as stated in the article, the concept that arose to become the Higgs mechanism came right out of condensed matter:

It wouldn’t be the first time that particle physics stood on the shoulder of condensed-matter physics. When Peter Higgs, a theorist at the University of Edinburgh, UK, put together the idea known as the Higgs field in 1964, he built on a theory developed a year earlier, by theorist Phil Anderson, now at Princeton University in New Jersey, to describe the interactions of superconducting electrons. Higgs took the idea further, interpreting the field as a medium in empty space that would pull on particles, giving them mass. The Higgs bosons that made up the field would be invisible unless the field was jiggled in the right way, as occurs in high-energy collisions at the LHC.
That session on solid state Higgs at the APS Meeting sounded like a hoot. Seems like a lot of people are claiming Higgs-like scenario in their systems. Anyone attended that and can add a report or two?



Unknown said...

I went to the session, which was interesting, even though the whole "Higgs" thing is there only for marketing. The reason is that there's no gauge field (photons or other) in these experiments, therefore no Higgs mechanism and no Higgs boson...
It would be one, if someone manages to couple the matter field with some gauge field, but it's not.

What people are seeing in these experiments (and computing with either field theory or monte-carlo) is what use to be called an amplitude mode, but that was before cold atoms experimentalists wanted to sell all their papers to Nature.
What really sadden me is that serious theorists such as Sachdev agree to talk about Higgs mode in this case, as they should know better.
In the whole session, only Chadra Varma (who really worked on the Higgs mechanism in superconductors) complained about the terminology.

Igor said...

Don't forget the very interesting new data from Paris: