Weird but true: the real world is without a doubt governed by quantum mechanics. It tells us that apparently simple assumptions about reality are not true. The glass is not necessary empty or full, but can be both at the same time. Erwin Schrodinger, one of the founders of quantum theory, emphasized the strangeness of quantum mechanics by pointing out that it allowed for the possibility of a cat that is simultaneously alive and dead. In practice physicists evade the weirdness by applying quantum mechanics only to microscopic entities like atoms and electrons, and content ourselves with the knowledge that while Schrodinger's cat is in principle possible, it is in practice extremely unstable and completely infeasible to arrange.
But more recently, researchers have turned this question around to ask: what sorts of weird quantum states *can* be achieved? The answers are surprising. Quite strange quantum behavior is possible even in large assemblies of electrons and atoms. New research reveals that through such quantum quirks, matter can take on many more forms than previously thought possible. These ideas are influencing not only our understanding of matter, but also that of information and gravity. In my talk, I'll introduce you to this second quantum revolution and its implications for future.
Leon Balents is a theoretical physicist working broadly in the area of correlated electron systems, quantum magnetism, and complex materials. He received his PhD in 1994 from Harvard University, and is now a permanent member of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, and Professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he has been on the faculty since 1999. Balents is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the recipient of an NSF Career Award, the AP Sloan Fellowship, the David and Lucile Packard Fellowship, and several visiting chairs. His interests include correlation effects in one-dimensional systems, exotic quantum critical phenomena, topology in the solid state, and spin liquids in frustrated magnets.