The PSE: the Quest for the Philosophers Stone of Quantum Alchemy

06 mei 2019 19:00 – 22:00
Locatie: UGent, Campus Sterre, gebouw S4, Auditorium A, Gent, Vlaanderen, België
Categorie: Jong

Lecturer: Pieter Thyssen, Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science, KU Leuven

Most chemists take it that Mendeleev cracked the problem of organizing the chemical elements 150 years ago. Since then, the periodic table has adorned our laboratory walls as science’s most famous taxonomic chart. Once in a while, of course, a new chemical element is added to the family, but the overall structure of the chart has remained the same ever since it was set in stone back in 1869.

Few chemists realize that Mendeleev’s table has remained something of a mystery till the present day. Despite being the cornerstone of modern chemistry, and despite the quantum revolution, the periodic system has kept its secrets well. Why, for example, is the periodic chart so oddly shaped? And why do the different periods always come in pairs of equal length, except for the very first period? No one really knows. Or at least, no one really knew, until a team of scientists embarked on a quest for the symmetries that lie hidden within the periodic table itself. This is the tale of how symmetry provided a key to the table’s secrets, and how it unlocked the door to a more profound understanding of the periodicity in Mendeleev’s chart. [1]

In this lecture, you will be taken on a dazzling voyage through the higher dimensions of group theory in search for the hidden symmetries of the periodic table. We will climb our way up from
the familiar valley of three dimensions, via the mind-boggling four-dimensional symmetry of the hydrogen atom, up to the six-dimensional symmetry of the philosopher’s stone of quantum
alchemy. Along the way, we will explore the rules of atomic chess, and hunt for the chiral bishop who holds the answer to the origin of the period doubling.

At the end of our journey, we will have obtained an entirely new format of the periodic chart - more elegant and powerful than ever before. One thing is certain, after this lecture, you will
never look at Mendeleev’s polychromatic icon the same way again.


[1] P. Thyssen, A. Ceulemans, Shattered Symmetry: Group Theory from the Eightfold Way to the Periodic Table. Oxford University Press, New York, 2017.

Registration is not mandatory but strongly advised. Click here to register.

After the lecture, you are invited for a reception in the corridors.

Attending the lecture is free for members of KVCV, member of Chemica pay € 2 and others pay € 4 (payment cash on the spot).

Activiteit zoeken