This award funds the research activities of Professor Silviu Pufu at Princeton University.
One of the important problems in theoretical physics is that of finding universal patterns governing the behavior of systems consisting of large numbers of constituents that interact very strongly. Examples of such systems range from boiling water at high pressure to the plasma that forms from the collision of heavy ions, or to new phases of quantum matter that are currently only conjectured to exist. As a result, research in this area advances the national interest by promoting the progress of science in one of its most fundamental directions: the discovery and understanding of new physical laws. As part of his funded research, Professor Pufu will develop theoretical tools for understanding how the short-distance physics affects and constrains the long-distance physics in such systems. These tools are partly based on ideas from string theory, whereby one can describe strongly-interacting quantum systems by gravity in a higher-dimensional space. This project also has an important educational and mentoring component that includes engaging undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdocs in research, and thereby preparing them for successful scientific careers.
At a more technical level, this project seeks to enhance our understanding of how a quantum system can be described by a higher-dimensional theory of gravity. This will be done by constructing simpler examples of this correspondence. The starting point for constructing such examples will involve various recent exact results in strongly-interacting quantum field theories that possess supersymmetry. Another goal of this project is to understand the roles that boundary terms play in the gauge/gravity duality, and in particular in precision tests thereof. Lastly, a third objective is to deepen our understanding of the renormalization group by exploring the F-theorem and its connection with entanglement entropy.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.