The high point of my expertise in condensed matter physics was about thirty years ago, when I studied the subject in order to pass one of the general exams at Princeton. At the party after the test was graded, Phil Anderson came up to (after a fashion…) compliment me, noting that he was glad to see that even though I hadn’t been able to solve one of the condensed matter problems, I had known enough to realize that the calculation I was trying to do was giving a result that couldn’t be right and had written that on the test.
Since then, my little understanding of the subject has slowly decayed over the years, so I’m in no position at all to evaluate claims made about new advances. Recently there has been a lot of interest in applications of gauge/gravity duality to certain condensed matter systems, and this week there’s a new article out in Science (not available on the arXiv itself, but based on this arxiv preprint), together with a press release from MIT. This has led to news stories headlined String Theory Explains Superconductors, and String theory and black holes show a possible path to practical superconductors. This latest story starts off:
A leading candidate for room temperature superconductors is the copper compound cuprate, but no one knew how cuprates facilitated superconductivity…until some brave souls looked inside a black hole and broke out the string theory to explain how they work.
So, hoping that there might be someone expert on this out there and willing to comment, what’s the verdict: hype or not hype?