Colloquium: Photons and electrons as emergent phenomena

Michael Levin, Xiao Gang Wen.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Recent advances in condensed-matter theory have revealed that new and exotic phases of matter can exist in spin models (or more precisely, local bosonic models) via a simple physical mechanism, known as "string-net condensation." These new phases of matter have the unusual property that their collective excitations are gauge bosons and fermions. In some cases, the collective excitations can behave just like the photons, electrons, gluons, and quarks in our vacuum. This suggests that photons, electrons, and other elementary particles may have a unified origin-string-net condensation in our vacuum. In addition, the string-net picture indicates how to make artificial photons, artificial electrons, and artificial quarks and gluons in condensed-matter systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)871-879
Number of pages9
JournalReviews of Modern Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy (all)


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