BQ3: How are the features of strongly coupled systems

Many systems in nature are composed of strongly interacting components. In the quantum regime, examples include atomic nuclei, ultra-cold atoms, quantum liquids, and new exotic states of matter, such as the quark-gluon plasma and high-temperature superconductors. Very few quantum systems can be solved exactly, however, and these usually correspond to weakly interacting particles or excitation modes. Over the past decade, novel mathematical and experimental techniques have been developed to prepare, probe, and theoretically describe the intriguing features of strongly interacting systems. Among the amazing results is the insight that two of the coldest and hottest systems created under laboratory conditions share the property of being nearly perfect fluids with minimal viscosity. Another surprising discovery is the close connection between strongly coupled quantum systems and Einstein’s classical theory of gravity. Fascinating connections with both quantum information and graph theory have brought novel algorithms and insights into old methods.

Duke physicists study many variants of strongly coupled quantum systems by experimental and theoretical techniques. The experimental activities include the investigation of ultra-cold atoms trapped in laser fields, the study of electrons in nanosystems and in materials containing strongly correlated electrons, as well as the exploration of the three-dimensional structure of nuclei and the nucleon using high-energy electron microscopes and intense gamma-rays. Theorists investigate transport properties of the quark-gluon plasma, use effective field theories to describe hadrons, nuclei, and atomic systems, develop novel algorithms for the simulation of strongly coupled systems of fermions, and apply methods derived from network theory and quantum information theory to model ground states of strongly coupled quantum systems.

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