The state that has no right to exist

General interest seminar

The state that has no right to exist

  • Event time: 5:00pm until 6:00pm
  • Event date: 28th March 2024
  • Speaker: (School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Edinburgh)
  • Location: Elm Lecture Theatre, Nucleus Building, King's Buildings

Event details

All students and staff welcome.


Dr Cip Pruteanu, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Edinburgh. 


The very first course you are taught at university about condensed matter (Physics of Fields and Matter) lists David Tabor's 'Gases, Liquids and Solids' textbook as essential reading. In the very beginning of said book the reader is given a warning that “The main characteristics of [the gaseous and solid states] are well understood... By contrast the liquid state, in some ways, has ‘no right to exist’ [and] raises a number of very difficult theoretical problems.” 

In this talk we will look at the psychological difficulties that arise when thinking about liquids and why we insist on doing that, and how we can (intelligently) look at things and describe them even when we don't fully understand why they are the way they are. I will talk about how I ended up doing this in spite of all the red flags, and how liquids can display more than one attribute that 'has no right to exist', and what stumbling upon such attributes teaches us about the fundamental laws governing our world. 

Finally, I will try to convince you that this is not all doom and gloom, and (hopefully) offer some hope for the future, arising mainly from the techno-optimistic view that we now have computing machinery that can perform more calculations in a second than there are seconds in a human lifespan.


Meet us at 16.30 outside the Elm lecture theatre in the Nucleus Building for tea and cakes prior to the talk.

About General interest seminars

Our General Interest Seminars are an opportunity for distinguished speakers to present new research in physics and related areas. The material presented is suitable for undergraduate level upwards and all members of the School are welcome to attend..

Find out more about General interest seminars.