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Colloquium: New Topologically Ordered Phases of Condensed Matter

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Colloquium by Joel E. Moore (UC Berkeley)
05 December 2013 from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM
117 Osmond Laboratory
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Much of condensed matter physics is concerned with understanding how different kinds of order emerge from interactions between a large number of simple constituents.  In ordered phases such as crystals, magnets, and superfluids, the order is understood through “symmetry breaking”: in a crystal, for example, the continuous symmetry of space under rotations and translations is not reflected in the ground state, which instead has a periodic arrangement of ions.  A major discovery of the 1980s was that electrons confined to two dimensions and in a strong magnetic field exhibit a completely different, “topological” type of order that underlies the quantum Hall effect.  A discovery in the last few years is that topological order also occurs in some three-dimensional materials, dubbed "topological insulators", in zero magnetic field.  Spin-orbit coupling, an intrinsic property of all solids, drives the formation of the topological state.