Associate 2010-11

Robert G Leigh


String Theory and the Holographic States of Matter

Research in string theory has yielded some very practical ideas about the concept of duality, where two or more completely different theoretical constructions can describe the same physical system. The concept provides a useful calculational tool when a strongly coupled theory is dual to a weakly coupled one: the physics of the first can be inferred from traditional study of the second.

The most fruitful notion of duality is known as AdS/CFT duality or simply holography. In this case, strongly coupled quantum field theories are dual to weakly coupled gravitational systems. Thus, hard questions about the field theories can be addressed by studying fairly simple problems in classical gravity theory. An example is the current experimental method in nuclear physics, colliding heavy ions and studying the short-lived state of matter that arises. The tools of AdS/CFT duality make precise predictions in this case that are borne out experimentally; in fact, these are the only reliable calculational tools currently available.

This research area is at the forefront of modern string theory research and is poised to make contributions to a number of fields. During his Center appointment Professor Leigh will organize a workshop titled, “AdS4/CFT3 and the Holographic States of Matter,” to be held at the Galileo Institute in Florence. The workshop is expected to attract most of the top researchers in the field.