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Golden ratio discovered in a quantum world
Date:1/10/2010

ere the tension comes from the interaction between spins causing them to magnetically resonate. For these interactions we found a series (scale) of resonant notes: The first two notes show a perfect relationship with each other. Their frequencies (pitch) are in the ratio of 1.618, which is the golden ratio famous from art and architecture." Radu Coldea is convinced that this is no coincidence. "It reflects a beautiful property of the quantum system a hidden symmetry. Actually quite a special one called E8 by mathematicians, and this is its first observation in a material", he explains.

The observed resonant states in cobalt niobate are a dramatic laboratory illustration of the way in which mathematical theories developed for particle physics may find application in nanoscale science and ultimately in future technology. Prof. Tennant remarks on the perfect harmony found in quantum uncertainty instead of disorder. "Such discoveries are leading physicists to speculate that the quantum, atomic scale world may have its own underlying order. Similar surprises may await researchers in other materials in the quantum critical state."

The researchers achieved these results by using a special probe - neutron scattering. It allows physicists to see the actual atomic scale vibrations of a system. Dr. Elisa Wheeler, who has worked at both Oxford University and Berlin on the project, explains "using neutron scattering gives us unrivalled insight into how different the quantum world can be from the every day". However, "the conflicting difficulties of a highly complex neutron experiment integrated with low temperature equipment and precision high field apparatus make this a very challenging undertaking indeed." In order to achieve success "in such challenging experiments under extreme conditions" the HZB in Berlin has brought together world leaders in this field. By combining the special expertise in Berlin whilst taking advantage of the pulsed neutrons at ISIS,
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Contact: Prof. Alan Tennant
tennant@helmholtz-berlin.de
49-308-062-2741
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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