Research Project No.12: Professor Russell Cowburn FRS
Project title: ‘Transcending the dimensions’
In recent years there has been much excitement within condensed matter physics of the possibility of exploring new dimensionalities. Far from the wormholes and such like of science fiction required to transport us into other Universes, worlds of different dimensionalities can now be created in the physics lab using modern nanotechnology fabrication methods. For example, films that are only a single atom thick – and hence are intrinsically 2-dimensional – can be fabricated using advanced laboratory equipment. Low dimensionality materials should be studied because they are a new and largely unexplored part of the Universe where the laws of physics manifest themselves very differently to those we know in our 3-dimensional world. It is not just that a 2-dimensional material is a very thin version of a 3-dimensional material. The underlying behaviour of the electrons in a 2-dimensional material is completely altered because of the reduced dimensionality.
This proposal seeks to investigate experimentally one such reduced dimension system based on magnetic materials. The aim of the sub-project is to understand further how dimensionality modifies the perceived laws of physics. Project results will benefit the academic scientific community by an improved understanding of the nature of reality in reduced dimensions coming from an experimentally-led perspective. The wider public will benefit from an improved ability to appreciate the nature of our 3-dimensional existence and an appreciation of the existence of new aspects of the created Universe. By integrating the scientific results of the sub-project with a discussion on Edwin Abbott’s famous 1884 novel ‘Flatland: a Romance of Many Dimensions’, an improved conversation between literary, theological and scientific descriptions of reality will be held with the wider public.
This project formed part of ‘The Science of Human Flourishing’ project – Concluding Summary