Let me put things into perspective by comparing with other applications of string theory. Nowadays review papers written by cosmologists about inflation models often discuss string theory scenarios such as brane inflation, among other non-stringy models. Also you often hear about heavy-ion theorists and experimentalists talking about the AdS/CFT bound on QGP viscosity. However, the AdS/CFT approach to high-Tc superconductors, while hailed as a major new achievement of string theory and heavily cited within string theory circles, seems to have received little citation from the condensed matter community. Hardly any physicist with a traditional background in high-Tc superconductors have made references to AdS/CFT in their publications.

I find this situation to be a bit peculiar. Why do you think this is the case? Does this situation have any implication for the long-term promise of this research field?

While being a complete outsider, I'd like to venture some guesses to this question. Please tell me whether they sound sensible: 1) Condensed matter physicists already had several theories that more or less explain the essential features of high-Tc, so AdS/CFT is not seen as a gift from God. What they really want is a "recipe" for room-temperature superconductors, but AdS/CFT hasn't provided this. 2) AdS/CFT currently only deals with toy models rather than realistic condensed matter systems, so people whose research interest lies firmly in real-world phenomenology see AdS/CFT as worthless. 3) Due to very different training, condensed matter physicists simply don't understand this research program.

What do you think?

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    $\begingroup$ Can this potentially be rephrased as a question about physics? $\endgroup$ – user566 Mar 19 '11 at 5:48
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    $\begingroup$ A mix of part of (1) and all of (2). CM Theorists don't necessarily want a recipe, but we'd love a firm handle on the microscopics -- which are completely absent from the AdS/CFT approach! AdS/CFT can capture some phenomenology (crucially though: none that can't be captured in traditional, albeit fine-tuned, approaches) but there is no framework for interpreting the results anyway. I hope (3) isn't a serious proposal. $\endgroup$ – wsc Mar 19 '11 at 7:20
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    $\begingroup$ Dear felix, the right answer is predominantly (3), with a small mixture of (1). Most condensed matter physicists (with bright exceptions such as Subir Sachdev) just don't understand the inner working of the holographic duality well enough (or not at all), whether wsc finds this fact inconvenient or not. So they continue with what they were able to learn, pretending that they don't need to learn new things - as in (1). (2) is a priori plausible but actually wrong because condensed matter physics cares about universal behaviors and that's exactly what AdS/CFT captures for "all" those systems. $\endgroup$ – Luboš Motl Mar 19 '11 at 8:34
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, a fine contribution in the intellectual tradition of "physics is too important to be left to the physicists." I'm actually rather fond of Sachdev's work, but he seems to be (unsurprisingly) one of very few who actually understands the physics an AdS/highTc correspondence should describe. But you can pretend it's because CM theorists are dumb. $\endgroup$ – wsc Mar 19 '11 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ Dear Moshe, I didn't intend to make the question confrontational, but I have long been puzzled by the uniform silence of the CM community about this issue. It's a well-publicized research direction, and I was assuming that CM people got to say something about this, whether criticism or praise. But they are just silent. I've seen lots of "better discussions" but feel disappointed that very few CM people participate in those discussions. The totally different responses from the two communities make me very confused, and I just want to find out exactly why. I'm not judging anything myself. $\endgroup$ – felix Mar 19 '11 at 19:06

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