The symmetry breaking accompanying the formation of crystals and magnetic domains has formed the base of a central concept of particle physics.

The symmetry-breaking accompanying the formation of crystals and magnetic domains has formed the base of a central concept of particle physics.

Project (2018-)

Concepts from Mesoscopic Physics in Particle Physics: A Success Story

High-energy and solid-state physics are two major branches of contemporary physics and deal respectively with the sub-nuclear scale and the mesoscale, the size domain between the atom and the bacterium. Despite this divide, from the 1950s onwards mesoscopic physics has provided mathematical tools and concepts that inspired the resolution of important problems in high-energy physics. At the core of this transfer is analogy, applied on both the intuitive and formal levels.

This project aims at investigating in two steps the ingredients of and reasons for this analogic transfer: first, by discussing how the experimental and theoretical concepts form in the two disciplines and how this formation is shaped by the research environments, their experimental possibilities and limitations; second, by identifying what is effectively imported to the target domain, the motivating forces behind the transfer, and its consequences on the methodology of high-energy physics.

 

The symmetry-breaking accompanying the formation of crystals and magnetic domains has formed the base of a central concept of particle physics.

The symmetry-breaking accompanying the formation of crystals and magnetic domains has formed the base of a central concept of particle physics. Image: Author.

The study is carried out scrutinizing, with the methods of historical epistemology, the case of broken symmetry as it arose in the context of superconductivity and was then transferred into high-energy physics; and the contemporary case of emergent space-time.

I conceive this research as a part of a long-term program that aims at characterizing the evolution of distinct domains of science in terms of diversification and reconnection of their conceptual contents and methods.