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Historical Perspectives on Contemporary Physics

News / Highlights / Colloquium

EPJ H Highlight - Revisiting the history of CPT theorem

CPT theorem was vital to our understanding of how particles and their antiparticles behave. Credit: Robert Lea

A new review looks at an important and often overlooked aspect of physics that suggested symmetry in the particle zoo and how it could be broken.

At the beginning of the 20th century the development of quantum mechanics and relativity changed the face of physics forever. While much has been written about this revolution, less is known about the development of the CPT theorem — vital to quantum field theory and modern physics.

A new paper published in EPJ H and authored by Alexander S. Blum and Andres Martınez de Velasco from Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, looks at the roots of CPT theorem and its influence over modern physics.


EPJ H Highlight - Documenting the first attempt at a gravitational-wave observatory in Europe

Binary neutrons stars generate ripples in spacetime, gravitational waves, detected here on Earth by interferometers like LIGO. Credits: R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL

EUROGRAV was set to be a network of gravitational wave antennas in Europe. A new paper looks at the reasons it never happened.

First predicted in Einstein’s theory of general relativity, gravitational waves are tiny ripples in spacetime generated by titanic and powerful cosmic events. The great physicist believed that no equipment would ever be sensitive to detect these faint cosmic ripples. Fortunately, Einstein was wrong, but that doesn’t mean that the detection of gravitational waves has been easy.

The history of a planned array interferometer gravitational wave detectors to be built in Europe during the late 1980s, the reasons this failed, and the parallels with current detectors, are documented in a new paper published in EPJ H, authored by Adele La Rana, University of Verona, and INFN Section of Sapienza University, Italy.


EPJ H Highlight - Acknowledging Fermi’s contributions to early quantum statistics

Fermi’s research was notably independent. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Enrico_Fermi#/media/File: Enrico_Fermi_1943-49.jpg

Enrico Fermi’s ideas played a key role in the origins of quantum statistics, but so far, they have been largely overlooked in historical analysis

Within large systems of identical fermions, Fermi-Dirac statistics describes how identical fermions may never occupy the same quantum state. First introduced by Italian physicist, Enrico Fermi, this concept was a key step in our early understanding of quantum mechanics – yet so far, Fermi’s contributions have been largely overlooked in historical analysis. Through new research published in EPJ H, Enric Pérez and Joana Ibáñez, both at the University of Barcelona, Spain, offer a critical analysis of Fermi’s ideas, and assess their immediate impact on our early conceptions of quantum mechanics.


EPJ H Highlight - Assessing the modern relevance of Schrödinger’s time reversal

Schrödinger’s ideas transformed quantum mechanics. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erwin_ Schrödinger#/media/File:Erwin_ Schrödinger_(1933).jpg

Erwin Schrödinger’s landmark 1931 paper provided a basis for several important conceptions in quantum mechanics, but a new translation and commentary highlights its continuing relevance in modern statistical nanophysics

In 1931, Erwin Schrödinger published a ground-breaking paper, named ‘On the Reversal of the Laws of Nature.’ The study aimed to prove the possibility of a classical structure governed by probability, which displays a property called ‘time reversal symmetry’: where the physical laws underlying the system would remain the same, whether time flowed forwards or backwards. A new English translation of Schrödinger’s paper, published in EPJ H, has now been made by Raphael Chetrite at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis; Paolo Muratore-Ginanneschi at University of Helsinki; and Kai Schwieger at iteratc GmbH Stuttgart. In an additional commentary, the team emphasise the relevance of his intuitions for modern developments in statistical nanophysics.


EPJ H Highlight - Deciphering Boltzmann’s response to Loschmidt’s paradox

Boltzmann’s reaction has baffled modern readers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Ludwig_Boltzmann#

New analysis offers a clarified translation and detailed commentary of Boltzmann’s original reaction to Loschmidt’s paradox

In 1876, Austrian physicist Josef Loschmidt published his ‘reversibility paradox,’ arguing that the time-symmetric processes demanded by fundamental physics are at odds with the second law of thermodynamics. A few months later, Loschmidt’s friend Ludwig Boltzmann, renowned for his statistical interpretation of thermodynamics, published his reaction to the paradox. However, the convoluted nature of his response has long remained baffling to modern readers. Through new analysis published in EPJ H, Olivier Darrigol at the CNRS in France clarifies Boltzmann’s main points, through a new translation and detailed commentary of his 1877 text.


EPJ H Highlight - A shifting approach to modelling phase transitions

Mapping out phase transitions

Between the years 1937 and 1970, physicists went from taking a ‘naturalistic’ approach to modelling phase transitions, to a ‘caricature’ approach – which incorporated far less realistic models. New analysis of this period provides new insights into this profound shift in thinking.

Models of complex physical systems are a central aspect of theoretical physics. Yet despite their importance, there isn’t a single, overarching approach to the practice: meaning researchers in separate branches of physics will rarely use the same methods to construct their models. In one particularly interesting case, approaches for modelling phase transitions underwent a drastic transformation, between the years of 1937 and 1970. In a new paper published in EPJ H, Martin Niss at Roskilde University, Denmark, characterises this fundamental change in thinking.


EPJ H Highlight - Black hole thermodynamics: a history from Penrose to Hawking

Conceiving the Penrose process

New research explores the historical context of Penrose’s theory of black hole energy extraction, and how it inspired collaborations across political boundaries: ultimately leading to Stephen Hawking’s celebrated theory of black hole radiation.

In 1969, English physicist Roger Penrose discovered a property which would later allow for a long-awaited link between thermodynamics, and the far stranger mechanics of black holes. Through new analysis published in EPJ H, Carla Rodrigues Almeida, based at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, sheds new light on Penrose’s motivations and methods, and explores their historical influence on the groundbreaking discovery of Hawking radiation.


EPJ H Highlight - Revisiting Clebsch’s early papers

Clebsch’s papers were long overlooked https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:Alfred_Clebsch.jpeg

New analysis of two recently translated papers, first published in the 1850s, assesses the early methods used by Alfred Clebsch to describe the flow of incompressible fluids, and explores their impact on active areas of cutting-edge research

Alfred Clebsch is widely considered to be one of the fathers of algebraic geometry. Born in Prussia in 1833, he completed his PhD at just 21, and went on to publish two important papers soon afterwards, in 1857 and 1859. In these studies, he introduced mathematical constructs that are now called ‘Clebsch variables,’ which describe the velocity field of a fluid, and which are widely cited. Now, a team of researchers in France, Germany, the US and Brazil present the first English translations of Clebsch’s two early papers after more than 160 years. In an accompanying study published in EPJ H, important new explanations are provided for the difficult language of the papers.


EPJ H Highlight - Investigating heavy quark physics with the LHCb experiment

A side view of the LHCb detector

In ten years of operation the LHCb experiment has probed the nature of physics attempting to answer some of the Universe’s most fundamental questions. A new review examines its past achievements and future potential.

A new review published in EPJ H by Clara Matteuzzi, Research Director at the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) and former tenured professor at the University of Milan, and her colleagues, examines almost three decades of the LHCb experiment – from its conception to operation at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – documenting its achievements and future potential.


EPJ H Highlight - Tracking the progress of fusion power through 60 years of neutral particle analysis

The Alpha Plasma Machine: a prototype of tokamaks that in the future will provide the world with clean nuclear fusion energy

Harnessing the fusion power of the stars requires the control of plasma and a powerful diagnostic tool to analyse it

As the world’s energy demands grow, so too does growing concern over the environmental impact of power production. The need for a safe, clean, and reliable energy source has never been clearer. Fusion power could fulfil such a need. A review paper published in EPJ H examines the 6-decade history of neutral particle analysis (NPA), developed in Ioffe Institute, Saint Petersburg, Russia, a vital diagnostic tool used in magnetic plasma confinement devices such as tokamaks that will house the nuclear fusion process and generate the clean energy of the future.


M. Eckert and J.D. Wells
ISSN (Print Edition): 2102-6459
ISSN (Electronic Edition): 2102-6467

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