Newly discovered states of matter embody what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” They defy explanation, but lately answers have come from a seemingly unrelated corner of physics: string theory.
Matter can assume many forms other than solid, liquid and gas. The electrons that perfuse materials can undergo their own transitions, which involve inherently quantum properties of matter. Superconductors are the best-known example.These states of matter arise from an unimaginably complex web of quantum entanglement among the electrons—so complex that theorists studying these materials have been at a loss to describe them.
Some answers have come from an entirely separate line of study, string theory, typically the domain of cosmologists and high-energy particle theorists. On the face of it, string theory has nothing to say about the behavior of materials—no more than an atomic physicist can explain human society. And yet connections exist.