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Aspen Public Radio is proud to present select lectures, discussions, and conversations from area events and festivals, thanks to a remarkable collection of community partners. Click here to view the full archive. Events are recorded at no cost to the partner and archived here online; select recordings are broadcast on Aspen Public Radio Sunday nights at 7 p.m.

Aspen Center for Physics: The Strange New Universe of Quantum Materials with Piers Coleman

This event was recorded on July 27, 2022 at Aspen Center for Physics during the 2022 Heinz R. Pagels Physics Talks, in partnership with Aspen Public Radio.

Today, one of the ways we seek to understand quantum mechanics is by exploring new ways of putting atoms together, and in the process of this exploration, we’re finding that the curious interplay of electron waves down on the microscale leads to quantum materials that have strange new properties.

Coleman introduces the strange new universe, and describes how some of the paradoxical discoveries challenge our understanding to its roots. This talk introduces the concept of quantum materials, and discusses how their discovery and exploration is central to today’s unfolding quantum revolution.

Looking back to the 19th century, Coleman shows how simple questions, such as why hot objects change color, why matter is hard, and why the sun keeps on shining, heralded the beginning of a new era. The discovery of superconductivity helped to answer why the sun keeps on shining, while looking at the stars provided clues as to why matter is hard.


Piers Coleman was raised in Cheltenham, England. He completed his undergraduate education at Trinity College, Cambridge, studying Natural Sciences and Mathematics under the mentorship of Gilbert Lonzarich. In 1980 he won a Jane Eliza Procter Fellowship to Princeton University where he studied theoretical condensed matter physics and received a Ph.D.

He joined the faculty at Rutgers University in 1987. Since 2010 he has also held the position of University of London Chair of Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics at Royal Holloway. In 2011, he became a director of the Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter (ICAM).

His research focuses on the emergent properties of quantum matter, and the development of novel conceptual approaches to Many Body Physics. He is deeply fascinated by all forms of emergence, from biological to quantum matter.