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Have all cheap experiments been exhausted?

  1. Apr 28, 2005 #1

    ohwilleke

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    The most watched experimental efforts pertinent to modern physics are heinously expensive.

    State of the art particle accellerator project like the LHC cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build. http://www.physics.fsu.edu/PhysicsNewsletter/Spring97/The_Large_Hadron_Collider.htm

    Gravity Probe B is a $700 million experiment. http://wired-vig.wired.com/news/space/0,2697,64505,00.html

    Is there really no room to do useful experiments to gather information that would be useful to theoretists in string theory, LQG, brane theory and other branches of modern physics that cost say, under $10 million? Or, has brute force simply shoved cleverness out of the way?

    For example, some of these theories are suggesting that we should see Quantum Gravity effects at distances as large as 1 mm. Is it really that expensive to do experiments to explore what is going on in the 1mm to 1 micrometer scale gravitationally and hence further constrain theory?

    Similarly, the Casmir effect has excited a lot of interest relevant to dark energy. Couldn't someone do some really significant research in this area for say $8 million?

    Are there really no ways to infer the existence of undetected particles experimentally short of Tetra-electron volt class conditions?
     
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  3. Apr 28, 2005 #2

    ZapperZ

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    Hang on. Don't lump ALL of "modern physics" to JUST mean string, high energy, etc. Don't people in condensed matter MATTER? If they do, you'll find that many FUNDAMENTAL physics research are done on the VERY cheap!

    Zz.
     
  4. May 1, 2005 #3

    jma2001

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    Could you give a few recent (within last 10-15 years) examples, please?
     
  5. May 1, 2005 #4

    ZapperZ

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    I'll give you two off the top of my head:

    1. The paper on the violation of the Wiedemann-Franz law: C. Proust et al., Nature v.414, p.711 (2001).

    Why is this fundamental? It goes to the heart of the so-called spin-charge fractionalization. It points to the possibility that if our fundamental particles are truly many-body vacuum excitation, that under low dimensional confinment, you can fractionalize it's various properties such as its spin and its charge.

    2. Orenstein and Millis, Advances in the Physics of High-Temperature Superconductivity, Science v.288 p.468-474 (2000).

    This is a review of both theory and experiments on high-Tc superconductors that directly address the issues of fluctuations near a quantum phase transition.

    Bonus: all the experiments on the discovery of the fractional quantum hall effect.

    In none of these did the experiment itself costs even 1% of a typical high-energy experiment.

    Zz.
     
  6. May 1, 2005 #5

    jma2001

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    Thanks for those references. The more I listen to you, the more I can see that condensed matter is indeed a most interesting and useful area of research. And you are right, it is a field that most people outside of the physics community have never heard of or thought much about. I suppose string theory gets all the hype because it deals with the "glamorous" questions about black holes, the origin of the universe, etc. Also, the string theorists have done a very good job of marketing themselves, through popular books and on television. Are there any decent books about condensed matter written for a general audience? I know there is a biography of John Bardeen called "True Genius" but I am looking for a history/overview of the entire field.
     
  7. May 1, 2005 #6

    ZapperZ

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    I'm not aware of any popular books specifically on condensed matter. However, I have a couple of articles here on the topic that you could get. Not sure if they're meant for a popular audience since they do go into greater detail, but it tells you even more of why CM is a very fundamental area of physics and not just an "application".

    http://arxiv.org/abs/cond-mat/0307004
    http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0210162

    Zz.
     
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