Some of the weird physics in the Ragnarok trilogy comes from the pervasiveness of emergent phenomena throughout physics, in more than the obvious places. I'm currently re-reading Robert Laughlin's The Different Universe, which emphasises this. It's a Marmite book - the usual reactions are love or hatred, rarely neutrality - but Laughlin is a Nobel laureate, so you have to pay attention. Much of the book's attraction comes from exploring areas of solid state physics that most of us don't know about. (Personally I've always been bothered by the way sound quantizes (as phonons) identically to electromagnetism.)

That includes exploring different phases of matter. Solid/liquid/gas and maybe plasma... that's as far as most people get. But liquid crystals don't fit that simple categorization (while at a higher level, liquids and gases are treated identically as fluids when it comes to modelling flow and turbulence), and there are many other examples.

One of the newest examples is two-dimensional solids, exemplified by graphene. Two professors at Manchester University have today won the Nobel Prize for physics for discovering this new phase of matter - or if you prefer, a new class of materials with remarkable properties. (Need a material for your fictional starship's hull, anyone?) The Brits have won it again.

Mind you, these two Brits are called Geim and Novoselov, both hailing from Russia, but what the heck. Nice work, anyhow.


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