Fracton: From Quantum Hard Drive to Foliated Manifold

  • Speaker
  • Xie Chen, Ph.D.Professor, Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy, California Institute of Technology
Date & Time


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Simons Foundation Lectures are free public colloquia related to basic science and mathematics. These high-level talks are intended for professors, students, postdocs and business professionals, but interested people from the metropolitan area are welcome as well.
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Quantum systems are weird. A large quantum system where all the constituent quantum particles strongly interact with each other is even weirder. The recently discovered fracton systems are excellent examples of this. The constituent particles interact so strongly that single-particle features are obscured, and the low energy dynamics of the system is dominated by local defects that look completely different. They can have different charge, different statistics, and more surprisingly, they can be completely immobile, rendering even simple notions like momentum and mass inadequate.

In this lecture, Xie Chen will tell the story of how such an unexpected discovery made in the quest for a quantum hard drive led to surprising developments. Such developments include the redefinition of fundamental concepts like phase and universality based on foliation in manifolds and the re-formulation of field theory. Along the way, the quest connected researchers in quantum information, condensed matter and high-energy theory, all inspired by the endless weirdness of strongly interacting quantum many-body systems.

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About the Speaker

Chen is a professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology. Chen obtained her Ph.D. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012 and was a Miller research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, before joining Caltech in 2014. Chen is a condensed matter theorist studying emergent phenomena in strongly interacting quantum many-body systems. She received the New Horizons in Physics Prize from the Breakthrough Foundation in 2020.

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