Articles - Physics

Frank A. Wilczek School of Natural Sciences Institute for Advanced Study Princeton, N.J. " Some of the most subtle and surprising manifestations of quantum mechanics involve the appearance of phase factors as particles wind around another. The prototype of this is the Aharonov-Bohm effect, whereby charged particles are deflected as they orbit around a solenoid, even though there is no force acting. Similar ideas appear in the theory of quark confinement and in the theory of fractional statist

Jan 9, 1989
The Scientist Staff

Frank A. Wilczek
School of Natural Sciences
Institute for Advanced Study
Princeton, N.J.

" Some of the most subtle and surprising manifestations of quantum mechanics involve the appearance of phase factors as particles wind around another. The prototype of this is the Aharonov-Bohm effect, whereby charged particles are deflected as they orbit around a solenoid, even though there is no force acting. Similar ideas appear in the theory of quark confinement and in the theory of fractional statistics that has recently played an important role in understanding the quantized Hall effect. These ideas also appear prominently in theoretical thinking on high-temperature superconductors. Until now the physics has been treated on a semi-intuitive basis, but as we analyze more complicated cases, the lack of a complete and rigorous formal foundation is beginning to be felt. The beginnings of such a foundation have now appeared in two articles.

J. Frohlich, P. Marchetti, "Soliton quantization in lattice field-theories," Communications in Mathematical Physics, 112 (2), 343-83, 1987.

J. Frohlich, P. Marchetti, "Quantum field theories of vortices and anyons," (preprint).

" Although there are encouraging indications that superstring theory may teach us important lessons about the real world, its underlying constructions are very cumbersome, mathematically intractable, and all too obviously "man-made." It is to be hoped that a much simpler construction will be found that might not only illuminate but even generalize superstring theory. A new paper is a step in this direction.

I. Klebanov, L. Susskind, "Continuum strings from discrete field theories," Nuclear Physics B - Particle Physics, 309 (1), 175-87, 31 October 1988.

" As high-energy accelerators become ever more difficult and expensive to build, and as the collisions they yield are ever more complex and difficult to monitor and interpret, much interest is focusing on ingenious ways to probe the fundamental laws of matter: high precision, low-energy tests of symmetry; searches for "dark matter" believed to contribute most of the universe's mass; systematic study of cosmic rays; and others.

J.L. Rosner, "Fundamental particle physics without accelerators," Comments on Nuclear and Particle Physics, 7 (2), 93-118, 1987.

" One area of physics that over the years has yielded more than its share of surprises is the frontier of low temeperatures. Ultralow temperature devices, real or conjectured, have been discussed in connection with several of the nonaccelerator particle physics proposals mentioned in the preceeding note. An up-to-date survey has recently appeared.

G.R. Pickett, "Microkelvin physics," Reports on Progress in Physics, 51 (10), 1295-1340, October 1988.

" The subject of color vision has fascinated several of the most distinguished theoretical physicists - from Helmholtz and Young to Maxwell and Schrodinger. Therefore, it may not be inappropriate to call attention to a new paper that also allows mention of a lively and useful new journal.

M. La Breque, "Retinex: Physics and the theory of color vision," Computers in Physics, 2 (6), 16-21, November/December 1988.