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Special CAMP: A web of dualities in condensed matter physics

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Chong Wang, Harvard University
10 January 2018 from 3:45 PM to 4:45 PM
339 Davey Laboratory
Contact Name
Jainendra Jain
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Two seemingly different quantum field theories may secretly describe the same underlying physics — a phenomenon known as “duality”. Duality has been proved powerful in condensed matter physics, since a difficult question in one picture can sometimes be drastically simplified in another. A classic example, useful in understanding superconductor-insulator transitions, is the charge-vortex duality in two dimensions: a superconductor can be viewed as a vacuum or “insulator” of vortices, while an insulator can be viewed as a condensate or “superconductor” of vortices.

The charge-vortex duality has been extended, in the past three years, to an entire “web” of dualities. Some of these dualities relate theories of fermions to theories of bosons. Others relate different theories of fermions. These dualities are also related to the familiar electric-magnetic dualities of electrodynamics in three dimensions. This web of dualities turned out to be useful for a wide range of subjects in quantum many-body physics including quantum spin liquids, topological insulators, unconventional quantum phase transitions, and quantum Hall effects.