Your desk is made up of individual, distinct atoms, but from far away its surface appears smooth. This simple idea is at the core of all our models of the physical world. We can describe what’s happening overall without getting bogged down in the complicated interactions between every atom and electron.

So when a new theoretical state of matter was discovered whose microscopic features stubbornly persist at all scales, many physicists refused to believe in its existence.

Key Takeaways:

  • Fractons are bizarre quasiparticles whose inherent characteristic is a lack of movement.
  • It’s probably only a matter of time before fractons are created in a lab.
  • Fractons do not fit into the framework of quantum field theory, suggesting the theory is incomplete.

“When I first heard about fractons, I said there’s no way this could be true because it completely defies my prejudice of how systems behave,” said Nathan Seiberg, a theoretical physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. “But I was wrong. I realized I had been living in denial.”

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