Physics Colloquium Series: Professor Alexander Seidel
(Physics Lecture Series) Washington University in St. Louis, Department of Physics
“The Hidden Orders of Matter: Topological Phases”
By now three Nobel prizes have been awarded relating to the discovery and study of incarnations of the quantum Hall effect. Arguably, the only isolated topic in condensed matter physics that surpasses this number is superconductivity. How is it that a single effect continues to drive questions at the forefront of condensed matter physics over many decades? In this talk, I will argue that it is not because there is a lack of solutions to the problem but rather due to their abundance: The Hall effect occupies a remarkable niche in the realm of real-life table-top physics that brings together a plethora of phenomena and ideas in condensed matter, quantum field theory, and mathematical physics.
I will review the rudiments of the Hall effect, informed by our understanding of topological quantum field theory. Interestingly, the fingerprints of these field theories are already present in microscopic model wave functions in the form of simple “DNA” like patterns. I will present the rules of unlocking the universal physics of, in particular, fractional quantum Hall liquids from the microscopic patterns found in beautiful solvable models. The relevance of these models to the stabilization of rich topological phases in more controlled settings will also be discussed.