This series covers all areas of research at Perimeter Institute, as well as those outside of PI's scope.
A Majorana fermion is a particle that is its own antiparticle. It has been studied in high energy physics for decades, but has not been definitely observed. In condensed matter physics, Majorana fermions appear as low energy fractionalized quasi-particles with non-Abelian statistics and inherent nonlocality. In this talk I will first discuss recent theoretical proposals of realizing Majorana fermions in solid-state systems, including topological insulators and nanowires. I will next propose experimental setups to detect the existence of Majorana fermions and their striking properties.
In this talk we will explore a "toy model" of quantum theory that is similar to actual quantum theory, but uses scalars drawn from a finite field. The set of possible states of a system is discrete and finite. Our theory does not have a quantitative notion of probability, but only makes the "modal" distinction between possible and impossible measurement results. Despite its very simple structure, our toy model nevertheless includes many of the key phenomena of actual quantum systems: interference, complementarity, entanglement, nonlocality, and the impossibility of cloning.
Black holes play a central role in astrophysics and in physics more generally. Candidate black holes are nearly ubiquitous in nature. They are found in the cores of nearly all galaxies, and appear to have resided there since the earliest cosmic times. They are also found throughout the galactic disk as companions to massive stars. Though these objects are almost certainly black holes, their properties are not very well constrained. We know their masses (often with errors that are factors of a few), and we know that they are dense.
I will describe recent work by Cutler&Holz and Hirata, Holz, & Cutler showing that a highly sensitive, deci-Hz gravitational-wave mission like BBO or Decigo could measure cosmological parameters, such as the Hubble constant H_0 and the dark energy parameters w_0 and w_a, far more accurately than other proposed dark-energy missions.
This talk will discuss some surprising links which have emerged in the last few years between two at first sight distinct areas of mathematical physics: the spectral properties of certain simple schroedinger-like equations, and the Bethe ansatz techniques which are used to compute the energies of states in integrable quantum field theories. No knowledge of either area will be assumed.
The quantum states postulated to occur in situations of the "Schroedinger's Cat" type are essentially N-particle GHZ states with N very large compared to 1,and their observation would thus be particularly compelling evidence for the ubiquity of the phenomenon of entanglement. However, in the traditional quantum measurement literature considerable scepticism has been expressed about the observability of this kind of "macroscopically entangled" state, primarily because of the putatively disastrous effect on it of decoherence.
An entirely new kind of band insulator was discovered recently. These new electronic states - called "topological insulators" - are fundamentally different from standard band insulators. They are distinguished by the fact that their edges (in the 2D case) or surfaces (in the 3D case) support gapless transport which is extremely robust. In the two dimensional case, topological insulators can be thought of as time reversal invariant analogues of integer quantum Hall states.
Theoretical insights originated from the study of black holes combined with developments in string theory indicate that space time and gravity are emergent. A central role in these developments is played by the holographic principle. I will present a heuristic argument that indicates that at a microscopic level gravity is an entropic force caused by changes in the available phase space due to the displacement of material bodies. Refinement of the argument makes clear that this entropic view on gravity is consistent with quantum mechanics and supported by various results in string theory.