Thursday, December 4, 2014

How big and significant is condensed matter physics?

Occasionally I have to write a paragraph or two about why condensed matter physics is important in the Australian context, where it is arguably under-represented. Here is my latest version.

Condensed matter physics is one of the largest and most vibrant areas of physics. 

1. In the past 30 years the Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded 13 times for work on condensed matter. 

2. Since 1998 seven condensed matter physicists [Kohn, Heeger, Ertl, Shechtmann, Betzig, Hell, Moerner] have received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry! 

3. Of the 144 physicists who were most highly cited in 2014 for papers in the period 2002-2012 (ISI, more than one half are condensed matter physicists. 

4. The largest physics conference in the world is the annual March meeting of the American Physical Society. It attracts almost 10,000 attendees and is focused on condensed matter. 

Many of the materials first studied by condensed matter physicists are now the basis of modern technology. Common examples include crystalline silicon in computer chips, superconductors in hospital magnetic imaging machines, magnetic multilayers in computer memories, and liquid crystals in digital displays.
There are significant interactions with other fields such as chemistry, materials science, biophysics, and engineering.

A few notes.

On 2. Although some of these people are now in chemistry departments they all did a Ph.D in condensed matter physics and the prize winning research was or could arguably have been published in a journal such as PRB.

On 3. I just went quickly through the list and counted the names I recognised. I welcome more accurate determinations.

I welcome other suggestions or observations.

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