The Search For Perfection…

…is all very well, but to look for Heaven…is to live here in Hell*.

may 2010 physics today coverOne of the things I worked a lot on in earlier months this year (and late ones of last year) was the lead article in a cluster of articles that has appeared in the last few days in May’s special edition of Physics Today. They are sort of departmental-colloquium-level articles, so for a general physics audience, more or less. It’s about some of the things I’ve told you about here in the past (see e.g. here and here), concerning exciting and interesting applications of string theory to various experiments in nuclear physics, as well as atomic and condensed matter physics (although we do not have an article on the latter in this cluster). I had a fun time working with Peter Steinberg on the article and remain grateful to him for getting us all together in the first place to talk about this topic way back in that AAAS symposium of 2009. It was there that Steven Blau of Physics Today got the excellent idea to approach us all to do an article, which resulted in this special issue.

My article with Peter Steinberg, “What black holes teach about strongly coupled particles”, is here, and the pdf is freely downloadable (update: alternative link here). It is mostly about the theoretical aspects of the whole business and the relevance of the string theory techniques, what they are, where they come from, with a bit of context and history. I’d have liked it to be more thorough, but there were space issues. The other two articles are about the experimental work in more detail, with John E. Thomas’ “The nearly perfect Fermi gas” and Peter Steinberg writing with Barbara Jacak in “Creating the perfect liquid in heavy-ion collisions”. Those two don’t appear to be free, it seems, but I’m sure you can find them in your department or a library. Overall, I had a great time working with all of these people last year, and also during the preparation of our respective articles. I also learned a lot of physics. It’s simply fantastic thinking and chatting about how theory and experiment can find interesting points of dialogue, especially with colleagues from the experimental and phenomenological worlds (or the theoretical world but with a complementary approach).

The whole table of contents for the May issue is here. Do let people know about them, since they were written as a cluster in order to be helpful to the broader physics community.

I hope you enjoy them!


(*From “Consider Me Gone”, by Sting.)

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