March 3, 2021
When you brush your hair in the morning, there’s a pretty good chance you’re not thinking about quantum physics. But the way your hair swirls as you brush is actually related to some features of the quantum world. Important properties of quantum particles are described by topology—a field of mathematics that classifies objects according to how many holes they have. This is not merely a question of fashion. In physical materials, topology can determine many interesting properties. Now, a team of JQI researchers has engineered a new kind of topological matter—one with a single whorl—by breaking free from the constraints of crystalline solids. They managed to do this by grooming their atomic states into a whorl situated in an abstract, infinite plane, rather than a coconut or donut shape.