Symmetry and complexity

Ornament

19 January 2010, 17.10 CET

In a recent article in Science (327:5962, pp. 177-180) scientists have discovered (as predicted) a “nanoscale symmetry in solidstate matter” which approaches the golden ratio.

Golden Staircase

Garron Nicholls

From the abstract:

Quantum phase transitions take place between distinct phases of matter at zero temperature. Near the transition point, exotic quantum symmetries can emerge that govern the excitation spectrum of the system. A symmetry described by the E8 Lie group with a spectrum of eight particles was long predicted to appear near the critical point of an Ising chain.

Just below the critical field, the spin dynamics shows a fine structure with two sharp modes at low energies, in a ratio that approaches the golden mean predicted for the first two meson particles of the E8 spectrum. Our results demonstrate the power of symmetry to describe complex quantum behaviors.

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