Thursday 18 June 2009, 14.15 Aud. M, Niels Bohr Institute Blegdamsvej 17, Copenhagen
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
Solid-state physics and elementary-particle physics are usually viewed as being largely disconnected fields of research which share little more than their conceptual basis – quantum mechanics. In my talk, I will show that, to the contrary, the history of both fields is intertwined to a large extent. In the mid-to-late 1950s, key notions (quasiparticles, collective excitations)
and methods (diagramatic perturbation theory, renormalization) of modern condensed-matter theory emerged from the transfer of quantum field theoretical methods, which had their origins in particle physics, to the nascent field of solid-state physics.
I will trace the formulation and transformation of these concepts within the context of solids, and their far-reaching heuristic and ontological consequences for the field which today is arguably the largest subdiscipline of physics. In the early 1960s, novel concepts from the quantum field theory of solids – which had flourished quite independently for several years – were able to cross-fertilize back into the field of particle physics. Even today, interactions between condensed-matter and particle physics are not uncommon, especially at the frontier of research. I will study the dynamics of these interactions and examine the topology of the conceptual borderlands between both fields of research.