Spinors, Strings and Superconductors: The challenges of a new era in Theoretical Physics

Piers Coleman, Rutgers & RHUL

Natural Science thrives on the astonishing convection of ideas and discovery between the lab and the cosmos: as physicists we are often surprised to find how ideas and mathematics cut right across the artificial boundaries of our own speciatlities. Today, the tremendous discoveries in particle, condensed matter and astronomy over the past few decades once place us in an extraordinary position for major new discovery.

I shall try to illustrate this optimistic outlook from my own modest condensed matter physics perspective, sketching a few examples drawn from my work and others. How some elegant equations from string theory and gravity provide a beautiful tool in 2D statistical mechanics, leading us to discover a new kind of phase transition in two dimensional Heisenberg magnets; how a chance discussion with a particle physicist gave birth to a new idea about composite pairing in superconductors and finally, how a long standing "hidden order" mystery in the material URu2Si2 might be resolved by a new kind of spinor order, of wider application, that we call "hastatic order".