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Learning condensed matter with a high-energy background

  1. Jul 9, 2012 #1

    I just finished my master in theoretical physics with a strong interest in quantum mechanics and relativity. I always picked the courses that where more or less related to that: qft, cft, gr, critical phenomenas, particle physics, qcd, electroweak, statistical physics, susy. But now, I'd like to start working on a project related to condensed matter physics (don't know what exactly yet but pretty much theoretical), I am familiar with the framework (qft, renormalization group, cft) but have only a really small view of what's condensed matter, seems like a widly spread area, so I am thinking about starting with reading and digesting these two books:

    Plus watching the following lectures (PSI 2011/2012 CM):

    Do you agree with this plan? What more resources should I use?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 11, 2012 #2

    king vitamin

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    I'm teaching myself the same kind of stuff and haven't looked at those books, so I'd be curious on your opinion of them.

    I've been reading a lot of various books this summer (starting grad school in the Fall working for a CMT group). The easiest one is Mattuck's "Guide to Feynman Diagrams in the Many-Body Problem," which is extremely low-level if you have a background in QFT but serves as a good intro. The more high-level book is Abrikosov, Gorkov, Dzyaloshinskii, "Methods of Quantum Field Theory in Statistical Physics" which is a classic (as you'd expect from those three names), but since it's old and translated it can be a really tough read. I think every CM theorist I know has a copy, and you can get it for ~10 bucks. I've heard Giamarchi's Many-Body book is really good but haven't gotten it.

    As with a lot of topics in physics, there are a lot of good course notes online. I particularly like Chetan Nayak's notes: http://stationq.cnsi.ucsb.edu/~nayak/QFT-9-29-2011.pdf .

    Good luck! I'm definitely interested in other opinions on resources for beginning CM theorists.
  4. Jul 12, 2012 #3


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    I think reading those books will not help you at all. This kind of diagrammatic many-body theory makes for only a minuscule part of theoretical solid state physics, and if you check out Phys. Rev. B., Phys. Rev. Lett., etc, you will be hard pressed to find any article using it.

    The electronic part of solid state theory is basically split in two branches: ab initio approaches (which use DFT and many-body methods similar to quantum chemistry--not that popular in he US) and model systems (which deal mainly with strong correlation use their own home-brewn approaches, which are rarely seen outside the field). There are also some branches combining the two (e.g., the dynamical mean field theory people). In any case: you should be able to back your theory with numbers...
    There are also non-electronic branches of theory; dealing, for example, with dynamics, interfaces, defect formation and interaction, plasticity, etc. These often go into the direction of matierals physics, and their primary numerical techniques are molecular dynamics and various kinds of kinetic monte carlo.

    The most important part when starting out is getting a hold of general solid state physics. It is not wise to specialize into some particular many-body branch before you have an idea of what actual physics exists and is currently being investigated. There are lots of very bad books about solid state theory around, and just picking a random one will likely convey a lot of essentially useless information. If you want to specialize, you should pick a topic from the journals (or from your prospective advisers), and then start reading in order to understand its background.
  5. Jul 12, 2012 #4


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    In addition to Nayak's notes that king vitamin recommended, there's also a good set by Piers Coleman. http://www.physics.rutgers.edu/~coleman/mbody/pdf/bk.pdf [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  6. Jul 12, 2012 #5

    king vitamin

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    Ok, I suppose what I mentioned was a little specialized for what I'm interested in, strongly correlated systems. This is what my undergrad work was in, and I have plans to work with a group in grad school that is heavily field-theoretic. I thought my recommendations seemed in line with the OP's interests considering his/her background (and since they seem similar in content to Altland/Simons which was mentioned). To be perfectly fair you're certainly correct that if one approaches the field "condensed matter" with zero knowledge of a specialization that my recommendations would be bad and a good solid-state book would be best.

    I was also not at all hard-pressed to find recent articles using diagrammatics/field theory: I just looked at the first 4 theory articles in the latest issue of PRB under the strongly correlated section. The first paper constructs a Ginzburg-Landau theory for their model using Matsubara frequencies, the second explicitly computes second-order corrections to the conductivity of the system they study with diagrams, and the fourth is a numerical study of a model followed by a field-theoretic reformulation (the third is a DFT paper). I can already follow these papers much better than I could have a few months ago due to reading the stuff I mentioned. It's not like the books are all diagrams, there are plenty of other important topics introduced like Green's functions, spectral functions, renormalization group, etc.
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