News of the WeekMathematics

Statistical Physicists Phase Out a Dream

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  02 Jun 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5471, pp. 1561-1562
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5471.1561a

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution


Physicists have long sought an exact mathematical solution to the Ising model, a powerful tool for studying phase transitions--the abrupt changes of state that occur, for instance, when ice melts or cooling iron becomes magnetic--because it would provide much more information about such still-mysterious transitions. Now a theoretical computer scientist has proved that the Ising model--at least in its most general, three-dimensional form--belongs to a class of problems that theorists believe will remain unsolved forever.