Friday, September 13, 2013

Inspiration from condensed matter veterans

Annual Reviews in Condensed Matter Physics has two inspirational articles

Why I Haven’t Retired
by Ted Geballe [aged 93!]

Sixty Years of Condensed Matter Physics: An Everlasting Adventure
by Philippe Nozières [aged 81]

Here are a few random Nozieres quotes to motivate you to read his whole article:
equations without a phenomenological background remain a formal game. Only simple qualitative arguments can unveil the underlying physics. 
A dialogue between experiment and theory is a difficult venture, which requires a lot of patience on both sides to find a common language. When it succeeds it is incredibly rewarding. I often made proposals to experimentalists, who always had the same initial reaction: “one more crazy theorist’s idea!” But my experimentalist friends are smart and sometimes they accepted the challenge, with spectacular results. I am very grateful to them. A corollary of that view is that theorists should not live in ghettos, but be immersed in experimentalist communities. 
I dislike extreme specialization, especially when it goes together with fashions. All too often a novelty becomes a must.
the sociology [of condensed matter physics] I find worrisome 
I am convinced that the ... link [with chemistry] should grow stronger: The views of chemists and physicists are complementary and we have a lot to teach each other. 
The bosses who govern us should realize that putting all efforts on a few fashionable topics, strangling more traditional work that provides their technical background, is tantamount to killing the hen that lays golden eggs. 
Live the scientific challenge as an adventure, not as a civil service routine.
He also highlights the significance of Dynamical Mean-Field Theory [DMFT] and rants about citations, metrics, and rankings.

I thank Premi Chandra for bringing the articles to my attention.


  1. That is a nice passage to read.

    Very appropriate post, less than three hours after the issuance of the school review board opinion.

    I don't know what the opinion was, because I am out doing science on the Tarragindi bikeway with a laptop and a wifi hotspot.

    I thought that we would all get a summary in an email, anyway.

  2. Thank you for these links. I appreciate Nozieres a lot, abd appreciated both reviews.