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Scar States: Particles Lost in the Woods

Author: Ted Isidor

Editors: Shannon Tan and Kira Tian

Artist: Jenny Li

Story of the Lost Hiker:

Have you heard the story of the lost hiker in the woods? The story goes that while a hiker was exploring a nearby forest with the hopes of finding new places to explore, he soon lost his way and was in dire need of help to find his way back home. While walking through the forest aimlessly, the hiker heard an old man standing on a crossroad calling for him. When the hiker asked the man where he could find the nearest telephone to call for help, the old man answered: “follow the path on my right and you will find an old payphone at the end of the trail." After reaching the end of the trail, the hiker was surprised to discover that rather than finding an old payphone, another old man, identical to the one he last talked to, was waiting for him. He told the hiker, “the old payphone is no longer here, you must take the path on my right.” After this encounter, the hiker follows the instruction of the second old man only to end up where he started. In situations like this, characters like the hiker always seem to end up where they started, forming a path that can be used to find out the “trajectory” of this hiker and as well create an encoded message.

The Meaning of Scar States:

In the domain of physics, scientists from Stanford University have found a new state of matter in which particles consist of a quantum gas (collection of atoms in a gas-like state) and are retracing their steps just like the hiker. The name of the new state of matter is Scar states, which is defined as an “extremely rare trajectories of particles in an otherwise chaotic quantum system in which the particles repeatedly retrace their steps” according to an article by Science Daily. Before continuing with the exploration of this new state of matter, let’s dive into the purpose of this experiment. Professor Benjamin Lev from Stanford University was the leader of the experiment, of which his team wondered if by tuning an experiment system called a super Tonks-Girardeau Gas (excited atoms in a gaseous state that can only move in one direction) through the use of a certain kind of atom called dysprosium atoms—using a highly magnetic atom in this collection of atoms—the entire experiment would resist collapsing faster than usual. In a typical experiment involving Tonks-Girardeau Gas, the atoms would collapse: the atoms fall in on each other, similar to when playing Beyblade when the toys fall in the center of the stadium in time. By adding these highly magnetic atoms to the mix, researchers were able to prevent the entire system from collapsing, a feat unheard of. By resisting collapsing, this new state of matter has a tremendous amount of applications in fields, such as quantum computing, and can even serve as a new power source for technologies.

Neo Revolution of Scar States:

As new discoveries in the realm of quantum physics such as the Scar States continue to change our understanding of the cosmos, it is important to consider the applications these discoveries can have in daily life. For instance, it has been noted in an article by Science Daily that the repetitiveness trajectories of particles in scar states and the properties of this state of matter as a whole can be used to encode messages, revolutionizing our ways of communicating. In fact, one day, instead of passing paper notes through class, you’ll be able to use your own neutrino messenger or any of the other newfound ways of manipulating the quantum world to get your message to its recipient. Additionally, the slow thermalization of these systems, the process in which two or more things reach the same temperature through mutual interaction, can be used to charge machines in the future. Overall, physics is a complex, yet wonderful field of study, and I hope that this article will help spark the inner scientist within you to continue the journey of discovering what exactly is the universe as well as untying the knots of scar states, particles lost in the woods.



Lin, Cheng-Ju, et al. “Slow Thermalization of Exact Quantum Many-Body Scar States Under

Perturbations.”, 14 July 2020,

McRae, M. (2021, January 15). For The First Time, a New State of Matter Has Been Observed

in a Thread of Quantum Gas. Retrieved January 24, 2021, from

Stanford University. "New state of matter in one-dimensional quantum gas." ScienceDaily.

ScienceDaily, 14 January 2021 <

“TIME LOOP: Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary.” TIME LOOP | Definition in

the Cambridge English Dictionary,

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