The whole is more than the sum of its parts - or is it? : surprises in many-particle theory and nanoscience
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A recent Nobel Prize, awarded to John Pople and Walter Kohn in 1998, recognised the importance of our ability to predict chemical, physical and even some biological properties to a useful accuracy from first principles, via many-electron quantum mechanics. The present Lecture is partly about just this venture: the explanation, design and prediction of chemical and material properties from basic theoretical physics. Where this is possible, it has the attractive feature that a very few simple basic concepts, rules and mathematical equations are sufficient to explain and predict complicated phenomena and properties. Thus many aspects of the complex world can be reduced to simple considerations after all. The practical spinoffs from this kind of theoretical physics are very widespread, including for example several aspects of magnetic resonance imaging, a very important modern medical diagnostic tool. Another application that I will discuss later on is the absorption of hydrogen into carbon-based graphitic materials, of importance in creating a greenhouse-safe world energy economy.
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