It is the conservatives vs. the radicals, the right vs. the left.
A colleague recently suggested to me that this is a good metaphor or analogue for describing and understanding the divisions in the physics community working on the theory of correlated electron materials.
In the USA political divisions have led to a "gridlock" that is stopping the country moving forward. Both conservatives and liberals have a rigid ideology that prevents them from seeing the merits
of their opponents concerns and from being willing to compromise. Conservatives believe one should never raise taxes. Liberals believe one should never cut social welfare programs.
Both "cherry pick" economic data to support their point of view.
Historically, political radicals believe that capitalism is a flawed and unstable system that must be replaced by some new, but unknown, system.
The world is more complex than political ideology concedes.
Both radicals and conservatives have extreme beliefs that I sometimes find simplistic.
"The only way to reduce crime is to put more people in prison."
"Crime is just a result of social injustice."
"Poverty can only be solved by economic growth. That means less taxes on big business and the wealthy."
"The poor are helpless. Government welfare programs will solve their problems."
I really like the book Poor Economics because the authors [MIT economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo] do not see the developing world through the extreme eyes of the left [represented by Jeffrey Sachs] or the right [represented by William Easterly].
Instead, the authors actually do randomised trial experiments to obtain empirical data to see what does and does not work in poverty alleviation. They find that sometimes the right is correct and sometimes the left is correct. Sometimes neither. The world is complex.
So what does this have to do with the theory of correlated electron materials?
On one side we have the conservatives who believe that the key ingredients are atomistic detail, good density functionals, perturbation theory, mean-field theory, and the random-phase approximation.
New concepts and methods are not really needed. They have a good system [just like capitalism].
In particular, we don't need a revolution, just bigger computers!
Perhaps they are represented by Igor Mazin, David Singh, Warren Pickett, Olle Andersen, ... The former three all have a career connection to Naval Research Laboratory.
Unlike the radicals below, it is not clear to me that the conservatives have a clear ideological or inspirational leader.
The radicals believe in universality. Atomistic detail is largely irrelevant. It is all about collective behaviour [not individuality].
Completely new conceptual structures and techniques are needed. We must go beyond Landau's mean-field theory and Fermi liquid theory: topological order, quasi-particles with fractional quantum numbers, AdS-CFT, quantum criticality, ...
To the barricades!
Phil Anderson is an enduring inspiration for the radicals just as Marx still is for political radicals.
Indeed many of the radicals [Wen, Patrick Lee, Viswanath, Haldane, ...] have some historical connection to Princeton or Anderson.
I think Anderson is like Marx in that he defines the problems, and asks the hard questions; but I am not sure the answers are right.
But for some, even Marx is not radical enough.
Perhaps, Subir Sachdev is like Lenin with his AdS/CFT comrades. Anderson accuses them of "quasi-journalism". Perhaps, just like Leninists they consider propaganda is also good for their cause.
Bob Laughlin is an aging dis-illusioned radical who has become dis-engaged from the political process. He was a Berkeley undergrad, after all!
Perhaps, Piers Coleman is like a European Social Democrat.
Each side is largely dis-engaged from the other and appears unwillingly to acknowledge the merits of their opponents point of view. This is bad for the field, just like uncompromising political divisions are bad for countries.
Gabi Kotliar has roots on the left, but is moving more towards the right as he grows older. He and Andy Millis are probably a disappointment to both the left and the right, just like Obama!
I am also caught in the middle, with slightly more sympathy for the left than the right, just like in politics. As in politics, I am troubled at some of the extreme views I see on both the left and right. Inconvenient data is ignored.
Can the community move beyond ideology, see and respect others point of view, and work together?
It is interesting that topological insulators have actually led to some constructive dialogue and co-operation between left and right.
Aside: What about the theoretical chemistry community?
I feel it is dominated by the conservatives. Do they need some radicals to shake them up?
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